by Thomas Berry email@example.com
TL;DR - Choose your business partners well and determine what your values are as a company. There are a lot of unethical people who want to take advantage of you. A businesses identity determines if you are successful or not and if you don’t control the message of your business someone else will.
RelyOn is a business ran by two partners, Matt Welker and Thomas Berry. It wasn’t always going to be that way though. We were going to have a third partner for our company in the beginning because three heads are better than two; or so we thought. This post is going to be much like the stories your parents read to you as a kid with a moral but instead of it being at the end, we put it at the top there in blue!
First, every business has an online identity whether you know it or not. This is a composition of all the properties for your business such as your local listings, social media accounts, websites, forums like GitHub and Reddit, your logos and trademarks (like a motto) and review sites such as the BBB and Google Reviews. Every image of your business that you post or just upload to your website should be associated with your business identity as well. You can think of the collection of all this information like your credit report, banking history, identification, passport, and any other important document that you safeguard. You might not even actively setup these channels for your business but in an effort to “index the worlds information…” companies like Google will create these for you (like your GMB pages). All the Search Engine Optimization that you do on your site not only helps you rank higher but improves your business identity online because it makes it easier for people to find your for certain search queries (Here is our shameless plug that, yes, we do SEO for businesses as well so if you need help with that, please know that you can RelyOn us to help you rank higher). Controlling the message that you share with the world is like building your personality as a business. Will people see you as customer focused? Will they think you are too far to the Right or Left? Will they think that you are inexperienced or too experienced? Will they be encouraged to do business with your or discouraged by what they find online?
I mention all that because RelyOn as a business has been building our identity and we’ve had an uphill battle that we want others to learn from. As I stated in the beginning we started with a third partner under a different business name. Tom McPeek was going to be the business partner that would help to complete our trio. He was much older than both Matt and I and said that he had tons of experience as a businessman. Matt and I are both young and sometimes too trusting so we believed him. As you all know, you can only “fake it til you make it” for so long before others see the BS that you are trying to feed them as BS. When Tom started stealing from the business bank account to pay his rent, failed to close a single client in 6 months of supposedly trying, couldn’t pass any of his certifications without Googling the answers, refused to learn from Matt and I (who have much more digital marketing experience and skill), and then started having his personal life fall apart as well we were very nervous as new business owners. We had made an investment in Tom and a commitment to each other to grow this business but we were getting very worried about whether he was slowing us down and really hurting our financial growth as a business. When you balance your books you typically just have costs and revenue. Tom fell into the cost column for all the reasons above and more. As you would imagine, Matt and I did the only thing that would make good business sense…we gave Tom another chance. Okay, so I know what you are thinking, “that is not good business sense, that is an emotional response.” And you are right. Even if you are just my conscience telling me what I should have listened to in the first place. Tom was given a few additional opportunities and kept trying to deceive Matt and I and eventually started trying to take more money from the company which would have put all of us in a bad financial situation.
So, we did what we finally said we would do and decided to terminate his employment with the company. It was a hard decision but after it was done we felt better about it because within as little as 30 days, the company was on pace to reach profitability. That was very important for us as a milestone and of course to our investors who needed to see a return on their investment in RelyOn. In a fairy tail world, that is where it would have ended. Tom would go his way and maybe try to start another marketing business even though he didn’t have any marketing skills, sales skills, technical skills, couldn’t build a website, and didn’t know how to generate a positive revenue for a business. Matt and I would go our way and just get down to work. But this is not a fairy tail and I need to tie this all together.
The actual result was an arduous battle with Tom as he started to steal our social media properties, tried to steal the investor funds from our bank account even though he signed an agreement that stated if he stole money from the company he forfeited his partnership and 33% ownership of the company, and he even tried to steal our brand, logo, and business identity! Hence, this is how this all ties together. We had to learn the hard way that someone can damage your reputation by taking your social media channels and posting bigotry on them that makes it look like RelyOn support such things. He used our Twitter account to post his religious views. While not extreme or outrageous, generally we didn’t consider it a good practice to mix business and religion together. Matt and I essentially had to start much of the work that we did in the first half of 2018 over from scratch to distance ourselves from the toxicity that he was creating with our brand. We worried that our clients would be affected but it turns out that by provided a quality product to your clients and building a really strong relationship based on trust and results, they support your business through thick and thin. That is not something to be taken lightly and something that Matt and I are very proud about. To this day, we see Tom trying to build a website to mirror our services and he’s even decided to copy the text on our site. I guess that saying about “imitation is the sincerest form a flattery” was probably meant for other contextes. We know what we must do and are ensuring that our business is sound, but we want to make sure that others can learn from our naivette.
So, in conclusion, I want to sum it up for all you business owners out there. Make sure you know what your business identity is. If you need to hire someone like RelyOn to help you audit your online presence, there is a form below that you can fill out and we’ll do a free evaluations for you! Once you know where you show up online, it’s time to start to manage it. Make sure that your logo, motto, history, contact info, and everything about all your digital properties are a seamless experience for your clients/customers finding you online. Once you have control of all your digital business identity, it’s important that you know who to trust with it. It’s a full time job just to manage your social media! So it’s very unrealistic that you’d be able to manage all these digital properties online, respond to all customer inquires, and still be able to manage your day to day business. Work with your marketing and brand agencies to find out what accesses you can give to others so that you don’t have to worry about someone getting control of your digital property and holding it over you (i.e. getting control of your Google Analytics account and then only giving you read access). In fact, many marketing agencies will keep control of these digital properties as a means of keeping a client working with them. If that is the only thing that keeps a client staying with an agency - fear of losing their digital identity - then that agency is not worth their weight in salt.
You want to be the one that controls the message your company shares with your clients. You are the narrator for your story. Also, you are not alone out there. As a company that has experienced the worst of what can happen to a startup business, I want you to know that we can help your business get control and keep it. As always, you can RelyOn us.