Learn. Then learn some more. And more. Then, just when you think you know enough, learn some more.
Kimberly is the founder of ContentPark, a tech-driven content marketing agency that specializes in SEO-driven content strategy and premium content production for large brands and small businesses. Prior to ContentPark, Kimberly put her marketing expertise to work in higher education, at Fortune 500 companies and at globally-recognized, privately-held small businesses across the country. A graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Kimberly is a self-proclaimed technophile and proponent of lifelong learning who strives to constantly develop and refine her skills.
Where did the idea for ContentPark come from?
Prior to the launch of ContentPark, I worked full-time for an SEO agency.
There, I was responsible for finding placement for commissioned content. All too often, I ended up having to revise articles because the original work was poorly written or lacked meaning or just wasn’t fun to read. It became clear rather quickly that the content we received was usually, well, pretty crappy to be honest.
As I continued to toil away, cleaning up the content sufficiently, so it was appropriate for use, I started to wonder, “Would people pay more if what they got was actual, useful, ready-to-publish content?”
Turns out, the answer is, “Yes!”
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The beauty of my business is that it’s flexible enough that each day looks different and distinct. Building a company that I could run that would fit around my desired lifestyle was one of my driving goals when developing ContentPark. I wanted a business that I could mold around my life instead of the other way around.
I do work in some form or another almost every day, but I can do it when I want to. If I want to take a long lunch, I can. If I want to go to a mid-day yoga class, I can. It’s up to me. And that feels awesome.
There are, of course, some activities that I do in some form or another nearly every day. Usually, I’ll do some sort of business development activity. I also spend a bit of time with my digital red pen, editing. And, of course, I’ll spend time communicating with and coaching content heroes — which is how we refer to the members of our content development team.
To make sure I don’t let all the freedom associated with schedule flexibility go to my head, I’m pretty dedicated to making to-do lists. By reviewing these lists and continuing to work through them, I can make sure that I stay productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Anyone can have a great idea, but without a method for getting that idea out of your head and bringing to fruition, it’s worthless. Transforming ideas into reality requires having sustainable and replicable processes in place. I dedicate a lot of time to developing these processes, which not only help give our ideas life but also make it possible for us to grow our business.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Two words: Machine Learning
Machine learning is a sexy little concept that was once the thing of science fiction but is now a matter of contemporary fact. The whole idea is that, instead of being explicitly programmed, machines will be able to learn things.
One rudimentary example of this technology is automatic vacuums. When someone brings home one of these tech-enhanced tidiers, they don’t have to program in the floorplan. Instead, the machine learns the dimensions of the rooms and self-navigates the space.
The concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in general, and machine learning in particular, has far-reaching implications for the process of producing search engine optimized (SEO) content.
At ContentPark, we use machine learning to understand how to position content in search such that it ranks better and gets more views.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Dedicating specific periods of time to working, and only working, makes me more productive. In this regard, I’m a Pomodoro Technique devotee. If you’ve never heard of it, let me tell you, you’re missing out. The method is intended to create chunks of time that you dedicate to work, which is essential in the all-distractions-all-the-time world in which we live.
To follow this technique, you work for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break and then repeat. The key is that your 25 minutes of work has to be a real 25 minutes of work. You can’t work for 5 minutes, answer a text, work for four more, go to the bathroom, work for 6 and then get some coffee. Nope. During a Pomodoro 25, you do nothing but work for 25 minutes.
Honestly, you’d be amazed by how much you can get done in 25 minutes if you really focus.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Remember that anything is possible if you learn, believe, pray, dream and visualize. When you encounter naysayers, let their negativity become the motivation you need to move forward. When you experience hard times, remember that you’re still growing. When you have the opportunity to network, harness it. Ultimately, your strength isn’t built solely on your abilities, but on the relationships you build along the way.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start again, I would definitely find a mentor and/or coach sooner. I’ve come to learn that by leveraging these relationships, you can make significant, and financially advantageous, gains in building your business. Often I think we are made to feel that there is some honor in not asking for help from others. This insistence on self-sufficiency is ridiculous. Why take longer to learn hard lessons yourself when you can learn from the successes and failures of others?
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Learn. Then learn some more. And more. Then, just when you think you know enough, learn some more.
You should never stop learning and growing because you’ll never know everything there is to know. It’s critical to remember that stagnation is the enemy of success.
Read a book every quarter.
Continue to challenge yourself and find new mountains to climb (both literally and figuratively).
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Here I have to bring up process once again. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of process. And process development is most critical when working to grow a business.
Often entrepreneurs find that their time is being sucked up by things that they don’t really want to be doing. They can’t hand these tasks off, however, if they aren’t sure that they are going to be done properly. By developing robust processes, however, you can confidently hand job duties over to another person, or even a machine, without worrying that quality is going to suffer.
But these moves have to be calculated and precise, compounding the difficulty. In his book, “Scaling Up,” Verne Harnish likened this to a chess match, saying:
“Bobby Fischer, the great chess champion, once said, ‘Winning in this game is all a matter of understanding how to capitalize on the strengths of each piece and timing their moves just right’.”
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early in my entrepreneurial career, I experienced a major failure. My first business, despite my efforts, failed. At the time, it was frustrating and scary.
To overcome this, I dug deep, brushed myself off and started all over again. Failures are going to happen. It’s what you do after a failure that matters.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I like ideas that solve a problem—hence, my decision to start ContentPark.
One persistent “problem” pretty much everyone is on a constant quest to solve relates to health and wellness. It would be transformative if someone developed smart—AI style—technology that learns your body and tells you what you needed to stay—or get—in tip-top shape.
Notifications would go to your phone—as is always the case in this IoT era.
If the technology detected that you were getting dehydrated, it would alert you to drink water. If it identified a potassium deficiency, it would advise you to eat a banana—and maybe even point you in the direction of the nearest banana-selling establishment.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
While it’s neither sexy nor (to the blind eye) thrilling, by far my best use of $100 in the recent past was the $100 I spent on a retainer for a lawyer, who provides legal services for ContentPark. There are so many nuanced laws and rules that, without proper guidance, can result in serious and costly headaches. Even though $100 may seem a lot to spend on a figurative bottle of Ibuprofen, it’s totally worth it.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I use lots of web services. My favorite one would be (bias ahead) our ContentPark app. We use this to track all of our tasks. Through it, clients can input content requests, project managers can assign tasks, writers can submit articles and much more.
We also use Slack to communicate. The majority of my team works 100 percent remotely. Because of this, it’s pretty critical that we have a simple and reliable means of communicating with each other. Thanks to Slack, we can set up channels, engage in discussions and review feedback.
The last web service I feel compelled to give a shout out to is Asana. This service is like a to-do list on steroids. I use this service to not only track what I’m doing, but also make some work assignments.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish
In this book, Harnish, the founder of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization, dispenses tidbits of advice aimed at helping entrepreneurs achieve success. Most notably, he provides actionable techniques for transforming a fledgling business into a sprinting gazelle.
What is your favorite quote?
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
- Learn. Then learn some more. And more. Then, just when you think you know enough, learn some more.
- If I were to start again, I would definitely find a mentor and/or coach sooner.
- Dedicating specific periods of time to working, and only working, makes me more productive.
ContentPark on Twitter: @_contentpark
ContentPark on Instagram: @contentpark.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.