Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is someone who runs a results-focused internet marketing agency and Matt Bowman. The thing that I find about people who run agencies is it’s an easy way to get started.
And it has basically unlimited growth potential, and it feels to me like that’s what appealed to you at a time when you didn’t know what else you could do, you needed to make money. You could get started with this and you can continue to build it up. Am I right?
Andrew: That’s quite an intro. I just gave you right.
Matt: Yeah. Thanks for having me on today. Um, yes. The, the reason that I started my agency was it was a low barrier to entry. uh, I had happened to just, you know, had an encounter or did a project where I built a website and I just really loved it and fell in love with the. The power of the internet to connect people, people, to products, people, to people. And so, yeah, there, I would say there wasn’t a whole lot of a business plan put together.
It was more of a, Hey, this is fun. And somebody might pay me to build them a website. And that’s about as far as I went. And when I first got started, we’re going to do close to 15 million this, this year. And we’re looking to continue to grow.
Andrew: Get out. All right, we’re going to find out how he did it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you have people who work for you and I’m intentionally not just saying employees, but contractors too. If you’re people who work for you and you need them to get paid, you want to handle their benefits and you don’t want all the agita involved in handling it.
I’m going to convince you to go to gusto.com/mixergy. And second, if you’re launching a website, I’m going to convince you that you should be going to hostgator.com/mixergy to do it. But first, Matt. You were, this is kind of a weird place for me to get started, but did. I understand this right. That you were working for a nonprofit and a summer program.
And they said to you, can you build us a website? And that’s how the whole thing started. What were you doing at this nonprofit?
Matt: Yeah. I was a team leader, uh, of eight young people. And we were working and living in this area of Dallas, um, that has a lot of poverty and homelessness. And we were, we were basically, uh, there’s uh, we were a part of this community development program and it was a summer program that they wanted to take into, uh, a year-round program.
And so they said, Hey, we need to give this thing a name and build a website. And some people. And I said, that sounds like a great idea. Uh, I have no clue how to build websites, but I’ll, I’ll figure that out for you. And so that’s, uh, how it, how it got started. I called a good friend of mine in theater and, uh, asked him to come to Dallas and help me, help me do it.
And he did. And he, we spent, uh, several late nights in the computer lab and he taught me Microsoft front page. And that’s how we got started. Yes. Yeah. So it’s called cornerstone and, uh, they are a church and a community development center in South Dallas. Um, it’s just trying to make an impact in that neighborhood. And so I was hired to be the leader of this team or, uh, young people that were working there in the summer, kind of like interns. Uh, yes, it was technically, it was paid, but it maybe was a dollar an hour or something like that.
Andrew: Why were you doing it? Was it because of the money? Was it because of the experience leadership?
Matt: Um, why was I doing it? Well, I’m a Christian and a service to my community and, uh, you know, the world around me as a part of my beliefs and my faith, uh, I had actually spent a year in Germany. Uh, two semesters technically, uh, doing the same thing. And I had come back from Germany and, and got this job in Dallas.
I thought I was going to be a full-time, you know, someone in full-time ministry. That was, that was the direction that I thought I was, I was going in. Uh, and then this, this intersection of business came along and, uh, what happened was the. The team there at cornerstone applied for a grant for me to have a salary and the grant fell through.
And so they said, Hey, we know you need to earn a living. And, uh, so if you need to go get a job or whatever we understand. And I said, I think I’m going to try my hands at building websites. And, uh, my, my supervisor at the time, his name, pastor Chris, he said, that sounds great. I’m going to be your first paying customer.
So that’s how we got started.
Andrew: Let me pause right there. I’m hearing some noise coming in the background.
Matt: sorry, Andrew.
Andrew: I got to ask you something about my team. Did we offer to buy you a microphone? I feel like every single guest should have a microphone. I just work to send a mic to somebody in London because the team wasn’t able to get it to him overnight. Did we offer to buy you a microphone?
Let’s bring people
Matt: I feel like that was mentioned. Um, maybe, but, um, yeah, I wasn’t, one of my employees was actually doing a lot of the back and forth with your team. Um, so I’m not sure
Andrew: You know what I think I need to do. I mean, you’re a company like leader, you’re your systems person. I imagine, I think I need within the booking process of doing the interview, I just need to say, what’s your address. I’m going to mail you a mic and then fire off an email to someone on the team that says.
Send them out to this person we’re going back and forth too much. Like we’re. So I don’t know what it is like everyone’s watching every nickel when in reality, every guest should have a mic. I think what we might be doing is email. I’m making you so uncomfortable. Like you started telling me how you’re a
Matt: I have a cheat.
Andrew: Yeah. So maybe you did, so bring it over closer to you and try not to rub on the table. I think that’s picking up some audio. Yeah.
Matt: One other, just piece of feedback. I assume this isn’t going to be in there.
Andrew: No, it is going to be another recording. I always loved as a kid, listening to Howard stern when he would bring someone in from his team and say, how, how are we screwing up here?
We got to improve.
Matt: Well, I did ask the teams today. Hey, what do I need to prepare? You know, what questions will I be asked? Is there anything like that? And, um, you know, they said, Hey, so-and-so will go over the questions ahead of time. Um, so that would be
Andrew: we did, we have your pre-interview notes here in front of me. I think that enough people are asking, what do I need to know in order to prepare that I should also add that to our system, that the email that comes out that says you’re coming in, she’d say, don’t worry about the questions. Here’s what we’re cover.
Matt: Yeah. Yeah, that’d be, that’d be, that’d be better. Cause I want to do my best to make this a valuable, valuable for your readers. Um, and I can talk about my story, so I don’t necessarily need to prepare that, but I didn’t know if there was some specific things you wanted me to pull together, like some examples of our work or other things like that.
And I could have done some homework on.
Andrew: Um, I get it. I think we do need to reassure people a lot. We need to let them know here’s what’s coming up and let them know. Don’t worry. We’re not here to like sandbag you with random, random questions that you have no reason to know. All right. But here’s what I’m getting from you, Matt. You’re a good person.
Even when I was. Complaining internally about our process. I could see wins that you’re somebody who would go and work at a dollar an hour growing up. You’re someone who went to Germany to do good work. I was never like that. I was always an entrepreneur. I always wanted to see what’s the business idea.
Not that I even wanted to spend money on anything, gave me no joy to buy anything. And that also is a problem, but it gave me joy to build something up to be entrepreneurial. Did that happen to you too? Matt? Is any of that resonating with you?
Matt: So, um, what, what makes me entrepreneurial? Is that kind of what you’re
Andrew: Were you entrepreneurial at all as a kid? Were you somebody who kept you were give me an example.
Matt: So I, I grew up, I’m a fifth generation entrepreneur and not just an entrepreneur, but an entrepreneur in Texas. So I come from a line of very, um, independent people. Uh, my mother and all three of her siblings all own their own businesses, almost all of their kids, all on their own businesses.
Um, my grandfather’s business still is an operation. It’s a furniture store. So I just grew up around that. It was kind of normal to me. Like I visited. My aunt’s daycare center called the little dude ranch. Uh, I visited my grandfather’s, the furniture store. I helped work there, you know, over Christmas break sometimes and move furniture around.
So for me, that was sort of normal. What I was a kid growing up. Um, I would do things like, you know, sell pocketknives at boy scout camp. I went one year and I saw the knives that they had. And the next year I came back and I had the knockoff versions of those knives that I bought for cheaper. And I sold them on the doorstep of the trading shop, where they sold the nine.
So, uh, I sold, I sold battery operated fans, and then I sold the batteries separately because they’d run out there’s parent night, Wednesday night. And when my mom would come in. And my dad and they would bring me new inventory. That was the big thing was, make sure you bring me batteries and more knives.
And you know, the things that I needed to keep my business going there at camp. So I was always just, I enjoyed that and my parents encouraged it in me, I think, because they grew up around it as well. It wasn’t something that they ever, uh, discouraged or, or anything like that. They really encouraged me to do that. Why did they encourage me?
Andrew: Yeah. Were they thinking, I want my kid to be an entrepreneur or just whatever it is that he’s interested in, we’re going to
Matt: I think it’s the second. I don’t say I never heard either of my parents say, if you’re smart, you’ll do this or that there wasn’t necessarily that it was more of a, this is what you enjoyed doing. We’re going to support you in that.
Andrew: Okay. And so when you saw the, that the church, was it the organization that you were working for needed a website? You said I could build it. You learn how to build it was the first one for free, just part of your job.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right.
Andrew: And then how did you transition from there to, I think I need to build websites for other people.
Matt: Well, I thought I was going to be employed in this program is going to take off and we, we, we had a name and we had a site, but then, like I said, this, uh, This grant or they apply for didn’t happen or, you know, the money to pay my salary fell through. And so then it was, I had to figure something else out.
And, um, so from there I said, that was really fun. I’m going to try building websites for nonprofits. And so that’s how I got started. And, and my first pain, uh, was, was pastor Chris. He needed a site for another project in their organization. He paid me. I think it was $1,500, which was big money to me at that time.
Um, I took a thousand of it and bought a laptop and software, and then I took 500 of it and bought a round trip ticket to Germany to visit my, my girlfriend. Who’s now my wife.
Andrew: You built up that site, you were in business and at some point. One of the friends that you made at boy Scouts, his dad passed away lung cancer. Right.
Andrew: And he asked you to do what
Matt: Yeah. So I, I grown the business, um, for maybe a year or two and, but it was still very, very small business. Just me, my wife, she was a full-time student at the time. So it was really, really just me and I had this kind of marquee client. I know a lot of people when they’re starting a business, you can, uh, have sort of.
One or two big clients that pay the bulk of your living wages. And so I had this client and that, that was it. And, um, without too many details, it wasn’t a great relationship. And, uh, um, the person that was leading that organization, my client, uh, asked me to do some work on a day that I was off. And that was off because I was speaking at the funeral of my.
My scout master, who was my friend’s dad. And, um, you know, I just, I had had this sort of crisis moment where my biggest client was demanding that I work for them today. And my, one of my best friends in the world and this mentor of mine was having a funeral and. Uh, I had to make a decision about what I was going to do.
And for me, it was a difficult decision because you saw earlier maybe, um, uh, maybe a little too nice and too sensitive for my wife. And it was not a difficult decision at all. She said, get them out of here. You know, she, she said, they’re going to treat you like that. Life is too
Andrew: she said, lose the client, do the right thing.
Matt: Liz the client do the right thing. Get them out of here, even though it was like 70% of our family income, you know, at that time. Um, so, so yeah.
Andrew: Did you lose the client because you went to speak at your friend’s father’s funeral, you did. And how did that impact your family?
Matt: Uh, it was, it was a big decision, but one like many other entrepreneurs can relate to. You, you go through this hard situation and then you come out on the other side and you realize that was the right thing. And I’m glad I did it because it made me better. And now I’m in a much better place. Um, so it impacted us for a little while, but you know what, soon after that, I got new clients that replaced that income and, and, and they were ones that, uh, more thankful to work with me.
Andrew: How’d you get new clients,
Matt: Um, like many small businesses in the early days, it was all based on referrals, uh, doing good work, taking care of your customer and, uh, asking for referrals. And so that was, that was how I grew in that in the early, early days of the agency now.
Andrew: you lost 70% of your, your revenue. You went back to your current clients and you said, do you know anyone? I have some space. Is that what it was?
Matt: Yeah. Basically.
Andrew: Okay. And you were building websites at the time, just straight up website.
Matt: Website only. And I was doing some, um, email marketing, like helping people build email newsletters and a little bit of video work, but most of it was building websites and almost all of it was for nonprofit organizations at that time.
Andrew: Okay. You said that you, this wasn’t based on some kind of a plan. What were you thinking you were going to grow up to be then.
Matt: Oh man. I had, uh, very little, I would say long-term vision. I mean, my, my goal, my wife and I were married. Um, she, as I said, as a full-time student had no income, um, I was, I was very blessed. I want think my grandfather has passed away. When I, when I was born, uh, he put $2,000 into a mutual fund. He did this for all of his grandkids and that grew over time and, and that money became a down payment for a home.
So after I graduated from college, I was able to actually buy my first home. Um, Uh, I think it was 20 or 25,000, something like
Matt: So it was a, it was a down payment amount. It wasn’t like I bought the house for cash. Um, but yeah, the, the mortgage payment on our homeless $472 and 95 cents a month. And, uh, that, that was the thing that I had, you know, sticking on my wall that if I could make that much per month, we won’t be homeless.
You know, it’s, uh, Um, that was about as far as my vision went at that time, it was my wife’s in school. She’s doing her social work program. I need to make at least 500 bucks a month so we can have a house. Hopefully we’ll have some food too, and some other things in there. Um, but yeah, I was just focused on providing just my, my vision was just really for me and my faith and my wife at that time.
Andrew: You know what. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where’s Mixergy going. I knew the plan in the beginning and then a lot of what I was trying to do. Didn’t pan out. I’m now trying to figure out what’s the new plan. And I have to say, I’m not somebody who’s comfortable without knowing, uh, what the vision is, what the plan is, where it’s going.
And sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m just overstressing myself by trying to think about it. Maybe I should be the way that you were when you were getting started. What do you think.
Matt: I would say there’s value to both sides of that. Um, having unlearn now, and, and I’ve done that through the mentorship of some, uh, great friends and leaders in business that having a vision and having a plan allows you to be proactive, allows you to work toward a goal instead of being reactive. But when you’re a small, I think you’re still defining where’s your markets and what do you, what do you truly enjoy?
And in that sense, having a specific plans and actually the detriment, because it may not be exactly what you’re saying. Like when I first started, I thought video, I was going to do most of my business and video and I just wasn’t getting video projects. And man, all that video equipment was expensive and I didn’t have the money to buy all this stuff and these lights and cameras and mics.
And so it was really kind of like I enjoyed the website of things and it was cheaper. And so, yeah, not, not having a specific plan allowed me the flexibility to come settle in and it’s adapted and changed over time. Now I have almost 200 employees and then I thought I would have never be bigger than me and my wife.
And so that it’s sort of evolved and you just, you have to adapt to overcome. That’s what every day is as a business owner, you have problems that arise and you have to adapt to them. So adaptability is a huge characteristic. I think it’s important.
Andrew: And take a minute to talk about a HostGator. You use them. I’m going to ask you about that experience in a moment, but if someone’s listening to us, And they say, you know what? I like this idea of starting an agency. It’s just my work at first as, as the, the service that I’m selling. And then eventually I can build it up.
Is there a type of agency that you’d recommend that they could go and launch? Maybe they go to HostGator or build a quick website for it and they’re in business. What would you recommend?
Matt: compete with me now. I’m just kidding. Um, no, I, I think there’s a, there’s a lot of agencies out there. A lot of small agencies. I’m a part of some groups on Facebook where there’s. A lot of people that are, you know, one, two, three employees and they’ve got some clients and they’re doing great work for their clients.
And so I would say the, the sea is vast and large for a lot of services out there. And people that are trying to, uh, you know, they need, they need that guide. You know, the concept of StoryBrand there’s this client, who’s the hero of the story and stuck and they need the guide. And so there’s always going to be that.
Need for, uh, an agency to get an expert to come alongside.
Andrew: where people are stuck in what kind of guides they’re going to be?
Matt: Um, you know, I think a lot of that has to do with what you enjoy. Uh, for me, I didn’t think that I would enjoy digital marketing. Um, I was, uh, In college. I was a communication major. I wanted to do something that’s just kind of broad. I did take a programming class C plus plus, and I hated it. It was terrible.
And not only did I hate the programming, the teacher was an excellent programmer and not a very effective teacher. And so I had to drop the class. And so when, when I think about that, you know, me as a college student, and then I think about now in my company, develops and codes, websites. Um, that doesn’t fit for me.
And so, uh, but, uh, if you just have to figure out what you enjoy and what you like. Um, for me, I enjoy sitting down with a business owner or leader of a nonprofit and dreaming about how can we grow and, and what could be the future and how can we use the power of the internet to do that? And it happened to be, we need a better website and we need SEO.
We need PPC and social media and video, but really the core of it is I want to grow my business. I know that marketing is the lever that I need to pull in a more effective way. Print advertising radio TV is, is not working as well as it wants to. And so how can I leverage this digital channel? And so just helping them navigate that has been what I really enjoy.
Andrew: You know what that makes a lot of sense. Anything where there’s growth, business growth, especially revenue growth. The profit of course is really important to anything that will help people grow their business. That way, that clearly that cleanly, that directly is ripe for a consulting business. Right. So if there’s a new marketing technique that’s working and companies that want to figure it out, be the company that does that.
If there’s a way to reduce expenses, people are less excited about reducing expenses, but it’s important. Create an agency for that. Let me say this to the audience, anyone out there who is use it, who’s thinking about launching something. You need a website. The easy way to get started is go to hostgator.com/mixergy.
When you go to that URL, you get the lowest price possible. Matt, you told me openly, you started out with HostGator. Am I right?
Matt: I started out with a different company. And then I switched to host Gator as my second hosting provider. I was on one of their reseller programs and
Andrew: You are creating sites for other people on HostGator, reselling it now openly, you had an issue with them and I told you we’re not holding back. What’s the issue,
Matt: No, I would say it wasn’t necessarily an issue where like, man, it was down all the time or anything like that. It was more of a, I started outgrowing the plan that I was on and I was looking for kind of the next level of service. And I think also there were some changes in their business. Maybe they were acquired.
And then I think they were in the midst of doing backend business integration, I assume. And, and there’s been a lot of talk about maybe the service level or whatever changed. And so that was a time I was reading a lot online about people unhappy and in my experience with some of that as well. And so, yeah, I’ve found another, I actually, from there, I think just got a dedicated server, um, on something in some data center in Dallas for several years.
Andrew: So, yeah, the company was founded 18 years ago. They did have a period where customer support was where it should be. And I was open about that when we were doing ads for them, I was open about it. And then when they got things back on track, I signed back up with them and we started to talk about them more.
The experience, the experience I had is they did have great customer support. And then the other thing that I noticed was when we were ready to scale up, because we joined just a few years ago, they were somebody there to give us the exact experience we wanted. They start out with these cheaper or inexpensive plans, but they do grow with you.
And we were able to call them up and scale up. And, uh, it’s still much. Less expensive than the competition, as reliable as ever. And I’m happy to be with them, anyone out there who wants to go sign up with them, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And I always want to be open about my sponsors, the good, the bad, and I would never use them unless they weren’t great.
In the end, Matt, you started this agency with a co-founder. Why not just do it by yourself? Why not figure out front page and a couple of other apps and just build it yourself.
Matt: Uh, actually, that’s not right. Uh, I started the business all myself, a hundred percent owner for, uh, let’s see, 2005 to 2016, 11 years. And then, and then I was approached by a friend of mine and a mentor in business to become a, uh, investor in the business. And so I became business partners after 11 years in business,
Andrew: Uh, he invested in the business at first and
Matt: No, not at first after 11 years.
Andrew: No, sorry. But his, his connection to the business was just an investment, not a partnership or anything like that. Not he wasn’t working in the company.
Matt: He is not an employee. Correct.
Andrew: Okay. All right. And then tell me about the, this fancy lunch that you had at your place for $4 and 95 cents with Erin that led to him working with you.
Matt: yeah. Um, so early on in the, in the business, I was getting more and more work, mostly through referrals and I was needing some help. Uh, I had more work than I could handle on my own. The early days of how do I hire my first employee basically? And I took the approach and maybe it’s a non-traditional one.
Or I said, I, I know that I can’t handle paying someone a salary, even if it was a small salary. So what I’m going to do is find someone who’d be willing to kind of take a risk with me and be a contractor. Um, and then I’m going to do everything I can do every day to sell more websites. And when we get a website, you help me build it.
And so we, this guy named Aaron, who’s still on my team. He’s one of my best friends now in the world. And, uh, we’ve been working together for about 10 years. Uh he’s he signed up and said, Hey, that sounds cool. Sounds like we could build something special together. And. Um, but yeah, he, he w he first was a contractor for several years and we would split every website that they got sold.
So he would get, I think we did, he got 40%, I got 40%, and then we put 20% back into the business to help it grow.
Andrew: And the way you found them was you saw a site you like that you said who built this? It turns out it was Aaron Whitaker. And that’s why you invited him out to that fancy line.
Matt: Yes. Yeah, he happened to be in my same hometown Marlene’s in Texas. And, uh, I liked the site that I had run into that he had built also at that time I was not using WordPress or any, any CMS platform and the site that he built was in WordPress. And so I learned that, that he knew more about that was, you know, the early days of WordPress.
And so, yeah, I said, Hey, would you mind meeting up for lunch? And. Uh, he said, sure. And so I said, where do you want to eat? And I pitched him on this place. That was one of my favorite kind of hole in the wall, places. Uh, it was called main street cafe. And, uh, looking back, we laughed about it because it’s, you know, it’s like one of these really, really low costs places.
But at that time I ate there two or three times a week. Cause again, I was, I wasn’t a very different place financially and it was close to my house. Yeah. So that’s, that’s where we went and. Uh, I think we just hit it off. Like we just connected as people we’re in similar life stages, we were newly married.
Uh, we were both into kind of digital marketing. His dad owned a Christian nonprofit organization that he grew up in. And so we kind of had some different things in common. And, um, and so yeah, we said, let’s do this thing together and see what happens. And so that’s, that’s how I got my first, first person in the business.
Andrew: The other thing I’m interested in is at some point he came to, and he said, essentially, this feast or famine thing that happens with the digital agencies, it’s just too tough to build a life on. I need a little consistency. So the two of you went to. Donald’s while you guys were living it up back then you sat down at McDonald’s with a notepad to try to figure out how to create a consistent salary for him.
What are the ideas you kicked around? And then what did you end up with?
Matt: Yeah, it was kind of one of these, uh, Hey, Matt. Can I talk to you for a minute? And then my wife’s my wife and I had a talk last night and, and she really wants me to have a salary. You know, we need to have a budget, you know, we need to know what we’re going to make each month. And I said, Hey man, I get it.
So, so yeah, we, we went out to lunch that day. Uh, it happened to be at McDonald’s I believe. And so we took the note pad there. There was a lot of like what I would call mini. Mastermind or ideation sessions that happened when we, when we stepped away from the computer step away from the inbox and all the sort of whirlwind of the day to day and went to lunch together.
And there was a lot of creative. Like what if we asked, we asked a lot at lunch. And so we often took notepad with us and, uh, it was mostly around just what’s fair. You know what I just said? Well, what do you mean? He knew what we made as a company, uh, and he knew how many projects we had. And, and so we just kind of looked back historically, what did he had made in the last six months?
And we tried to find some, you know, medium that we could make it more routine and more regular. And so we just, we just talked back and forth. What’s fair to the company. What’s fair to me. What’s fair to him. And we found a win-win solution.
Andrew: Since you were those spit splitting 40% for you, 40% for him of all the revenue that was coming in. If he needed consistent salary, that means you’re the one who would sometimes go under 40%. And how are you going to do that and not endanger your family?
Matt: well, um, I was the owner and so it was my job to take the risk
Andrew: But did you come up with a plan mentally? Did you, at that point say, okay, now I’ve got to get serious. I need to have a real pipeline. I need to do what did you do any of that?
Matt: I would say it definitely is motivating. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Because at that point it wasn’t just me and my wife. Uh, it was, it was he and his wife and they had a young daughter. And so yeah, the weight of that burden that, uh, became very real and, um, and it, and it still is today. I now have hundreds of families.
Uh, that that are counting on thrives, uh,
Andrew: What did you do differently then? What did you do now that you knew that you had all this.
Matt: uh, you mean when, when I paid Erin, when I started paying her in the
Andrew: Yeah. Now you had a real salary and you had a different relationship, a different set of obligations. What did you do now that you were sitting down and saying I got to get serious. Yeah.
Matt: Well, I think a couple of things that we did is we basically asked the question, how can we get more leads? And then we started investigating, what is it that’s gonna give us more leads. And, um, along the way, what I would say is, um, I’m a big believer in thinking differently and, uh, you know, really sitting in the seat of my potential customer and looking back at myself and my company and asking what would make me want to buy something from that business.
And one of the things that Aaron and I talked a lot about was. Um, we could do cold calling. We could do, you know, mail. We can do all these sort of outbound tactics, but sitting in that chair, we asked, does that work for us? Like, do we enjoy buying people who do that to us? And the answer is no. So maybe that’s not what we should focus on.
Maybe we need to focus on inbound. I mean, it’s focused on being visible when someone Googles web design company, Dallas, Texas, Uh, and so that’s what we started investing in and started trying to figure out. And what is this thing called SEO or how can we rank it and drive more, more leads and all along the way, this is kind of the running joke.
Since, since those days into now is we, uh, we sort of figured it out along the way for ourselves. And then once we figured out how to do it and do it effectively for us, then we’d sell it to our clients. Now we were the experts. And we did then become the consultant to help. And that’s really how the agency expanded from just web design and being a project based business and having the ups and downs of income, and then focusing more on recurring revenue, uh, with, with some of these other, you know, marketing services,
Andrew: What was working for you with search engine optimization back then? Take me back.
Matt: uh, we’ve ranked for a couple of keywords in our local area.
Andrew: How, what was it about? Was it, uh, buying links back then? Was there something
Matt: Oh, well, what was working? Yeah. Um, let’s see. Yeah, back then, there was a lot more like just keywords in the title tags and you know, there was a lot, a lot, there’s a lot less sophisticated than it is now. We’ve never really. Bought leaks. I mean, that’s kind of a, what, what I mean is blackout type tactics.
I’ve never really, uh, never really gotten into that. Um, but yeah, we just, we just decided for me, I kind of thought about it. Like if I was a again, why was someone buying the service? Uh, at that time I was doing a lot of face-to-face meetings. I knew that if I could get in person with somebody. I had a really good chance at building trust with them and they would buy from us.
And so I was just said, let’s just focus on my hometown of Arlington, which is about 400,000 people. So first it was web design Arlington, and we ranked number one after some time for that. And we were seeing leads come in. So then we said, what if we could run some Fort worth, which is a larger city. And then we did that and then mail.
What if we rank for Dallas, which is the adjacent city. And, um, and we did did that too. And so that sort of opened my eyes to what’s possible. Then, then there was the shift of, I don’t have to get all my leads through referrals. I don’t have to get all my leads through some form of outbound. I can actually turn my website into a lead generation engine.
Uh, and, and there are people that are ready to buy they’ve searched and found my business and the right buyer. So, um, that was a game changer.
Andrew: Meanwhile, that’s what thrive agency does now. Right? The, the bulk of your work is how do we get customers for our people? You’ll do content writing for them, right? SEO, um, email marketing.
Matt: That’s all right. Will you SEO? Pay-per-click social media content writing, email marketing, lean building. Uh, we’ve really created kind of a broad sweet web sort of web design development. Um, so we’ve created a broad suite of services that are all based online. We don’t do currently. We don’t do radio or TV, so we’re focused on the digital channel.
Uh, and, but then yeah, every client comes to us at a different place. Um, and so we kind of analyze where they are and then we help them with our services and help them kind of move forward. And rank higher and drive better ads and more leads. And
Andrew: you’ve worked with people. I’m sorry, what is it? A big
Matt: I was going to say another segment of big piece of what we do is e-commerce.
So we’ve gotten into working with a lot of e-commerce clients as well. So it will be as successful in that too.
Andrew: driving traffic or sales on Amazon and other platforms.
Matt: Um, we do, we do Amazon Walmart. We do all of the marketplaces, but then we also do optimization of their domain. So they have a men’s sporting goods.com or whatever. We help them on their domain as well.
Andrew: Got it. So if someone’s listening to us right now and they say, I like to do better marketing for my company next year, what’s the minimum that they could come to you with. What’s the minimum ad spend.
Matt: Yeah. So there’s kind of two, two things you need to think about. Um, when you think about working with an agency, one is the amount that you’re going to spend with the agency and it’s kind of their fee that they keep. And then the other would be, what am I going to spend with Google through the Google ads platform or Facebook through Facebook ads or Amazon’s Amazon ads.
And so from the client side, those two numbers add together to a total, but, but from thrive, we don’t, we don’t actually, um, take money from the ad spend. We, we do base our fee based on percentage of ad spend. Um, but we, that money goes straight to those ad providers. Uh, so anyway, the, the target that you need to think about.
Is, you know, we’re usually working with companies that are around a million dollars in revenue, and then we have, you know, that’s small and, and then we have companies that are 50 or a hundred million, and then we have some companies that are over a hundred million.
Andrew: But you’ll even work with somebody who does only $2,000 a month in ad spend. And you’ll manage that for them.
Matt: Uh, we will on some of the platforms. So that’s, you know, on Facebook and Google ads. Um, most of our clients that hire us to do SEO, that’s about the, the fee $2,000 a month. And so we, we spend time optimizing writing content, building links, helping them rank higher organically, uh, as well, most of our clients come to us because they want to have one agency where they can do all that.
So they, they say, I need SEO and even C I mean, social media. Um, you know, I mean content, so, so we can provide all of that under one roof. And so a lot of those sort of, you know, add up another big thing that we really specialize in. We’d love to, um, continue to grow in is multi location businesses. So they’re, they’re a franchise or, or essentially own business that has 30 or 40 locations across the United States.
And they want to see, can you help me in each of my locations, but they’re looking for an agency that’s big enough that has over a hundred employees or so that they can handle their, their size.
Andrew: All right. Let me take a break here and then come back. I want to find out about this thing that your family did growing up. That was unusual with, well, we’ll talk about it in a second, but my second sponsor is Gusto. Matt you and I were talking before this interview started about why people use enlight, Gusto.
You have more experience with them than I do. One of the things that we both, uh, understood was that for companies who have employees that are all over the country, it’s a pain to find a way to pay them all and to deal with all the different rules, with all the different situations in different cities, different States.
And what Gusto does is they just make it super easy. It doesn’t matter where your people are in the country. It doesn’t even matter. Frankly, Matt, you still have 10 99 people. People who attend you do Gusto handles it. Right. Handles all of it. And it’s a beautiful, easy to use interface, not just for you, but for your employees.
I used to use one of their competitors. Because it was well-known it has been around forever. It was awful. It was one of these like old systems where the guy was so proud that I could sign up with him using, uh, using, uh, a digital experience. I said, great, where do I sign? He goes, I’ll come right over. He comes over with an, with like an iPad knockoff that they give him.
And he gives me this fake iPad pencil that I signed on his and I go, this is what you’re excited about. I didn’t want to have anyone say anything, but that was awful. And I realized it’s because they upgraded from the fax machine. We’re not talking decades ago. We’re talking about just a few years ago, and this is what I felt.
The people who work for you feel even worse. When you work with Gusto, you have an experience that helps you take good care of your people. They have a beautiful experience. They have an app. They have, um, a well designed site and frankly, they just get paid. However they want to get paid. And. It’s an incredible experience for you that allows you to just set it, forget it, move on and manage your business.
It is now at a point where people are starting to think about how am I going to take care of my people next year, this is a conversation. This is something that you should be doing now during the holidays, before the holidays, as fast as possible to just know what your options are for next year, you might want to start next year off, fresh with Gusto, doing your payroll.
If you go to gusto.com/mixergy, they’ll even let you try it for free. And you’re going to get to see why so many businesses use gusta. We’ve heard about them in the news so much. They’re one of these story, new startups. Actually, they’re not a startup anymore. They’ve been around for a few years, but the reason that everyone’s talking about them is because they’re such a pleasure to work with what was their name before Matt?
Matt: Yeah. When I started working with them, they were called Zen payroll and I was using an outsource bookkeeper and accountant, and they were also running payroll for me manually. And, um, yeah, I just ran into situations where I needed more access, more control also, uh, started growing a team, you know, nationwide.
We are a remote based company, so we have team
Andrew: Always we’re remote based.
Matt: Uh, no, initially we were, uh, and then we had kind of, uh, we had one of my key employees move to another state and we decided it was time to think about remote.
Andrew: I got to tell you a remote story in a minute, but first let me close this out by saying for anyone who is out there, go to gusto.com/mixergy. They will make it easy for you, especially with remote people here. Here’s a, this my friend, Noah Kagan, who runs Sumo. He had one of his key people, Anton say, I want to go back to living in the Bay area.
I got family there. I want to enjoy life there. So knows practical. He goes, all right. Let’s think about all the things that could fail. And I want to have the same type of experience that we have with you here. Cause we like you, I said, Anton what’d you guys decide here’s what it was. Anton had like a computer.
There was always dialed into one zoom room that was, um, that allowed him to basically have a presence in the Sumo office. So if it’s people walk by, they would just see Anton on a computer, just his face there. If he was eating, they would see him eat it. They just recreated it first and experience for Anton the whole day on this computer, I go, Anton, is that kind of weird?
No weirder than anything else that happens. That Sumo
Andrew: like, that’s the way people did remote.
Matt: Yeah, I need to attach it to one of those Japanese robots.
Andrew: I was surprised that they didn’t do that. Yeah. I know what you’re talking about. Isn’t uh, I thought anybody had that for a while. There was someone who was, uh, one of the Y Combinator partners I think, was working on that. Um, yeah. Now we’ve all realized it doesn’t even matter. Just keep everyone on zoom.
All right. Um, the boy Scouts, there was someone in the boy Scouts whose parents just up and left. Am I understanding this right?
Matt: Oh, yeah, I forgot. I’ve forgotten what I talked to you all about the pre-interview. Um, yeah, I want to be sensitive or careful with this, because this is not probably something that this family wants to be broadcast. Um, but, but yeah, there was an opportunity where my family was able to help another family.
And we took in a couple, couple of boys that were my age. Um, so I, I have a half-brother and half-sister, they’re a lot older than me and they, I didn’t really grow up with them. They lived in another state with their mom, but, uh, so I was kind of an only child, but I had a lot of friends. And, uh, so these two guys moved in with our family, uh, for about a year, uh, when their family was going through a transition.
Andrew: Your whole family do gooders is what I’m getting. Yes, entrepreneurial, but don’t do good. Do you guys pray before going to sleep every night
Matt: Um, yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: You know what I was watching some movie on Apple TV, a Tom Hanks movie, and you see him praying and I thought it must be such a, such a good experience to end the day before going to bed to just pray to center yourself for a little bit.
Does it help? What does it do?
Matt: Well, now I upgrade with my kids. I have four kids, um, and we, we have a bedtime routine and, and part of that is reading the book together and spending time together in the
Andrew: Reading a book, any book at all.
Matt: uh, Vegas too. So we’ve got a library and they choose what books they want for bedtime. Uh, and, and so, yeah, we read all kinds of different books.
Andrew: And then you pray with them.
Matt: And then yeah, usually they ask sometimes I forget and they say, daddy let’s pray. And I don’t just pray. They, they also pray for the things that are on their heart as well.
Andrew: So did you speak to God? And they say, God, thank you for this. And help me have that. That’s the approach.
Matt: Yeah. A lot of it lately has been, uh, you know, Brian for COVID and the people that are out there in the world. And. Um, you know, keep, my father is going up in age he’s 81 and he actually had a surgery recently to remove a brain tumor. And so a lot of it has been around just health and our family and yeah.
Andrew: What does it give you that you pray? What does it give you that you have a connection to a higher power?
Matt: Oh, wow. Um, and what does it give me? I would say it gives me a purpose in life. Um, I look at, uh, I’m a big history buff. I enjoy learning about ancient history and more recent history. I especially love like world war II. And when I think of history, I think of the word history. And to me, when I hear it in my ears, it’s his story.
And, and I see how, uh, God has been working and in our world since ancient times,
Andrew: And so you see that God is working through you to do something that’s bigger than then you might think if you were just a regular guy running an agency.
Matt: that’s right. My life in the grand scheme of time. Uh, you know, when, when I, when I die in tombstone, that little dance in between the two years is my life. And, uh, that’s a short amount of time in the scheme of eternity.
Andrew: what’s the bigger purpose of running a digital agency? Yes. I read the case studies. I saw the people you helped, you helped them get more followers, more fans, more customers, more traffic, all those things. I’m watching you your eyes. Even as I say that, it’s, it’s nice. I’m oversimplifying your work, obviously, but what’s, what’s, what’s the big benefit then?
What’s the big thing that that’s bigger than all this that I see.
Matt: Well, um, My wife and I thought that we were going to be in full-time ministry, both of us. And then we thought that was the calling that we would give our lives to serving others and serving God. And, um, what I realized is that God needs business people too, and he can use business people. And I had some unique skills, unique background growing up in an entrepreneurial family and.
And, um, I’m entrepreneurial just to just who I am. And I love helping business owners because I relate to them. And so for me, it’s, it’s several things. One, I have a heart for my client and I want them to be impacted in a positive way so that they can impact their communities and their employees, and they can provide for their families.
Number two is my team. When I started out, it was just me and my wife, and it was important for me to grow my business so that I could provide and have a living wage. Uh, but now it’s so much bigger than that. And so my ministry today is to my employees. And so I spend most of my day thinking about how can I help?
And I have a lot of conversations. Uh, I pray with my team members if they ask sport and I help them was personal advice. I helped them with relationship advice, and with all kinds of things that they, you know, are open to talk with me about. And the third thing is giving back. Um, my wife and I from day one, uh, tides off of our income, which is a 10% we give back to 10%.
And so we, we, we do that. Now we get 10% of our profit back to organizations that we support. And like I said, we thought we were going to be full-time ministry role. What we learned is that some doors were closed for that, and that’s a longer story, but, but then this door opened to have this business and now we’re actually able to.
Give to support multiple people who are doing that around the world. And, um, my wife and I heard a story about a gentleman in RGU of turnout I’d love for any of your listeners to research a businessman that lived back in kind of the world war II era Latino university is named after him. And he was a Christian businessman who, uh, kind of submitted his business and his life to God.
He was very successful. And at some point in his business, he and his wife made the decision to do what they call a reverse tide, where they live off of 10% of their income and they’d give away 90% of their income. And my wife and I were really motivated by that, like, wow, isn’t that amazing that someone can, can use their skills to in business, but then make an impact in the world.
And so, um, we set a goal, uh, we set a goal that we would, we would reach 50%. So we would. The amount that we make as a family, we would also give that amount away. And last year we reached it, we actually surpassed it. So we gave almost 200% of what we made last year as a family, we gave that away.
Andrew: I’m looking him up by the
Matt: that’s a big motivator for me to continue to grow the
Andrew: I see that I see the power there. RG LeTourneau has 300 patents relating to earth moving equipment. His name is apparently is synonymous with earth moving equipment. Um,
Matt: Yeah. And he was the inventor of a lot of the earth moving machinery. That building roads from just a manual crew was shells and pit pitchforks to being a machinery based, um, process.
Andrew: Let me talk about the difficult time in a business. At one point you felt you were the bottleneck, you were under a lot of stress. You even had a panic attack, what’s a panic attack. Like what does it feel like to have it?
Matt: Wow. Um, well, let me first say that I appreciate more now people who deal with small levels and, and large levels of mental, um, Mental health after I’ve gone through this experience. So about three years ago, I was sleeping in my bed normal night and I woke up and I was just in a panic. And I don’t remember having a dream, but something just triggered.
And I was, it feels the best way I could describe it as you’ve ever been in a car and you almost get in an accident, you don’t get into the accident and they were, maybe you do, but, but it’s like a close call. And your heart races and there’s the adrenaline and there’s kind of the spear moment. And then it kind of goes away, you know, a minute later a panic attack is like turning that on and it doesn’t go away.
It slips on and then it does not slip off. And that’s what it feels like.
Andrew: What do you think that was going on in your life that caused that?
Matt: Well, um, I would say there was a lot of different things. Uh, I did a lot of soul searching, a lot of research, uh, into the kind of biology of things that may have been going on with my brain. I did some honest looking at my, you know, habits, eating habits, exercise, sleep, all that. But I, I came to the point where I talked to an expert.
He was a great guy. I’m really glad I found him Dan McGee. He studied, uh, stress and anxiety for over 30 years as his expertise. And I was meeting with him and he said, man, it sounds like you’re having some, some typical signs of, uh, just, you just pushed your body too far. And your body is telling you something’s got to change.
And, and he said in the 30 years of studying the effects of stress and anxiety, uh, the summary of everything I’ve learned comes down to this. And I could tell, I was like, hold on a minute, let me get my notepad. You know, when someone says that it’s like, you want to write this down. And he said, this such a, such a simple message and said that stress is the mismatch of the demands of your environment and your ability to cope with those demands.
And when the demands of the environment are higher than your ability to cope that gap is stress and stress over time can manifest in anxiety and over time and mood depression. And so what do we do when we have, yeah, well, we have three options and unfortunately, most people jumped to option three, but in his mind, you try option one first, if that doesn’t work, you try option two.
And if that doesn’t work, option three is the last resort. But option one is you try to improve your ability to cope. Uh, that could be, um, learning something new about, about yourself. Maybe you’re believing something like, like a belief can be, I have to make everyone happy. Well, maybe that’s a lie. Maybe that’s not actually true.
And if you could kind of understand that and you can come out of that, then your ability to say, I’m going to let that thing go. And even if it makes that person unhappy, that’s okay. Because I don’t have to be perfect. That would be an example of changing your ability to cope with the demands of your environment.
And unfortunately, in the business world, that is a very common one. There’s this concept of perfectionism that I have to be perfect and high achiever. So
Andrew: basically saying you could do this. He said, But he’s not saying stop trying to cope. Coping is one technique. Try it. And then if it doesn’t work over to the next, before we hear the next to what was going on in your life or in your business that created that gap that led to this stress.
Matt: Um, I would say that we were at a time where we were really starting to ramp up our growth. Um, I had just become business partners with my, my partner Kurt, and he really challenged me to think bigger about my business. And, uh, so I think part of it was, I was excited about that, but also scared a little bit, and I was nervous about.
What does that mean? And, you know, I asked myself and my wife all the time growth at what cost, and I have to keep that in check and not just cost for me, but costs for my, my team. Um, so, uh, I’m a big believer that a healthy company is made up of healthy employees and defining what that word healthy means is important.
Andrew: what w what did you think you were going to have to do in order to get that growth? What was the part that was on your mind?
Matt: Um, you know, we wanted to, we wanted to five X the business and four years, and, you know, we, we set up, we set a big, hairy, audacious goal. And so it was just the, the concept of that, you know?
Andrew: Was it just the concept or are you also starting to spend in order to get there? And that, that’s what it was that now you’re starting to commit to this thing. And if you don’t grow that much, then you could lose money and everything else could, could be damaged.
Matt: I’m crashing out. Yep.
Andrew: So first step was, try to first attempt was trying to cope.
Matt: improve your ability to cope. So bringing that coping ability up to the levels of demands of the environment and then your, you have balance. Um, if that doesn’t work, try to the next step to try to add or remove something from your environment. So, um, you know, there could be a situation in a business where maybe there’s a, a toxic, uh, client or a toxic employee or a, um, you know, some, some practice that you’re doing, you’re working 12 hour days, you know, you need to change something, add or remove something.
Uh, Dr. Mooney said he had a client that he, he started. Uh, taking him down on his lunch hour, you’d drive home, eat lunch, and then take a 30 hour nap, a lot adding or removing something from the environment could be something physical or something like a non-visible. But that basically, can you change the demand, the lower, the perceived demand of the environment in some way to get that balance back. And then if that doesn’t work, the third option, which is the most drastic is change environments. And that’s quit your job. Quit your marriage. Yeah. Move to a new city. Uh, more of the drastic. And unfortunately, when, when you’re in the state of mind, when you’re having anxiety and you’re having panic attacks, It, it feels extremely, I mean, it is, I had a series of these over about two months and one of them lasted about four hours and I had to go to the ER, I was like, I was really in a bad place.
And so I understand why in that state of mind, people are like, I’ll do anything to avoid this. Like, I will, I will quit my job. I will, you know, I will move to a new town. Like that means that I’m not going to. Have this experience. Um, but, but unfortunately like many things in life, when we make big decisions based on emotional logic, then sometimes we can regret that.
And so he’s saying, hold on. Not saying we shouldn’t move to a new city, not saying you shouldn’t maybe change jobs, but let’s try these other things before you get to that point. And I just think there’s some wisdom in that. Um, and I think today I’ve seen, especially maybe in the, maybe this is a stereotype in a younger age levels that there seems to be this sort of like jump to just quit my job.
Andrew: Right. I’m feeling too much stress. This isn’t working. Let’s just stop. Or maybe you get to a place where you can’t do anything. Because you’ve allowed it to go on for so long that all you can do is just throw your hands up and say I I’m done. And so for you, it was, you went to the first step, you tried coping, improving your coping mechanism.
Um, you change your limiting beliefs. You talked to our producer, you worked on yourself. That wasn’t enough. And then you moved on to step number two, which is. Add or remove something from your environment. And it seems like that made a big difference because you said everything is coming through me. I’m not delegating enough.
I have to now find a way to create a company, not a tough job for me, delegating for you meant what? I kind of assumed it was systemizing some things, which is what I mentioned earlier, but it’s more than that or what is it?
Matt: Well, it’s really at the core it’s, it’s trusting other people. That’s what the core of it is, uh, trusting that other people will take care of your baby. And so letting go of control and that’s so hard for a lot of entrepreneurs and it is, and continues to be sometimes hard for me. I’ve learned to adapt and sort of, I think live my life in general, but there are things that I still like to control, but yeah, for me, it was saying I can’t be the person that makes every decision in the business server important decision.
I have to have some good people around me that can, that can make some of these decisions and
Andrew: An example of something that you handed to somebody else has right now, it feels like every entrepreneur knows to do this. What if you give me something specific? I think we’ll feel the pain
Matt: Yeah. So, I mean, in the early days I designed and built every website, well, then I brought it in and I handed that off to him. He was frankly, he was better at it than I, I
Andrew: How about after, after this panic attack, what
Matt: after this panic attack. It really was a lot about. Managing the client, a lot of the client’s situations, uh, there was this, uh, before that anytime a client might get frustrated, I was on the front line trying to take care of them, makes them feel like they were being taken care of.
And I had to let my team do some of that as well. Uh, you know, the escalation point, uh, might have to share it with the team. Um, now I’ve handed off the sales process, uh, the handoffs to the account management process. And I ended off even a lot of the hiring. That was one that more recently, just in the last three to five 34 months.
Um, I’m still involved in hiring decisions for some of our senior level people that some of the others, uh, I’m not involved in. And so that was our, for me as well to, to let go, but, but I I’ve found. Uh, I listened to a talk one time where a, person’s asked a bunch of business owners, what is the single biggest limiting factor in your business?
And there were all kinds of answers, but it, it came down to the speaker, said all of these are good things, but they’re not the core. The core is you, you, the owner are the single biggest limiting factor of your business. And that really hit me like a ton of bricks. You know, I was the bottleneck that I had to get on my own way.
And release control. And so that’s what I continue to try to do.
Andrew: All right. Let’s close out with, if somebody says, you know what? I kind of like this guy, I want to work with him. I know I’m not going to get to work with Matt directly because he’s now learned to delegate. What kind of work do you do today? In the past, we talked about just building basic websites. Give me, give me an example of something that you could do for someone who’s listening to us.
Matt: Yeah. I mean, we work with clients that primarily they want to grow, but they’re feeling stuck. Maybe they’re working with an agency now, and they’re not happy with the results or the transparency, or, you know, they feel like the team is not, um, providing very good service. Uh, so that that’s a lot of who we work with is clients who are committed to growing their business.
Because one of the things that’s all, you know, on my team as, uh, if you have a business owner that doesn’t want to grow, then there’s not much we can, we can do for them. Um, so it’s committed to growing their business and they’re looking to use digital marketing to do that. They’re looking to be found in Google and we found on social media, uh, and.
And have an excellent website that would impress their visitor and build trust and be enough to actually get them to fill out a form or pick up the phone or push a buy now button, uh, to do a transaction. And so we just want to be the, the agency. That’s not the other, you know, it’s not another failed marketing agency.
It’s not another waste of money with no results. We’re, we’re the one that’s actually going to help them transform their business, transform the lives of their employees. Uh, and their communities and, and also, uh, put them in a position to impact others through giving back. That’s part of my story that I love to help businesses grow and other business owners,
Andrew: You’re gonna make our people. You’re gonna make my audiences to do gooders like you.
Matt: you know, if, if that’s what they feel called to do, I would support that.
Andrew: All right. Now, the website is thrive. agency.com and I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first. If you’ve got people working with you, even if we’re talking 10 99 people, I want you to go and check out gusto.com/mixergy. This is urgent. Do it before the end of the year, get yourself set up for next year, right?
That’s gusto.com/mixergy. And then when you’re ready to start a website, whether it’s for a new consulting company or for anything through what I did go to hostgator.com/mixergy, both of those URLs will get you great deals from great companies. Thanks so much for being here, Matt.
Matt: Andrew. It was really fun. Really good to meet you. And I want to learn more about you and your business.
Andrew: Oh, you will. Thanks.
Matt: Thanks Andrew. Bye-bye.