Andrew Miller and Brian Forrester began as solo-entrepreneurs. Servicing clients in digital marketing the two put their heads together combining forces to found Workshop Digital, an award winning digital marketing firm based in Richmond, Va.
The Full Interview
Before diving into their current roles as co-founders, we talked about the beginning of their careers. Since everyone is shaped in large part by experiences hearing their roles in the music industry, sales, and entry level marketing positions gave incredible insight into how they built themselves up for success.
Brian got his start in the record industry right around the time Apple’s first iPod was released, when digital audio was becoming huge. It allowed him to learn how to utilize digital media for marketing purposes. Nevertheless, the record industry was in steep decline.
Back in Richmond, Brian worked for a dentist who also owned a dental consulting firm. As the token youngster, Brian was tasked with building a website for his employer. Next, the plan was to figure out how to drive traffic to the business. The dentist paid for training certificates in digital marketing and Brian began climbing the steep growth curve involved with any new skill. Having a knack for the business, and his employer shutting down shop, Brian was forced to play his hand. He set out on his own.
Meanwhile, Andrew moved to Michigan with his wife where he reluctantly began consulting on the side. Realizing how terrible the Michigan job market was in the mid-2000’s, Andrew began growing his marketing consulting business.
Things got interesting when they both were working in Richmond, solo.
How did they meet?
Brian said “we are a classic internet love story” because the co-founders met via Twitter. They worked in a shared co-working space and immediately began building a bond. Not realizing it at the time, the bond built in that small co-working space would plant the seed for the Workshop Digital company culture that it shares today. Combining forces the company has grown to over 28 employees in less than 2 years.
Core Values and Team Culture
So how did the two combine forces, and grow a company with such great culture?
- We are ethical.
- We are accountable.
- We are transparent.
- We are empowered to be awesome in work and life.
- We are eager to learn and willing to be wrong.
- We go the extra mile for our clients
Andrew’s filter for hiring: he gives potential job candidates, or someone seeking advice on their own venture a list of 3 or 4 resources to look into. Then they sit down a few weeks later and have a discussion about them. He finds this to be the most effective interviewing style compared to just sitting someone down on a couch to talk for an hour. Andrew says “I’m not trying to be cocky or arrogant, I’m trying to make the most of everyone’s time by giving them some talking points or ideas to chew over. Then the conversation becomes valuable to both parties”.
Hire an Accountant EARLY: Not only will you legitimize your business in the industry and your clients, not only will you be given expert advice on important matters, but you will add a sounding board to your team. A team member beyond a friend, spouse or parent. Someone who will tell you when something is flat out a shitty idea.
Don’t get a big head. The next wave is in left field. Have a stable foundation, keep your eyes on the target, but don’t think you’re the greatest entrepreneur ever.
Google Adwords: Certifications, sometimes referred to as becoming Google Partners, training allows you to learn the ins and outs of how SEO works with Google. m
Web Analytics 2.0 a book for Digital marketing, Andrew calls it “The Bible” at the office
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant: Brian mentions that when he started Dynamic Web Solutions, it was like a blue ocean, referring to the concept of blue ocean vs red ocean. Blue ocean companies are those that are developing a new market (think Uber). While red ocean companies are competing with established entities (opening up a real estate brokerage).
Blogs (Brian went H.A.M. on Blog recommendations, check out these if you want to learn more)
Unbounce-Landing page optimization (LPO) blog
Adwords– Pay-per click (PPC) blog info about betas, and interface and updates
Wordstream– PPC blog
PPC Hero– PPC blog by Hanapin marketing
Search Engine Land– PPC, SEO, SEM (search marketing)
Optimizly– Conversion rate optimization (CRO) blog
Blind Five Year old– SEO resource
Built Visible– SEO firm with tons of resources
Bruce Clay– SEO
Choose your platform wisely. Brian recommends WordPress because of how SEO friendly it can be. Install Yoast which is a free SEO plugin.
How to distinguish between legitimate SEO companies and scams?
“If you’re looking for an SEO company, arm yourself with the right questions. Ask for case studies, and ask for recommendations from clients…more than a testimonial ask for a phone number or email. Look for a track record of success. Then ask them to explain how they achieve results” Brian responds.
“What we often see from sketchy companies…everything lives in a black box behind a curtain…sketchy ventures will tell you not to ask any questions”. This is a HUGE red flag, says Brian. Transparency is key, a good agency doesn’t hide behind a curtain.
How do you scale from 0 to 1? If you have no SEO, how do you scale at all?
“Learn”, Andrew says. “Educate yourself on nights and weekends, or have your employer pay for it. Try and learn and fail, progress at your own pace. Don’t give up after a month or two, sometimes it takes us 3, 4, 5 even 6 months its just how it works”.
Andrew’s Three-legged stool of any good SEO strategy: 1. Technical, 2.Content, 3. Outreach. Not just to technically optimize your website so that it ranks well, but also creating great content and putting it in front of influencers and your audience that makes them want to engage in it some way. Become credible.
Weekly Callout: Ace Callwood-founder of Painless 1099. Driven, very smart, looks for ways to solve problems that don’t already have solutions. Also, Chris Busse- record of success like Create Digital, founder of API Vista.
Recent Awards (at original air date 01/2017)
40 under 40 2016
“I begged, borrowed, and stole my education from the companies I worked for” -Andrew Miller
“I try to filter by sending them away with a little bit of homework” Andrew Miller
“My initial market research was to google other companies and see what was in my own backyard” Brian Forrester
“scaling company culture is tough, and its an intangible” There is no measure for company culture” -Brian Forrester
“The one word that builds company culture is trust” -Brian Forrester
“For the merger to workout 1+1 has to equal 3. The whole has to be greater than the sum of its parts”Brian Forrester
“A lot of times systems come out of stress fractures” Brian Forrester
“Don’t get a big head. the next wave is in left field. Have a stable foundation, keep your eyes on the target, but don’t think you’re the greatest entrepreneur ever” Andrew Miller
“Don’t be a dick. Be a good boss, people will respect that.” Andrew Miller