Catalytic Leadership

How to Grow a Global Agency: SEO Strategies and Remote Work Insights, with Gert Mellak

August 24, 2023 Dr. William Attaway Season 2 Episode 2
Catalytic Leadership
How to Grow a Global Agency: SEO Strategies and Remote Work Insights, with Gert Mellak
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Come along on a journey packed with insightful strategies and intriguing discussions as we journey from freelancer to international agency owner with our guest, the brilliant mind behind SEOLeverage.com, Gert Mellak. Garner the essence of his successful transition from coding at a young age of 13 to becoming the proud owner of an SEO platform that beautifully combines machine learning insights and expert human SEO consulting. We explore the potency of an 80-hour work week in pushing the limits, leading to outsourcing and team-building for ultimate freedom and efficiency in work.

Transitioning from an in-person environment to a remote one can be like navigating a minefield. But worry not, for we've collected some tried and tested strategies that are sure to guide you through the treacherous terrains. Examine the challenges of bringing new team members up to speed, fostering a team culture remotely, and maintaining those all-important relationships through regular conversations. Plus, get insider tips on how Gert mastered the art of hiring and retaining employees in a remote work environment.

The ever-evolving world of SEO can be tricky to navigate, but it doesn't have to be. Understand the importance of staying relevant amidst Google's ever-changing algorithm and optimizing websites for better crawling and indexing. Learn from our discussion on content strategy reassessment, the benefits of long-term brand focus, and building trust with customers. We wrap things up with an exploration of effective leadership principles that can facilitate growth within your team. Connect with Gert Mellak on LinkedIn and get ready to be inspired, informed, and equipped for success in your own endeavors.

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Meet Dr. William Attaway, your guide to peak performance. As a seasoned Executive Mindset and Leadership Coach with nearly 30 years of experience, William empowers high-performance entrepreneurs and agency owners to conquer challenges and maximize their potential. Join him on the Catalytic Leadership podcast as he shares insights on achieving Clear-Minded Focus, Calm Control, & Confidence, helping you thrive in business and life.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to Catalytic Leadership, the podcast designed to help leaders intentionally grow and thrive. Here is your host author and leadership and executive coach, dr William Attaway.

Speaker 2:

Hey, it's William and welcome to today's episode of the Catalytic Leadership podcast. Each week, we tackle a topic related to the field of leadership. My goal is to ensure that you have actionable steps you can take from each episode to grow in your own leadership. Growth doesn't just happen. My goal is to help you become intentional about it. Each week, we spotlight leaders from a variety of fields, organizations and locations. My goal is for you to see that leaders can be catalytic, no matter where they are or what they lead. I draw inspiration from the stories and journeys of these leaders, and I hear from many of you that you do too. Let's jump into today's interview. I'm thrilled today to have Garrett Malak on the show. Garrett is the founder of SEOleveragecom, an SEO platform that combines machine learning insights with expert human SEO consulting, guidance and services. He taught himself how to code at the age of 13, got formal software development training and quickly started working on his own web and e-commerce projects. While building out his agency, he's worked with hundreds of businesses of all sizes, from small car repair shops and construction firms to big international corporations. Garrett, I'm so excited you're on the show today. Thanks for being here.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much for having me, William. It's definitely an honor and I'm very much looking forward to this conversation. I am as well.

Speaker 2:

I'd love to start with your story. How did you get from starting out as a freelancer to running an international agency of 30 people in your own software platform?

Speaker 3:

It's one short question for a very long story. I think a lot of these things happen based on a necessity. I was very, very early inspired by my brother who started doing some freelance work. I was like, yeah, when I'm grown up I want to do this as well. Right, because it seemed really cool. He had a cell phone, he had a laptop, he was doing his thing. He went to see some clients. It really caught my attention. I was like, yeah, this is pretty much a lifestyle. I like I can imagine I could be doing this as well. Then, obviously, I came to web development and spent most of my time behind the computer for a while, but I still had this vision of doing my own thing. Then, with freelance work just really kicking in, at some point I had to start getting some help. There was no way I could do those hours. Probably a lot of the listeners can relate to 80-hour weeks. You don't know what to do next. It's kind of every hour you're not working. You think, yeah, I should really be working rather than watching TV or sitting on a bench in the park. You kind of feel guilty all the time. Then I think, yeah, definitely my brother, also my brother-in-law and say you just need to hire someone to help you. It can't really be that you're always taking the watch and taking the time when you have some time off or spend some time with friends. It's a very dangerous situation, I believe, and somebody's always kind of evaluating should I be working and making X amount of money in these hours or should I spend time with my wife, with my family, with my friends? This is a very dangerous situation. Thanks to my wife, they pretty much grounded me a little bit, I think, because I was really in growth mode and 80 hours was good. 100 hours would have been better. A week Was in a really dangerous place. I think it's really thanks to her that I got grounded and said okay, it's not as important as you think it is, and you can still grow in a different way as well. This is where I just decided look, if there is a way that somebody can work for a decent fee for me and help me, I'm just going to outsource this.

Speaker 2:

You started to outsource and you started to build a team that gave you freedom.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. I pretty much at the initial stages I just wanted to have somebody with a similar profile, which really slows things down because I had a very well-rounded development plus marketing profile back then, which isn't easy to find. I did start working with some other freelancers, but it became really easy when I kind of tried to split up my tasks or my responsibilities into different roles. I said, hey, I'm doing some work with Google Ads. Maybe I can find somebody who's good at Google Ads and can help me with this. I'm really good at programming, but there are other people who are maybe even better. Let's find somebody who could help me with programming. I started replacing parts of my responsibilities, which made the entire process much, much easier. I would just find freelancers. It wasn't a big margin, but I could still deliver on my projects. I worked a few hours, still made some money, didn't lose clients. Things were delivered faster. This was really where I had a VA. I had a developer, I had somebody to look at my accounts, which was something I should have done earlier. I had a small team, but it was really already a little bit more leveraged and definitely healthier.

Speaker 2:

Fast forward to today. You've got a team of 30.

Speaker 3:

Right. It has been growing. One critical aspect, I think, was because we started out obviously in development but then very quickly became a full service marketing agency doing everything under the sun what you could do in digital marketing, which definitely gave us a broad experience, from e-commerce to lead generation to all kinds of things. Whatever client we work with right now, we probably have done the marketing they need or they're looking at. We focused on SEO, search engine optimization, everything around Google, specifically organic, but also Google Ads is now what we do. This definitely made things easier because once you have a narrow focus, it's easier to work with specialists. It's easier to find somebody who can actually excel at this. You deliver better service. You have repeatable processes, which are absolutely key to make sure that we can hire, train and scale up the agency.

Speaker 2:

Being a team of 30 is very different from your days as a solopreneur. I'm curious these people are not all in one location. This is a remote team.

Speaker 3:

Right, we are 100% remote. I used to have a physical office in Madrid in Spain. We had a few people there. I was there every day, but then with COVID I spent I think another year just by myself in the office until we gave it up and said, hey, everybody's working from home, Everybody's happy, Nobody wants to go back to the office anyway. We had a lot of people from abroad. We just gave up the office and said now we are 100% virtual.

Speaker 2:

So that has some challenges inherent in it. Waiting 100% remote team. What are some of the challenges that you've found since moving to 100% remote?

Speaker 3:

I think we were in a lucky situation because we have always been partly remote at least. So even when I had a small team, three out of four people were remote and the fourth one would probably come passed by the office once in a while but really work from home. So we already had this situation and never had a big team in my office. So we pretty much started out this way, which I think makes it much, much easier than somebody who has this focus of standing up and going to this other desk and just looking at something very quickly. We never had this situation with most of the team members, but then again, the team members that have the most responsibility right now in my team are those that actually used to sit in my office because they just heard and got everything. They know exactly how I would decide, exactly what I would do, and those are the ones that have a leading position right now I think you're right.

Speaker 2:

I think that turn when you have been 100% in person and to moving to remote. That's where so many organizations, businesses, companies really struggled during the pandemic and in these days since, I've been reading a lot about companies that are trying to draw people back to the office, trying to force people back to the office, and what they're finding is people are not interested in giving up the balance that they found without a long commute.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. It's the commute, but it's the entire working environment situation. People might even be more productive at home. If you have ever worked in a big office I definitely have, and I hated it. I really hated it, especially during programming work in an office with 40 people it's not the most fun part, and if you sit there with headphones on all day just because you need to focus, it's not the best environment. So we need to definitely also see there are just so many upsides. But then again, everything that naturally happens and this is back to the challenges you were mentioning there are a lot of things that naturally happen in an office environment, and one thing, for example, that comes to mind and I heard a friend of mine from Austria say this once, he's a really big company there and I didn't really believe it until I experienced it firsthand is the knowledge transfer. So you bring somebody new into this team, you don't give them anything just by what they pick up in the office, from the conversations at the coffee machine, from the phone conversations to here, et cetera. There's so much knowledge being transferred without them actually wanting it, without you forcing it, and in a virtual environment this is really, really hard. So, for example, when we brought in a new accounting person substituting the one that did this work before, it was a really hard month or two in order to explain who is a client, who is a provider, who is an, what is a tool that we use, what is this, what is it? A lot of things. They either would just have shouted get can you just quickly tell me this. And I would have told them. It doesn't always need a chat. We use Slack here, which works really well, but it's not the same thing, right? It's automatically another barrier versus you meeting at a coffee machine and say can you quickly clarify what are we doing for this client? So have a good, a better idea, right? So it was a really hard process and this is where I think this was the only time where I thought the physical office actually was, at least for the management team, maybe not a bad idea. We don't need everybody there, but maybe one way to think about it is to have the management team physically being present and together, or at least regularly, to make sure that new management team members actually get this transfer across.

Speaker 2:

I think that's brilliant, that you've recognized that knowledge transfer. That happens inadvertently, it's not an intentional process. It's just part of proximity. But that's not the only thing. I think culture is another piece of that. The values of your company, right. How do you transmit those with a remote team? How do you hold those steady?

Speaker 3:

With a lot of conversations. So when I started out and I wish I could get back to it, but I just don't have the time right now anymore when we started out, every single team member had a one hour call with me every couple of weeks and this was a win challenge one thing call. And this is a framework I picked up from a mentor of mine, james Rymco, who just said let's share what's going well, what's the challenge and what's one thing we're going to focus on to overcome this challenge. And this is such a simple framework that gets a conversation really, really quickly going as I go. What's the challenge right now? What is that frustration I could maybe see I can take out of your day to day work? Right? What is this client about? Right? Is this a tough client? Is this hard to work on? Do you know what to do next, et cetera. Those kinds of conversations, but also taking this advantage of having an hour with a team member to actually getting to know them a little bit more. Maybe this is a good time. You can follow them on Instagram. You can bond on different channels. I think it's a huge problem when people try to be overly efficient and only focus on the job to be done. So because then you kind of have this feeling that you're talking to a resource, you're not talking to a team member, and I've always had this focus of building a big, long-term team. I'm not big on hiring and don't like hiring Because until it just first of all the hiring process, some people might be doing this in a smarter way. For me, if the chemistry is right, I think they have the right attitude to have the necessary basic skills that can be then tuned and trained on. It's very often enough, right, you need to prove this on the job anyway in order to see if this works out. So I'm not big on hiring and big on retaining, and we have, thankfully, from the 30 people we have right now, I think we've probably retained at least 90% of them, just because we have a really, really big focus on communication. We have a really big focus on, I think, leveraging their ideas and making sure they kind of feel heard and feel valued. But this is definitely just hours of conversations, team calls, training calls. We do weekly team calls. We have individual divisions. We have here with the consultants, with the writers, with the link builders. We might have group calls, group trainings. I might send everybody a Loom video. Here and there. We do a lot, I think, in order to just get people together on a group call Might even be without me, right, there might be just a few people working on a project and I ask this team to get together and have a discussion, and there's a lot of communication going on. We use Slack, for example, and Slack is going to send you a report, I think every month or every couple of weeks or so, how many messages are internal, which is from one person to another person, and this is a very, very high percentage, which means there is a lot of internal communication going on. You're never going to see and this is where the bonding also happens within the team. It's not only because you control this process, but people are going to engage with each other. They are going to ask where everybody lives, what language they speak, what's the favorite food there, what they do for it. They know a lot of things about each other and they live thousands of miles away.

Speaker 2:

I love that. I love the intentionality you put into that and that you're treating people, I believe, in the best way, which is treating them as actual 3D human beings. They'd have dreams and hopes, not just as cogs in a machine that fulfill a purpose, as a resource, like you said. I think people, when they are treated as human beings and they're treated as valuable and they feel like their leaders are showing and expressing how they see them as people of value. They lean into that Team members lean into that. They're not going to run down the street at the first opportunity and that's why your retention, I think, is so hard because you treat people that way.

Speaker 3:

I think people just very often understand leadership in a way where it's you telling people exactly what they need to do every single minute in their life and you need to control it because otherwise they might not be working for 10 minutes. This is a remote setup. You're not going to be in full control. Even those companies which still don't understand why people do screen recording and checking this. I stopped it. Do you know why I stopped it? Apart from the moral aspects, I didn't have the time to go through those videos anyway, right, and I was like do I actually have to hire a person and I'm going to screen record this person while this person is going through screen recordings? It doesn't make sense. So what we did here is and this actually worked well we don't do time tracking. We have four core hours where everybody needs to be around and you just see are they responsive in a timely manner, are they here, are they on calls, et cetera. You can track this easily. We have four flexible hours where everybody organizes their time and we assign time slots to individual tasks. So if this is a two-hour task, it's a two-hour task. So we have an idea. If they manage to do four two-hour tasks in a day. My personal opinion is that they're probably put in eight hours. If they take 30 minutes less, good for them. I'm not going to track it right, because I definitely have better things to do than watching screen recordings. Ha ha, ha ha.

Speaker 2:

Me too. I think that's a really poor use of time and, honestly, if you don't trust the people that you've hired so much that you have to watch what they're doing literally watch what they're doing on their screen it feels like you didn't do a good job with the hiring process.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. And what I tell people is they're going because a lot of people come from those very strict environments, whereas I had to time track ahead to have my spread teed and lock my 10 minutes I used for breakfast and or for lunch or whatever. And I'm like look, everybody that passes my two-step, three-step interview process comes into this team with a lot of upfront trust and this is a risk you're taking, right, but they come with a lot of upfront trust. But then they need to prove it. They need to prove that they want, they need to prove that they are eager to learn this. They need to put in the hours, they need to put in the work, they need to ask the questions, they need to find a way around and then, very quickly, you see if this is a feat or not, but I wouldn't know at which stage I would start or stop really micromanaging a person. It's just not my style and I can live with not being 100% efficient in every single moment of my life with my team of 30 people. I just want to make sure that everybody pulls this into the same direction.

Speaker 2:

So good? I'm on a very similar way. I'm not into micromanagement. I don't see the point in it. If that's the people you've got to hire, you've got the wrong people. You need a different team, probably. I want to pivot to SEO, because this is an area that you have a lot of expertise and a lot of experience in, and I think this is an area that a lot of people misunderstand. A lot of people listening are agency owners, they're entrepreneurs, they're leaders of businesses owners, and some of them may be looking at SEO and they're asking is that really still a thing? I mean, we have Facebook, we have Twitter, we have threads. I mean, is SEO still a thing now? What would you say about that?

Speaker 3:

I think it's a thing more than ever, because, if you just think that we're producing more and more content in every second on this planet, this content needs to be organized. All the generations like us Facebook, younger generations starting to search on TikTok ultimately it's always information in the database and in order to access this information somehow there is going to be a search process. And even now we have artificial intelligence, chat, tpt and the likes starting to give us the impression that they give a verbalized answer that seems researched. It's not researched, but it seems researched, sounds at least like an answer. We have this feeling that, yeah, internet is just going to live on its own, but what people forget is that this is always coming from pre-indexed and comprehended information. So Google goes to your website and really tries to figure this out. If you think of this like a joint dots game dot number one, dot number two, dot number three and suddenly this is a cat image like my children will play this game. Right, google is trying to do this on your website. Now you have people, you have websites that only give Google 3 dots to connect and it's like it is. Could be a tail, could be an ear, could be the starting of whiskers, but you really don't know right. And you have websites that give Google 500,000 dots in all kinds of ways and there is no way to figure out what is actually should be representing. And this is where it's so important these days, I think, more important than ever, to make sure that there is a clear communication from the website To the entrance. Crawling is website. Crawling means reading, indexing, processing this information because we have this feeling and go. I think this is really Based on Google's marketing efforts over the years. They want to make us think that they can just figure things out. You give them a text, just understand it and it's just nothing further. Are we from the truth? we have tested is we have. We have run running tests in r&d all the time when we see exactly that it depends on certain words on the page in certain locations. If they're not there, google is not going to understand it. If they're there, google is going to understand it. Google might be understanding 20% of an article, really understanding, comprehending the context and the rest of my. If we try to be really fancy, copyright or sometimes go crazy, phrasing things in poetic ways, machines can't. Can't follow this machine. Machines can follow simple concepts. One concept understand. Does this other concept that understand with this other concept? I understand. This is what machines can do If it's really complex text there, very often not going to understand it or not understand it correctly, and then you suddenly rank for some weird stuff. If somebody tracks the keywords they rank for I'm going to see very often there's some weird stuff coming up with a camera while I'm suddenly ranking for dolphin training. It's just because there is something, was something, misunderstood, so it gets really technically serious thing more than ever. And it's also a thing because a lot of people search for your brand. Before that you define you to search for your brand and then, based on what they see, which can be very well optimized, and we do this for more and more clients these days. Based on what they see, they're going to make a decision. So, even if they really like, if you run paid ads Facebook ads or Google ads or YouTube or whatever it is and they really like your brand, chances are they going to Google you first before they engage with you and then, if they find negative reviews, define some articles about something completely different, defined a competitor popping up and feel it popping up, a lot of people are going to try, if you have a certain brand recognition, trying to rank for your brand name and they just take your awareness away.

Speaker 2:

You talked about Google, and obviously that's the search engine most people are familiar with. How does Google decide rankings? How does Google decide what goes first? Is it SEO? Is it best out the secret?

Speaker 3:

Google pretty much. I think that in the underlying algorithm that's deciding what ranks first, it's pretty much depending on the content and the links that point to this content in the very heart of Google. Over the years it's really been a matter of adding layers to this algorithm. So whenever you type in a keyword into Google search phrase, google is going to decide in real time, first of all, what you probably meant. So if you're in Melbourne, southern Melbourne, and you type in pizza, they're probably saying he probably wanted to write pizza, southern Melbourne or whatever it is, or the town or suburb, just because they try to figure out what you're actually doing. But then they go with this information, they modify, pretty much for internal purposes, your search phrase to make it more clear, based on your location and your search history etc. And then they go into the database and this is where then, in real time, did they say what kind of layers do we need in our algorithm in order to process and give back the best result? I might be an initial filter coming out, and then they have some additional filters where they might read out some websites they don't think are relevant or that are specifically relevant. It might do some up, upgrading, downgrading. They have a very complex thing going on there that has been growing over the years, that has been using artificial intelligence Over for many years already without us actually taking note of it. But really what always matters is what is the content that you have on the page? How does it serve the user that's searching for something and, with the links pointing to it from other websites, how which other relevant sites are actually backing you up? They link to you because you, your page, your article, is so relevant in this space.

Speaker 2:

That's interesting. It feels like that's constantly changing field. It's not static, right? I mean, this is going to be different where you rank, where you are connected, how many sites are connected to you. This is going to change a month from now, or six months from now, or a year from now. It changes weekly.

Speaker 3:

So this is the fun part these days with AI Now, there's a lot of things change weekly, but there are also some concepts that don't change too much. Ten years ago, it was really important to answer the search query in the best possible way and have appropriate links, and this is still true today. There are different tactics that might work a little bit better and then stop working, but it is true that if you're not on top of this, you're going to see a decay in your performance. So we have a lot of people coming to us and say look, I started this website 12 years ago. I just wrote a blog post every week and I got a lot of traction and then sold the course and it became a coach and it did this, did that and then a few years back, suddenly they stopped working and. I keep posting, I keep blogging, I keep doing this and it doesn't work anymore, and the reason is because there are just a lot of things that have changed since then. You can't have the same format anymore, you can't have the same length of articles anymore. You need to structure your articles differently. So I like the details and very often change the main strategy that you create content people are searching for and get links from other people to point to. This content strategy Definitely is still in place.

Speaker 2:

And this is where you come in. This is where you and your team come alongside and can help.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. At some point we just figured out that a lot of people are wasting thousands of dollars just because they work on the wrong things. I remember this woman coming to us with 900 blog posts. She had been billing up over eight years 900. And she was like I don't understand why nothing is ranking. And I just asked her. I created a spreadsheet for her with all the URLs of every single blog post and I said look, I really need you to do some work for us here, because you're the expert in your industry. Go through blog posts by blog post and make a note in the second column in the spreadsheet when you find an article that answers something somebody would search for. And it took her two weeks to get back to me and she just said, yeah, throw everything away. Nothing answers anything. So you have a person that spends a really important portion of her life blogging and it probably was interesting for some of her followers on social media if she shared those posts. But she had in mind that this was would have a long term SEO benefit. And after nine years, what comes out is that eight years ago at least, she should have really switched gears or got some help in order to make sure that the long term benefit she was actually thinking she was building up could actually be true. Wow. And this is where we said look, we need to kind of see a CEO like a personal training and at the gym. Right, if I go to the gym training on my own, I probably do a lot of mistakes, but I'm well intended. I think this is good for me, I think I'm really doing the right thing, but I might be using too much weight or not enough weight, I might not coordinate with my diet, I might be working out too much, have too many leg days or no leg days, whatever it is, but I still feel good because I'm going to the gym twice a week or three times a week and you have a lot of those people and then maybe 10 years later, they think they have been doing a good thing and then they have back problems and knee problems and I don't know what, and it's because they're just trained in the wrong way. And we see this with SEO as well, and this is where I came up with the framework. I called this Erica. Back then, I published a book on Amazon about it as well, just because it was working so well where we said every couple of weeks we're going to reassess everything. We don't want to make this mistake with any client where we just had in the wrong direction for too long, because a lot of things change. Google changes, but also our clients change. Clients expectations, their goals change, they might have a new product line, they might be a competitor going broke and we can do something without it right or leverage the situation, etc. So every couple of weeks we reassess everything and then we have created an app, our platform now, that accompanies this process. So our clients see a few KPIs that we want them to focus on. We accompany the process, we line up what they should be focusing on and my team very often also does the implementation. Sometimes we work with clients teams or with agencies working for another client which has helped them from a strategy point of view, and they then pretty much implement our strategy.

Speaker 2:

And that's so helpful. And I think that's really going to impact a lot of people who, like you say, are busy. They're doing a lot of things. They're just doing the wrong things. They're not getting the results they could be getting with the right expert guidance that you and your team can provide.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely and you want to happens. I'm a really big fan of systems, right, sap, standard operating procedures Big fan. It's the most dangerous thing Because because, imagine you have a team, you give them an SOP. They are religiously executing on this SOP. They are doing exactly what you asked them to, but in this process something changes and nobody notices. They are going to continue for five more years executing this. You're going to check the same work. Nobody. Nobody says hey, let's pause here for a moment. Is this actually? Does this actually still make sense in our macro situation, in our economic environment, with the goals we have in the business, with the new acquisition we just made right, with the new website relaunch, with the new client base we want to upgrade our client profile to have different situations Does this actually still make sense that what we defined eight years ago and what we base the SOP on but we see this all the time we say I say, where do they these? Literally had a client coming to us with thousands of articles thousands because they produced several articles every single day for a few years, I think, thousands of articles and they thought, yeah, this was exactly good and this brought up more traffic. They thought this traffic was actually a confirmation for them. Turns out it was the wrong traffic. The only thing they did was pretty much turn from a very niche business into an online magazine where they got for some news, other new blog posts. They got a little bit of traffic here and there and then it dropped again and nobody of the qualified traffic could ever come to this website because Google thought they were now an online magazine. You just need to stay so close to your core business if you want to actually make money with this and make sure you don't drift off. I told yesterday, literally yesterday, I talked to a new e-commerce site and I said listen, why don't you just start with one category? Right, with one category of products. This even matches the name that he had chosen. But he wanted to go as broad as possible. Right, just broad, as broad as possible. Let's put all the categories on. I can, right, and I'm going to spend hundreds of hours just preparing all those products and all those categories to make them unique, et cetera. Google can't figure it out and they're not going to trust you. You're not Amazon. People think let's do what Amazon does, but we're not Amazon. Right, I can't do what Simon Sinek is doing in his LinkedIn, because I'm not Simon Sinek right. It's just not going to work for me. So I need to see what can actually work for me, what feels right, but then also revisit. Am I still on this right track? Am I still on this railway that brings me to this destination, or has the destination actually changed? But I'm still going for the original one. But this is what happens so often. And this is where I say you need a little bit of guidance where it's like, okay, let's have somebody from the outside that had no idea what we're doing in here, but somebody from the outside come in and say, okay, do you guys actually know what you're doing? Right, Let me know where you want to go. I say if you're in a good track and I might streamline every couple of weeks where you should be going.

Speaker 2:

That's so good, it lines right up. I tell clients frequently you can't see the whole picture when you're in the frame. You need somebody from the outside who has a different perspective, who's going to help you see what you cannot see. You just simply can't. You're in the weeds. But somebody from the outside is going to have a different perspective and they're going to see it clearly. This is the value of what you do. It's the value of what I do with clients. We come alongside them and we help them to see a different perspective and we increase their awareness and their effectiveness. Because when you see that, when you broaden their perspective and see something like that for the first time, man, what a wake-up call that can be. I love that you take your clients to that place. That is fantastic. I want to take you back to you at 20 years old. If you could go back and talk to yourself and give yourself one piece of advice based on what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

Speaker 3:

Interesting. I would probably try to convince myself that being consistent and seeing this as a long game actually pays off as hard as it is. Because if I think about what has happened just in the last weeks, that goes back to 10 years ago, to relations that were formed, to projects that was working on, to clients that was helping 10 years ago. It all comes back again Because relations don't die just because a client decides to stop working or pause things or do something else. They don't forget about you. They follow you over these 10 years. They might reach out. You can actually reinforce this a little bit, but even if you don't, they don't completely leave your picture. And I was very short-term focused. This freelance work makes you made me short-term focused Because I knew this was a project that's going to be 50 hours. 50 hours equals X amount of revenue. Good, I'm good for this month, I can reinvest something, and then let's see where the next project comes from. Or you get an assignment where you're 10 hours a week. Now I have my costs covered and now let's see where this comes from and it was a very short-term focus. So I should probably have had this long-term focus earlier and then I would have probably built out the business quicker and in a different way. I wouldn't have been stuck so long as a freelancer and doing this crazy amount of work, just because, once you're patient enough to wait for things and say OK, it's clear that this campaign I'm just running is not going to get me a client next week. And, as weird as it sounds today to me, this was pretty much my mindset back then. Once you just know things take a long time, you act very differently. I might run a campaign today but I might not expect something out of it in the next six months, because it just doesn't work this way, at least in my industry. Because people need to establish this trust, they need to kind of get to know you, they need to see what you put out there, they need to decide if they like it, they need to just have you on the radar and there might be a trigger point where they say, hey, this is not a good idea. To talk to Gert from SEO leverage. Maybe he can help us with that. But this is going to take time. It's not going to be something you can force. You can't convince somebody who doesn't want this right now just because you're so good at selling. It doesn't work this way with the company.

Speaker 2:

There's a lot of wisdom there. Is there a book that has made a difference in your journey that you would recommend to other leaders?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely so. I'm still working with my mentor, tim Schramcker, and he's published a book that's called Work Less, make More, and I have made it a habit because it's so comprehensive. I've made it a habit to read it every beginning of January. I have my sections highlighted by now. I know those reminders that I just want to make sure that every year I have a reminder about certain things, but this is pretty much if I chose one. I have a lot of books. I'm reading a lot of books all the time, but this is a really, really good one. So, because it just touches upon all kinds of things that are going to be relevant for somebody doing business on an international level, and online, first and foremost. You can then always go deeper, but it's going to cover a little bit of everything. It's going to be cover a lot of team building, a lot of strategy, a lot of this long-term focus on those relationships and referrals and things like those that are just extremely helpful and inspiring.

Speaker 2:

I do not know this book, but I will be checking it out. Thank you for that.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely I should.

Speaker 2:

People often walk away from a podcast episode with one big idea. If you could define that big idea for the people listening. If you want them to walk away with one thing, what would that one thing be?

Speaker 3:

Focus on your brand and just think it's something everybody says, right. But it takes a lot of thinking to get behind what this actually means, because it might mean something different for everybody. But a brand for me is just every single touch point you can ever have with the public or not even the public, even internally the way you talk internally about a client with your team, is going to be a reflection of your brand. The brand, ultimately, with all the strategies and tactics and platforms and social media, et cetera ultimately what's going to survive, I believe, is the brand. Whatever channel we use, whatever algorithm is going to tell us what to buy, what not to buy, it's ultimately going to be the brand that helps us make this decision and that defines how much we are willing to pay for this. So you have your personal brand, if you want or not, and you have your business brand, and those two brands should really be like the key thing you always care about, and this is going to drive everything else. It's going to drive how you have your client conversations, how you get a new client on board. It's going to drive what kind of values you present in the team, what you teach your team how to deal with a problem a client has, what the outcome could be, how to accept a loss in order to still maintain this relationship for the long term. Once you are clear about the brand that you want to represent, this is what's going to drive everything and this is also going to make sure that those reviews on the internet are going to be positive. You're not going to be commented on as a scam or as overpriced or anything. As long as the brand communication is clear, those things don't tend to happen and it's just requires to be honest with clients, be transparent with clients, not try to trick them into anything, because once you see this as a long term, the customer lifetime value solves every other problem. We have clients that have been staying with us for 14 years straight, month after month, without a contract. Why? Because we had this transparency and honesty and this direct value driven focus from day one. There are people trying to keep a client for six months, eight months. If a client leaves us after 12, we are spending a week trying to figure out what we did wrong. Wow, just because it's the long term value that actually makes so much sense, especially for an agency. It's incredible If you have a customer on a retainer. They are going to purchase more from you when they trust you and know that you have an idea that might be working out for them. I can reach out to most of my clients and say, look, we need another $500,000, $2,000 per month in order to try something for six months. Can we do this? And they're going to say yes, because we just built up to this point. They'll say okay, they believe that I'm only proposing something that's in their best interest and this, ultimately, I break it down to brand. For me, this is all brand.

Speaker 2:

Here. You have shared so much wisdom today. This has been so helpful, Thank you. I know people are going to want to stay connected to you and continue to learn from you. What is the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Speaker 3:

I think one of the best ways these days is LinkedIn. I try to be very active over there. Gert Melak with T-E-R-T-M-E-L-A-K. Not the easiest name to pronounce here and otherwise directly through my agency, scolabridgecom.

Speaker 2:

Thanks for joining me for this episode today. As we wrap up, I'd love for you to do two things. First, subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss an episode, and if you find value here, I'd love it if you would rate it and review it. That really does make a difference in helping other people to discover this podcast. Second, if you don't have a copy of my newest book, catalytic Leadership, I'd love to put a copy in your hands. If you go to catalyticleadershipbookcom, you can get a copy for free. Just pay the shipping so I can get it to you and we'll get one right out. My goal is to put this into the hands of as many leaders as possible. This book captures principles that I've learned in 20 plus years of coaching leaders in the entrepreneurial space, in business, government, nonprofits, education and the local church. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn to keep up with what I'm currently learning and thinking about. If you're ready to take a next step with a coach to help you intentionally grow and thrive as a leader, I'd be honored to help you. Just go to catalyticleadershipnet to book a call with me. Stay tuned for our next episode next week. Until then, as always, leaders choose to be catalytic.

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