[quote style=”boxed”]Take risks! The only way your company is every going to grow is by taking calculated risks with your time and money.[/quote]
Phil Laboon has over 11 years of hands-on experience both in the world of Internet Marketing and website development. Starting his education at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute, Laboon has made it a vow to never stopped learning. Over the years, he has stayed up-to-date with the newest web trends and principles, and is frequently a part of industry conferences. Laboon also hosts Search Engine Optimization seminars through the The Pittsburgh Technology Council that are open to the public which allows him to pass his expertise on to others. He also participates in numerous industry forums.
Laboon’s latest endeavor has been the success of Eyeflow Internet Marketing. Starting as a one-man consultant, Eyeflow has grown and become an industry leader in the realm of Search Engine Optimization. Eyeflow now consists of search engine optimizers, content managers, client relation specialists, and web developers working with companies ranging from national franchises, Fortune 500 companies, for-profit education institutions, and travel and hospitality clients. As the President and CEO, Laboon continues to research and develop technologies that maximize rankings and organic search engine traffic for his clients.
As a true entrepreneur, Laboon has also ventured into the world of real-estate purchasing, renting, remodeling, and owning various properties in Florida and Costa Rica.
Laboon’s experience combined with solution-oriented, cost-savings strategies are a major focus and part of the success of Laboon’s vision. Laboon is a breath of fresh air in the SEO industry where companies promise the world on a silver platter and are more concerned with making a sale than implementing a genuine, proper, marketing strategy for their clients. Laboon’s advanced web development skills and SEO specialization strategies are the result of a marriage between the core principles of Internet Marketing and a dedication to helping his clients achieve their marketing goals.
What are you working on right now?
Right now we are working on the largest update to our SEO analysis tool, SEOzio, which is basically the most in-depth, free SEO analysis software out right now. We developed SEOzio several years ago to use internally. It got so many good reviews from our friends in the industry that we made it free to all. It started to get a little dated so we spent several months overhauling it to provide much more data on the search engine friendliness of a site as well as some cool new features like competitive analysis, PDF exporting, and progress tracking.
Where did the idea for Eyeflow come from?
Funny story… I originally never intended to start an Internet marketing company. In 2001, I was basically right out of vocational school and couldn’t find a job so I reached out to Pittsburgh web design studios, marketing agencies, and consulting firms to outsource their Internet Marketing to me. I was literally doing EVERYTHING back then i.e. the sales, billing, client relations, link building, programming, etc. Looking back it was not very profitable, but it did force me to learn every aspect of the business. As word grew, I started picking up more and more clients and needed to hire help. After a few years I realized I was no longer a consultant, but had a company that was able to compete with any of the large corporations in Pittsburgh.
How do you make money?
I have always loved the retainer model more so than a pay per service model so I adopted that for my business. Internet Marketing is very fluid and you sometimes need to change strategies mid-stream because of a Google update. Having the ability to do what you think is best with the resources is key to stay competitive.
What does your typical day look like?
Like most business owners I wear many hats. Every day I have to deal with unexpected issues such as taxes, legal, and quality assurance but typically the majority of my day is spent talking with current and prospective clients on what we can do to help them achieve greater online success I spend a good bit of time analyzing a website’s SEO statistics as well as their competitors and make a bird’s eye view strategy on what Eyeflow Internet marketing can do to help them pull in more traffic from online searches as well as convert that traffic into business.
How do you bring ideas to life?
While I come up with the strategies, it’s my team that makes the campaign come to life. We have a great team of programmers, graphic designers, project managers, and writers that make sure each client’s unique issues are addressed. A solid team is key for a successful SEO campaign.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The most exciting trend in the search engine optimization industry to me is that search is being used in everything now a days, not just the traditional Google landscape. For example, GPS’s are now using search data to recommend quality businesses in your local area. Many online apps are using search engine results to fuel their data, and progressive search engines like Google are becoming straight up futuristic with cutting edge ideas like the Google Glass (Internet enabled glasses that display relevant data in your everyday life)
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had would have to be a door to door salesman for a major phone company. It was a commission only sales job where I had to knock on doors and convince businesses to switch phone companies even though we were more expensive. I’m pretty sure the company was a pyramid scheme scam but it did teach me to sell and to sell hard. I worked for months and made several sales but the company went under and never paid me… After that experience I started Eyeflow and went door to door selling myself as a consultant for $15 an hour.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have not relied on partners on various business ventures I got involved with. I think when you are young and green you think you NEED a partner to help with the workload, but from my experiences most of the time partners just hold you back and create more problems than they solve. I’m sure many partnerships are great but looking back I wish I would have set specific tasks for each of us and what we had to accomplish.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take risks! The only way your company is every going to grow is by taking calculated risks with your time and money. My employees think I’m crazy for venturing out into various types of projects with our business but I constantly remind them Eyeflow was a gamble when it was created. We only need to find one profitable strategy to make the four failures seem meaningless.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I opened a real estate brokerage in Orlando when I was in my early twenties during the pre-construction boom and we quickly made 7 digits. I had 100% confidence in my contract and my partner but he ended up funneling the leads into a separate entity he created to prevent me from getting my share. I spent several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in court only to realize the US legal system could be delayed indefinitely. After I won my judgment, he then hid the money off shore and filed for bankruptcy. This was in 2006 and we are still in court fighting to this day. I think this would have made most people throw in the towel but it just made me more driven and I chalked it up to a lesson learned. Now with every partnership I have, I hold leverage that goes beyond a contract…
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Lead generation is a very profitable industry. I have seen many lead generation companies make a fortune with minimal work. They optimize a site and rank for various industries and sell the leads to the companies. I tried to get involved in this industry but it was a little to “slimey” for me so I stuck with consulting. With that said, if you are looking for something profitable with infinite growth in the future, lead generation sites aren’t a bad idea.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I think increasing the quality of life worldwide is a great goal that can easily be done by reducing the size of governments. One thing I realized as I get older is that people will complain about how inefficient, lazy, or crooked the government is on one issue but demands more government involvement on another issue as a solution. There is definitely a trade-off people need to think about when it comes to government. The more the government gets involved, the harder it is for businesses to thrive. As a consultant in many industries I see this all the time. One example is real estate. The government is always changing interest rates, giving incentives to certain people, changing laws with rental requirements, etc. This makes it very hard to determine the value of a property and thus slows the free market way down.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I am theme park junkie. I have several rental properties in Orlando and I’m always going down there to hang out at Universal Studios, Disney, Seaworld, etc.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I’m a big fan of SEOmoz for their tools as well as a resource for our industry. There are so many low quality sites trying to pump out false data about our industry and SEOmoz always seems to do a good job blocking that kind of stuff from their site. For me when someone asks where they should start in learning SEO I almost always recommend SEOmoz.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
A great book if someone is interested in learning SEO is “The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization.” It is pretty cut and dry and is very factual. It doesn’t go on crazy rants with temporary theories like many Internet Marketing books do.
Two great books I recommend that are not SEO related are “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman. I think they both do a good job showing people how the world is changing and suggesting ideas on how to make the most of it. It’s like they are forecasting the future.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why? (please don’t include yourself)
I am not a big twitter guy… I know that’s terrible to say as an Internet Marketing consultant but it’s just too much work for me to follow and honestly I don’t care about 99% of the posts people make. With that said, I will pick some people (dead and alive) I would suspect to have good updates – Ron Paul, Milton Friedman, and Louis CK
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Pretty much every morning Reddit makes me laugh. It’s amazing how many people don’t realize most of the stuff they post on Facebook was on Reddit weeks before.
Who is your hero?
I would have to say Ron Paul. When he was running for the Republican nomination, it literally changed my idea of what is possible. You basically have a guy running under a ticket of a party that hates him, and he did very well. He got hammered by the left, the right, and even the media but he never gave up and changed the course of that election on both sides of the isle. That’s an underdog story if I have ever seen one.
At what point do you start giving back and focus on non-profit ventures?
I’ve always been involved with various charities and I always wonder when is the right time to shift gears and focus on helping my community. The more money you have, the more good you can do but when do you say “Ok, this is enough money, you don’t need more. Let’s focus on some important issues.”
What truly makes you happy?
I think it’s a big misconception is that people know what makes them happy. Everyone always says, “Do what makes you happy,” but most people don’t realize what that is. And if they do, they just chose to ignore it. I’m 31 years old and I have no idea what I would do if I never had to work again.
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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.