Take calculated risks. Be open to change. If you have big goals you need to take big steps to achieve them.
A natural entrepreneur since childhood, Seth Worby is the CEO of Newton, MA based digital marketing firm, Champ. Backed with a decade of experience in the SEM and SEO fields, Seth founded Champ in 2009 as a sole-proprietorship run out of his home office. In a matter of months Champ grew to a handful of employees and set up shop in their original office on Needham street. Two moves and several office expansions later, Champ is a thriving digital marketing agency serving clients worldwide.
Seth’s background is in the world of Search Engine Optimization. He has dedicated his career to making websites perform better for the businesses that own them. Prior to founding Champ, Seth worked at Verndale, one of Boston’s largest privately-owned web development firms. While there, he started their search engine marketing department and worked within it as a senior strategist. He also worked at Catalyst Online, a WPP and GroupM company as a project manager and SEO specialist. At this time Seth managed and developed SEO strategies for fortune 500 businesses including Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, Novartis, and more.
Seth earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus on E-Business Management from Champlain College in Burlington Vermont. The name of his college, and Seth’s time in Burlington inspired the name of his business, Champ. In his spare time Seth loves to golf in the summer and snowboard in the winter months. You can often find him at Fenway Park or Gillette Stadium cheering on his favorite Boston sports teams.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The idea to start Champ was first sparked during a project I was completing for an online business course I was taking in college. I knew I wanted to own my own business one day, and I wanted to see websites created with a more performance-based model. At the time, websites were really just becoming a necessity rather than a nice-to-have feature for business. Too many businesses were putting up sites that lacked strategy and forethought, and thus, didn’t adequately perform to serve their business needs.
I went on to work for other established agencies after college, but kept seeing the same problems cropping up, so in 2009 I ventured out on my own and launched Champ Internet Solutions (now simply, Champ), a grown-up version of that dream I had in college years prior.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As a CEO of a small business, there is no truly “typical” day. Wearing many hats is the name of the game and being able to switch gears quickly is important. As a service business, Champ’s clients and their satisfaction is paramount to our success. So, I typically spend time each day checking with our leadership team on high-level project statuses and client satisfaction metrics. I jump in on meetings where there is a high-priority item on the agenda that requires my input. Otherwise I am usually focused on areas where we can grow. I’m either working on strategy with the sales team, recruitment goals with HR or participating in networking and educational events as attendee or speaker where I can expand the reach of Champ’s influence.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is all about having the right team for the job. Sometimes that means bringing in new people who have unique experiences, sometimes it means recruiting the hardest workers from within to tackle a tough project. For an idea to come to fruition, you need to identify all of the required moving parts, make sure you have the talent and knowledge to handle those parts, and invest the energy to see it through to fruition. I encourage all members of a project team to take ownership of the task. It is essential for successful completion.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love how advanced search algorithms have become. When I first ventured into the world of SEO the field was just getting started. There was smaller overlap between what was needed to serve the users of a website and what was needed to make a website rank well in search. Even the cleanest white hat practices did little to make a website more valuable to the people reading it. Now, Google has advanced the technology vastly. The name of the game in SEO is creating the best quality website possible from design, to development, to content. Google rewards real quality and usefulness with better rankings. This makes our job easier because we can just focus on creating really solid digital marketing and, done right, we will win on SEO and we will also win on customer conversions for our clients.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m an excellent prioritizer. As an entrepreneur, there are always a whole lot of balls to keep in the air. Sometimes you have to know when to put one down that isn’t a strong factor in the objective you are trying to reach. Being productive is about focusing your energy on the efforts with the most important pay off and not wasting a lot of time on things that aren’t driving you toward your goals.
What advice would you give your younger self?
You can’t always be a buddy and a boss at the same time. When I was younger and first starting out, I wanted to be friends with everyone I worked with. I’m a social guy and pretty laid back and I wanted my company to be fun. I realized in time that making your company fun and engaging to your employees isn’t always about being friends with them (though sometimes it certainly can be). It’s less important to focus on being likable than it is to focus on the things that will really make people like you as a boss: respecting your employees’ individuality and work/life balance, creating enough managed structure in the workplace to sustain fairness, rewarding the effort and performance of your employees, and allowing your employees ownership and autonomy in their work lives.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
It’s better to grab an opportunity you aren’t totally prepared for and figure it out as you go than to turn down opportunities that scare you in favor of things you are already an expert at.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take calculated risks. Be open to change. If you have big goals you need to take big steps to achieve them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Relying on traditional networking. A funny answer for a tech guy, no? No matter how reliant on technology we all are today, people are still going to prefer to hire someone familiar over someone who isn’t. And if you don’t know anyone with the skill you need you’re going to hire someone your friend or colleague knows. It’s true for me. Many of my best hires were people who were former colleagues of my current employees.
As a way to promote this idea I also have a significant referral rewards program for my clients who refer in other clients. As a result, I tend to get fantastic clients, and they get a great reward.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the past I have allowed people to stay on my team for too long who were not a good fit. As I noted above in the advice to my younger self, I viewed them too much as friends. You don’t want to fire your friends, right? When a person isn’t pulling their weight at a company the work flow is not the only thing that suffers, its bad for morale and harms the people who are your superstars. I have learned to let people go when there doesn’t appear to be a good mutual benefit. I’ve incorporated better metrics to help me keep an objective view of human resource issues and also have the benefit of growing my business large enough to have a human resource department and leadership team to help me. Luckily these issues are rare, but I know how to recognize them and address them quickly these days.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Create the ultimate online marketing platform. There are many Content Marketing Systems that work fine, but they don’t offer everything that a small to mid-sized business needs in order to drive successful digital marketing campaigns. I would love to build a CMS that incorporates SEO, ecommerce and marketing automation that makes it super easy for anyone to utilize. The ultimate goal is to give people the premium tools they need to build a high-quality website at an economical price.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently took a group of Champ employees on a fun outing to a Boston Harbor Island. I think it’s important for solid teamwork to allow employees to kick back and do something non work-related together from time to time. It helps people develop a sense of responsibility to one another and reminds everyone that its not always about the work all the time.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We love Basecamp at Champ. It has really helped us to scale our business rapidly while easily keeping tabs on every moving part of each project. We make sure action steps in all projects have an entry in basecamp and a specific person assigned to it. This allows us to track our projects easily and helps all of our employees manage their time and priorities effectively each day.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately. An autobiography by Daniel Lubetzky, the Founder and CEO of KIND.
His three mottos really resonated with me, and as an entrepreneur his advice was extremely helpful. One of the main things I got out of the book was that it’s always good to be noticed (for the right reasons) and to think big. Any company looking to up its focus on delivering an excellent product, do-good mission, and building a thoughtful culture should look to KIND as a shining star. This book highlights how to achieve success in business, and life, while making the world a better place. I gleaned much of what Champ has become from this book. I highly recommend it.
What is your favorite quote?
“Begin with the end in mind” – Dr. Stephen Covey
This is the second habit listed in Dr. Covey’s world-renowned book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This idea has really resonated with me as I’ve moved through my professional career. If you don’t know where you are trying to go, its very hard to get there. By having an ultimate, clearly defined goal in place, it makes it easier to break it down into actionable parts and end up where you meant to be headed.
•SEO success is much more about quality than anything else these days. If you are looking to have success online make sure that you are providing clear, easy to understand content that solves your target audience’s problems and answers their questions. Add to this a well structured and designed website and you are going to do well. If you need help consult an expert.
•Respect your employees’ individual needs and talents and allow them to play to their strengths. If someone’s strengths aren’t a fit for your business have enough respect for them to let them go.
•Know where you are heading with your business. Set clear goals and have a well-defined mission. Focus your energy on the things that best serve this overall vision.
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.