Tony Rindsberg – Co-founder and CMO of SOCi

Being agile has been the most important factor in growing our business. We’ve come across several opportunities that were “a sure thing” and would have catapulted our business revenue. Jumping at these opportunities is important for a startup because you never know which will materialize into a great account, partner, or potential acquirer.

With more than six years of experience in online marketing, e-commerce, and web development, Tony Rindsberg specializes in taking startups to the next level through their online presence. Currently, Tony is the co-founder and CMO of SOCi, a social media marketing and managing platform as a service.

Prior to his work with SOCi, Tony managed the social media presence for multiple Fortune 500 companies. His accomplishments in social media were recognized in 2014, when he was named San Diego’s “Marketing Young Achiever.” Tony’s expertise in various aspects of marketing greatly assisted in creating SOCi’s platform.

SOCi brings big-brand social media campaign and promotion capabilities to small businesses and their service providers by supplying all the necessary publishing, promotion, and analytics tools. SOCi is the all-in-one solution for social media marketing, campaigns, and promotions, enabling a highly efficient and cost-effective DIY service.

Where did the idea for your company originate?

SOCi was founded because we saw a huge gap in the social media marketing space. Social media is an invaluable marketing and communications tool, and small businesses were getting left out because of the time and the costs of existing services. Those costs can be reduced through leveraging data to find what’s working and resonating with target audiences. This enables social media managers to post content of better quality, improve results, and reduce management time — essentially making them smarter, better, and faster at their jobs.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

Mornings are usually spent answering emails and phone calls. I find if I don’t do this in the morning, it either doesn’t get done or interrupts my day and productivity. Sure, I have emails and calls come through that I have to answer, but clearing my plate in the morning has been a huge help. I meet with my team in the middle of the day, as that can efficiently be combined with lunch if needed, and afternoons are spent writing content, analyzing data, and so on. I work from the SOCi office every day; I find that immersing myself in the office’s environment and atmosphere is stimulating as well as productive. I used to work from home more, but at this point, I really see the value in being in the office with the team.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Quickly! It is essential to bring ideas to life quickly because all good ideas fade over time. Also, it’s easy to brainstorm and talk about great ideas that will never come to fruition unless somebody runs with them immediately. Ideas at SOCi are assigned an owner (usually the idea creator) who sets up action items for next steps within one day of proposing the idea to ensure we move forward with it. The idea can be killed along the process, but at least it was evaluated. And if it wasn’t implemented, it wasn’t because it slipped through the cracks, but because it was evaluated fully and determined to not be a worthwhile endeavor.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Video on social media. Video is such a powerful platform for getting brand messaging across to audiences. As social lends itself to brand messaging, collaboration, and communication, video is going to be a huge part of social media strategies and content in the very near future. I’m excited to see how the social networks leverage and encourage video in their feeds.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?

I take several “think breaks” throughout the day. This is when I stop typing, web browsing, and so on and sit and think about upcoming tasks, strategies, and potential campaigns. I give each think break about five to 10 minutes and sit back in my chair and stare at the ceiling. It’s amazing how stopping to think about priorities, tasks, and strategies refines my efforts throughout the day and enables me to come up with more developed, engaging campaigns.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I worked at a neuropharmaceutical company out of college. My role was slicing rat brains into extremely thin pieces and then looking at them for neuron growth. It sounds cool, but it ultimately wasn’t the role for me. I used to dread going to work so much that it began taking over my dreams. Still, the job taught me analytical skills beyond what most other digital marketers encounter in their careers. This has made me incredibly proficient and effective at analyzing and digesting data from our marketing campaigns. It’s important to always look for the positive in any role or job; every role has something to offer you in terms of career growth if you’re willing to accept the challenge and change your attitude.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

This is tough, as you never know what the results of doing things differently would have been. Still, if there were a magical entrepreneur time machine, I’d go back and probably hard-launch our product sooner. We soft-launched to great reception and gained valuable feedback from beta users, but we really didn’t make the same strides as when we hard-launched. Sometimes, you have to release the product to the marketplace to gauge what’s going right and what’s going wrong. We ended up getting lucky and not having any major issues; however, we took a risk and could have spent significant time developing features that the majority of our desired partners wouldn’t find valuable.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Work late nights. Right now, there’s a lot of talk about work-life balance — and that’s incredibly important. However, if you’re starting a company, you won’t be able to have that balanced evenly for a little while. Everyone’s work-life balance is different, and to found a company, you need to be willing to work late nights. If not, you may be better off with a different job. It’s late at night when I get a ton done because there are absolutely no interruptions — no emails, calls, questions, etc. — and I can fully focus on one task. Having our founders and C-levels do this (we don’t force it; they choose to) has been instrumental to our success at SOCi, as getting around to everything in your day as a startup founder is impossible.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Being agile has been the most important factor in growing our business. We’ve come across several opportunities that were “a sure thing” and would have catapulted our business revenue. Jumping at these opportunities is important for a startup because you never know which will materialize into a great account, partner, or potential acquirer.

However, most of these opportunities will fall through, and unless you’re ready to keep moving forward, you’re in trouble. Spending too much time on any one opportunity would have been detrimental to SOCi’s progress. We also go after the opportunities, but nothing is finalized until the money is in the bank — no, not when they sign on the dotted line, but when money actually hits your account. We’ve seen many opportunities come and go; however, we were always planning for the scenario of not landing the deal and being ready to keep moving quickly rather than spending weeks trying to save or recover a lost deal. Move quickly, and be agile!

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Just one? Ha! We fail all the time. We just don’t get too deep in anything without milestone evaluations, and we love the mantra “fail fast.” You’re not always going to make perfect decisions, but if you’re willing to be agile and honest, a mistake doesn’t turn into a failure. I personally have had several failures relating to marketing campaigns for brands and clients. The key is to fail fast, but this doesn’t mean ignoring it and moving on. Instead, it’s imperative to at least come up with a hypothesis about why your efforts failed: Was it the distribution? The target audience? The product? Poor execution? Not understanding the reason for your failure means you haven’t learned anything and are bound to repeat your mistakes.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

With video growing hugely in digital marketing, small businesses are going to desperately need help creating video content at an affordable rate. Custom video creation is expensive and time-intensive. Small businesses won’t be able to take part and will need a solution. Stock video sites may be something small businesses utilize. Similar to photo stock, videos would be customizable and tweakable to make them branded. A framework or template solution would be very attractive to the millions of businesses that will struggle to create video in the next 12 to 24 months.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? Why?

I bought a French press, a vacuum travel mug, and some awesome coffee. What a difference! Slowing down to remind myself of some of the simple joys has had a huge impact. Making the coffee feels almost meditative, and it just starts my day with a different mentality and attitude than quickly dropping a pod into the Keurig and rushing out the door. Some simple actions can be important in reminding you to slow down and step back for a minute. Plus, the coffee is amazing!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I couldn’t survive as a CMO without Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Microsoft Excel is also almost always open on my laptop because aggregating and analyzing data is a huge part of my job. For business and admin purposes, we love ZenPayroll (now Gusto) and for expenses and contractors, and we highly recommend AdEspresso for social ad delivery.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

“Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat” by Michael Masterson. I’ve seen too many good ideas and plans fade and die because of lack of implementation and too much time spent trying to make the idea “perfect” before presenting it to the world. Ultimately, time and money are wasted, businesses fail, and entrepreneurs lose their way, all because of a false sense of perfection. We don’t know the perfect marketing strategy, especially without testing. At SOCi, we launch (or, as Masterson would say, “fire”) and then optimize and revise on the basis of actual user feedback (“aim”) instead of guessing and spending time on features or pain points that aren’t actually what our real-world users want.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I’m a big believer in business books to get people enthused, motivated, and thinking. I highly recommend “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” and other Jim Collins books for general business lessons, as well as Al Ries and Jack Trout’s “22 Immutable Laws of Marketing ).” I also follow Social Media Examiner ) for social media news, and TechCrunch ) is my go-to for tech and startup news.


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