Breakout the birthday cake and the candles, today Outspoken Media turns 2-years-old! Two, I never thought I could be so proud of a number.
We’ve come a long way since the day Lisa and I proudly threw caution, and our day jobs, to the wind. It hasn’t been two years since the birth of the Outspoken Media blog, but we wanted to celebrate the day Outspoken Media was conceived, Jerry Maguire-style. It’s a moment that for two years has been a symbol of the leap of faith we took, together. It’s a special memory and one that gets us through the tough days and reminds us of what we’re working so hard for — control of our own destiny.
That may sound incredibly cheesy, but I assure you, it’s the truth. Working for someone else I had the luxury of putting in my required hours and then being able to go home and disconnect. I was paid a set amount for my doing my job and had established hours with weekends, nights and vacations off. Sometimes I wasn’t a huge fan of my boss, but it was typically just one or a few bosses I was reporting to. Most of all, I liked to think that my job was secure as long as I got my work done.
All of that has changed.
Two years into small business ownership, there’s no such thing as work hours and my mind is always on the business. I won’t even pretend I’ve tried to have work/life balance [you really need to re-read last week's post on staying healthy - Lisa]. Everyone envies the fact that I’m my own boss, but the reality is that I now have many bosses. I am accountable to my employees, clients, the business itself and my family [It's like I'm not even here. - Lisa]. This pressure paired with the obsessive thought and work
I we put into the company isn’t something to envy, it’s actually a bit unstable and frightening to many.
So, why would we choose this path? We would rather know how well or not well our business is doing and what the future holds than have it defined by someone else, especially someone who may not line up with our vision. We control the clients we take on, the services we offer and the people we surround ourselves with. Control, it’s a powerful motivator.
Though 2010 ended with some twists and turns,we’re starting 2011 as stronger executives and with a unified vision of what we want Outspoken Media to become. With that, it’s time to get focused and kick some ass.
THE STATE OF OUTSPOKEN MEDIA
Earlier this year, Lisa and I sat down to discuss our goals for 2011. We looked back at the last year, what was happening today, and where we want to be in the future. We found that our goals cover a number of different areas, including finances, personnel, services, branding, customer service, education, community and more. Those are a lot of goals! But we worked through them. Below is a small glimpse at the decisions we reached.
Some businesses are incredibly forthcoming with their financial statements. We’re not going to share our books with the world, but we’re happy to say that we almost doubled our profit over 2009 and are on a similar trajectory for 2011. Of course, it hasn’t been easy. The end of 2010 was a difficult place for the company. We started 2010 with three executives and one employee. We’re starting 2011 with two executives and three employees. While we worked through the growing pains of the last year, we had to cut down on new client intake to ensure we could give them as much attention as we wanted to. Though an important move to make, it slowed things over the past few months. I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken to quickly rebound through hard work, fast decisions and the incredible efforts of our team. Thanks to everyone pulling together, we’ll be back at full speed by February and ready to kill 2011.
Hurdle successfully leaped.
Personnel & The Outspoken Media Office
Hiring the right team members was the single greatest lesson I learned in 2010. We made some mistakes and those cost us precious time. We took a look at the methods we’d used, how we had trained (or not effectively trained) and what it was that made someone the right “fit” for us. Our first round of hires weren’t always the best matches for the team. We reacted by changing our hiring methods and we couldn’t be more pleased with the team we’ve now assembled.
We’ve already introduced you to Michelle and Sabre, two new faces of Outspoken Media, but they’re not the only new faces on board. Yes, friends, there’s also a man running around the OSM offices these days, but his introduction will come a little later. The combined skills and years of experience on this team make me excited to show up to work every day.
And when I do show up, I’m showing up to our new Troy, NY office! This past summer, Lisa and I got out of our sweatpants and into a great co-working space that we share with the Ubersmith/Voxel crew in Troy, NY. They’re a smart group of guys and they help fill the day with a lot more laughs, stories and occasional Python advice. [Lies. We've never once talked about snakes. - Lisa]
Before you ask: We’re not hiring at this exact moment, but we’re definitely on the hunt for other skilled marketers. If you’re interested, contact us, but you have to be willing to live in the Capital District. [I love Troy! - Lisa]
Outspoken Media continues to provide boutique Internet marketing services in the areas of SEO consulting, online reputation management, link building and social media marketing. We specialize in building highly competitive, natural campaigns. We’ve offered other services in the past, but these will be our core services in 2011. They’re what we’re best at and, frankly, how we can bring the best return for clients.
One of the biggest changes in OSM’s service offerings has been a shift toward more strategy development and higher level implementation in order to provide the most cost-effective solutions possible for our clients. When working on our client’s Internet marketing plans, we need to decide what makes the most sense for the budget. For example, we love Twitter and everyone else knows we love it, too! The problem is that hiring us to maintain a Twitter account isn’t the most cost effective marketing strategy. Our time and knowledge is better spent training someone in-house who is more knowledgeable and informed about your brand. That frees us up to do more higher level strategy work.
We want to make sure the services we’re providing for our clients are getting a phenomenal return. In one case that was a matter of simply proving return through more advanced lead tracking. 2011 is the year where we know what we do and how we do it, now it’s time to get it done faster and with more accountability.
The Outspoken Media brand continued to take flight in 2010, just as it had done in 2009. Over the past year, the company was featured in media outlets like Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Fox News, CNN, PBS, the Financial Times, and a long list of others. In this department, let’s be honest, it’s really been all Lisa and she’s incredible at it. In 2010, Lisa blogged 330 times! [Do you see how that's almost every day of the year? I'm going on vacation. - Lisa], and was her typical liveblogging machine, even breaking her personal record for most sessions covered at Pubcon Vegas 2010 tackling 18 sessions in a single show! Liveblogging Internet marketing conferences is just one way that we choose to give back to the community and I think most would agree that Lisa’s conference coverage is second to none. In 2011, we’ll continue our tradition of liveblogging, though we may be cutting back on the number of shows to save Lisa’s hands from early-onset carpal tunnel.
In terms of the brand, you’ll also see me take a more public-facing role. It’s an area I’m not very comfortable with, but one I understand is critical for the company. You can expect to see more Outspoken Media faces grace the blog and the team continues to expand and Lisa gets louder about needing time to breathe.
Oh, and look for a redesign, as well! Our website has always been a classic case of the cobbler’s children has no shoes, but two years is more than enough time for us to have gotten our act together. Expect to see a new and improved Outspoken Media coming soon, along with a number of technical changes and social media tweaks.
We get a lot of leads (thanks Lisa!). I’d like to be able to communicate with every contact, but it’s not physically possible. Moving forward, we want to become better at reaching out to potential clients (and general contacts) and help point them in the right direction. I really love the Recommended List and SEM Vendor services that SEOmoz and Andy Beal have put together, respectively. It’s something we need to develop on our own with the refer-to list we’ve guarded pretty closely to date. We’ll also be looking into several other opportunities with the leads we get.
On the client facing side of customer service, it’s my goal to have more consistent conversations with our clients and reporting. In the past we got our work done, in the future we want to account for that work on a more granular level.
This is my favorite goal. I’m a big fan of learning from and challenging the other people on our team. We’re holding more frequent staff meetings to bring any questions, new techniques, tests or trouble areas to the group. We’re encouraging more personal and group education. We’re also developing more internal guidelines and methods (and Basecamp templates) for faster training. The majority of that responsibility falls to me to make sure everyone has the tools, expertise and understanding of client expectations they need to get their jobs done. This is a big area I can improve in and something I’m stoked to tackle. Lisa reminded me today that the way to demonstrate expertise is by teaching someone else. So, it’s time to saddle up.
Outspoken Media has been blessed with a tremendous amount of support form the SEO community since the day we arrived on the scene. And we’re so thankful for that. You were there to step up when my two year SEO trademark battle ended, you were there to welcome our new team members in, and you’ve been there in the emails/messages/DMs you’ve sent our way showing your support. We’re so humbled by it and we thank you.
The support we’ve received from our community, also also refueled our fire to give back to our own communities. Giving back is a big part of who I was in Florida before moving to New York and it’s something that will again take a bigger role. In 2011 we’re focusing more on others, specifically FriendsWhoStutter.org and NoFAS.org. These are deeply personal causes for the both of us and we’ll be finding ways we, as individuals and as the company, can do our part to raise awareness and support those and other campaigns.
That’s a pretty broad glimpse at the state of Outspoken Media and what our initiatives are for 2011. I’m always interested in feedback, so feel free to leave your thoughts, inspirational quotes, funny videos or other comments below!
Happy Birthday, Outspoken Media!