Search Interviews:

Ross Hudgens 5:13
Yeah, thanks for having me on.

Jeremy Weisz 5:14
Um, you know, there’s so much to talk about. And I want to get into some of the ways you help companies. You know, you have SAS companies, eecom companies, you have a long list of case studies on your website. But I want to start off with, you know, in this climate Now, whenever you’re listening to this, there’s craziness going on with Coronavirus and a crisis and, and there’s always you know, I was watching an old interview with you. And there’s also an Ask me anything about you, which I read almost all the comments on Reddit. And the funny thing is, and that was the, I don’t know if it was six years ago, or it was a while ago, and people were like, what do I do in the crisis of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And there was one of the comments and The credit or the change in link building. And I was thinking, there’s always some kind of crisis in link building or something going on with SEO. So you’re, you’re probably not used to it. But you’ve probably had to shift and iterate a lot in this industry. So I’m curious to know what’s going on now. Um, what are you doing in this climate?

Ross Hudgens 6:23
Yeah, I mean, from a content marketing perspective, directly for a lot of our clients, we are trying to pivot more strongly. We did a lot of work targeted national news and things like that. But obviously, national news reporters are pretty busy with more important story. So it’s been pretty difficult to get their ear but we’ve been lucky. And this is one of our philosophies generally, generally, is to have a diversified content marketing strategy that appeals to bloggers and also organizations and basically aligns to where the clients audiences. So we for those clients, we just count To shut off that top part and pivoted to those other areas, although from the client side, we haven’t completely excluded it, someone on our team who used to work at upworthy had a great suggestion that people want good news right now. So there’s a place called counter programming, where you can also give reporters good news, and that’ll give you a shot to kind of get in the door I still don’t know that you really want to pry yourself into that door but we found some effectiveness with that and also elsewhere too, because people just want good news right now.

Jeremy Weisz 7:34
So do you find that it’s better to sell you said counter-programming it’s funny I’ll cutter programs. It’s like the good news because the program is all about negative things, or a lot of things are. Is that Exactly, yeah.

Ross Hudgens 7:46
Yeah, that’s the thought process is like something that’s uplifting, positive story. Funny, like those kinds of angles are going to be more likely to get covered versus like even some In slightly negative debt, but maybe it’s not about Coronavirus that often actually checked a lot of boxes for national news because it’s like something that’s a hot button subject. But that’s just not working right now. Because they just have they have stuff that’s going to get more clicks and reads for them. For obvious reasons,

Jeremy Weisz 8:20
yeah, I would love to hear your philosophy, your own content. And I tell everyone, go check out their blog. And obviously, you have some amazing videos that you’ve produced and also done interviews with. And there was a video you did about a couple and I’d love to hear the your philosophy around the keys for viral content. There is a huge check out there is a video that you talk about how to promote your blog to a million yearly visits, but and probably some of your philosophy around it, but just in general, maybe some of your philosophies around creating viral content or just creating good content.

Ross Hudgens 9:00
Yeah, I’m so interested to see or hear what post that is, in particular, I generally say, we actually don’t try to create viral content that often it’s a nice side effect that happens. But I do think one way we describe our philosophy is singles, we try to go for singles, doubles, triples, consistently, versus the big thing that can strike out like you try to go for home runs, you’re gonna strike out, right, you’re gonna hit some home runs do but we also believe that’s kind of what SEO Google is looking for is like a real brand is not just these giant viral spikes. They’re incremental growth, in terms of links to that site, and also just the content generally. And also, brands are built by a consistent, I describe it like two x experience and experience that’s even like 1.2 to 1.5 x then ever better than everyone else. If you do that 40 times. If you do 40 podcasts that are great, and they’re 1.2 X, they’re better than everyone else. They’re only going to Listen to you. But if you did just one big thing, that’s once every three months, you might not even build a brand off of that, honestly. So that’s kind of the one of the ways we think about it for our clients. So obviously, consistency is key.

Jeremy Weisz 10:14
And what about Okay, you? I mean, you take some of the best hitters of all time. You know, we’ll talk we won’t talk very bounds because he was kind of hold on greater. Tony Gwynn. Exactly. Perfect example. There’s kind of the fundamentals of singles. What are some of the components you want to make sure that are in your content for something like that?

Ross Hudgens 10:34
Yeah. So our strategy is we try to tie to search volume every time out. So the reason we go singles is they, they really have they have real brand value. So it might rank for something like type seven car insurance or something like that. And someone that’s a mid tier thing and that concept itself, you can just hear it and know that that’s not gonna get 100 Thanks. But if you can get even five links to that, it ranks in the right place in the funnel, and you do that 40 times with everything else in that funnel. That’s far more valuable than even one piece that goes viral gets 50 to 100 links one time, and then you don’t have that search volume compounding. But that’s one that’s one component. Also, we try to get content ranking for our clients, which allows them to naturally acquire links to so that’s just a part of our strategy as well as we don’t want to be a manual link building company. We want it more accelerate in losses of your own link acquisition.

Jeremy Weisz 11:37
Well, what I love about how you think about things, and I don’t know if you realize it, because you just probably do unconsciously is you start with the data. Okay, like we were talking about that post, how to promote your blog to a million your leaves y’all to watch it, I’m gonna spoil it. You have to go goes find it on YouTube or wherever. But um, you start with the data and it seems like you you produce a great piece of content, you look at the search volume, you look at, like certain metrics, and then produce a piece of data. By the way, I am so guilty of not doing anything like that, like this sounds interesting to me. I should probably go to like, what what’s actually being searched? Right. And that’s something that, you know, you do just unconsciously that most people probably don’t even think about.

Ross Hudgens 12:28
I think there is room for what you said there. Like for business development content, we try to do more thought leadership stuff. And that’s often what you’re thinking about, not what someone’s searching. Because so I think if you are in a b2b market that can make sense, and you still don’t want to ignore search volume, by any means, but I’ll try. ignore it. So there’s about I think there’s a balance there are people that use that too much and then they go to their sites and they feel robotic, and they can’t build a brand off that either which is its own. Problem.

Jeremy Weisz 13:00
Yeah, so combination of the two, what are some, I mean, you mentioned some and you’ve had, you know, Rand Fishkin I’ve had on and great book Lawson founder. Shout out to him you’ve had him on, which was good. Also, you know, what tools do you recommend people look at or use? And I know Moz is is one of the ones you’ve been featured on Moz.

Ross Hudgens 13:26
Yeah, Moz is good. Our kind of go to right now is h refs. It’s just an amazing, powerful tool. I’m sure a lot of people will probably heard of it from a serious and competitive research standpoint, sem rush is good as well. If I had to pick one out of everything, it would be a stress. Honestly, if I was a small business, I think that’s by far the most bang for your buck. From our standpoint, we use buzz stream. It’s kind of our digital PR CRM, where we manage a lot of our relationships and our reach through that. So that’s a big those two kind of Fit the gamut there. And also clear scope is another one that a lot of people might not have heard of. But that one’s good for kind of recommending common terms that might show up for a given topic. So if you said something, you wrote a post on how to increase website traffic, but you didn’t say, Twitter or Facebook, that would be kind of weird for Google. So they often rank stuff based on what are those common words that topics like this show? So what clear scope will do will tell you which words should appear on content, so that’s a nice short shot shortcut. It’s also good for giving freelancers too. Sometimes you can get to those things automatically without thinking but in technical spaces, or for freelancers, it’s a good thing. Yeah,

Jeremy Weisz 14:44
that’s awesome. Thank you. And href href was that around? How long has that been around like when early on? were you using something like that or no?

Ross Hudgens 14:54
No, a really was Ma. hrs is come. Yeah, I don’t even know the timeline. Exactly. Was Moz for sure to start, but href has kind of accelerated over the last five years to be the best product which props to them.

Jeremy Weisz 15:07
I don’t know if you’ve looked at rands new company and anyone’s listening to me may not be new anymore, but spark Toro. What if you looked into that at all?

Ross Hudgens 15:17
Yeah, so I’m actually an angel investor.

Jeremy Weisz 15:20
Okay. Yeah. sounded amazing when he was describing it. So. Yeah, it’s great. Congratulations in advance for that for that.

Ross Hudgens 15:27
Yeah. It seems like it’s not a bad investment so far. So we’ll see how it progresses, but rands, a great operator. So

Jeremy Weisz 15:36
what was besides obviously, you invest in in the jockey, but what was it that was enticing about the company and what they’re creating? That was enough, you know, compelling enough that you’re like, I’m gonna put money behind it?

Ross Hudgens 15:51
Yeah, they are an audience research and promotion. So I think there and that’s one reason ran reach out to us. I’m pretty sure is that We’re in a comparable space. So I could actually add value hopefully in the product and make suggestions. Just positive. Yeah, ran the jockey. I mean, I did think by Asli. Like, it’s good way to kind of get to know ran better. And even that relationship is has its own value. Of course you shouldn’t put dollar signs on all your relationships, but that was consideration as well. Just getting to know Rand better. Yeah, totally. But yeah, I had faith and I didn’t put a ton of capital in. But yeah, put some cash behind it. And yeah, it feels like it’s right move so far.

Jeremy Weisz 16:32
That’s awesome. Um, I want to talk about some case studies because, you know, I have a lot of people I know and who listen, they’re SAS, can you help SAS companies, eecom companies, I listed a bunch of companies, one of my favorite companies or favorite products is audible. I love it. So I want to hear about how you helped audible or how you started working with Audible, but case studies, there were two that kind of stuck out to me on your site, and whichever one you think was be better to talk about but there was a SAS one in econ one say I mean there’s many of them but the SAS is e commerce it says zero it caught my eye, zero to 365,000 a month in traffic value traffic value for e commerce company. Or the other one I saw was stuck out was a sass company. 131% growth. Yeah, sure. So one of those would be a better story.

Unknown Speaker 17:32
Yeah, happy to. We could start with

Ross Hudgens 17:37
that the econ one. Yes, sir. So when I say that, specifically, that’s a client. I feel like I want to be considerate of that going into too much detail. Although these are all you can find them on the site for context, but to kind of like painted a high level is the client and flower delivery. So what we help them with is just a content marketing strategy on their blog. was kind of starting from scratch. So what we did was a lot of high quality content to tied to the top and middle funnel. So examples might be like rose etiquette, or flower etiquette or gifting or types of flower types of roses or rose meaning like when you’re sending someone roses, you want to make sure you’re not saying something offensive. So these kind of these are kind of searches.

Jeremy Weisz 18:26
Yeah, is there a way to offend someone by sending certain roses?

Ross Hudgens 18:30
Oh, you could? I don’t think that one in particular. Okay, are there are like other flower beans,

Jeremy Weisz 18:36
then I’m probably Yeah, good thing. I don’t send real or don’t get my wife roses or I defend her too much.

Ross Hudgens 18:42
But there’s definitely funeral flower etiquette and stuff like that.

Unknown Speaker 18:46
Yeah. Get them. Yeah, that would be bad.

Ross Hudgens 18:50
So what we do is we apply SEO best practice to those articles in terms of what the topic kind of requires from a from a quick answer standpoint. So we’re solving for what are people quickly wanting to get out of that, in terms of the structure, and we outlined it that way. Then we have a design team of around 35. People that build beautiful visual assets, specifically in flowers, obviously, you can imagine, it’s pretty inspirational. And these look good. So our designers will mock up a lot of different assets that are nice to look at and make it easy to digest that content and share it. Those will help those rank but we’ll also do a lot in the top funnel, where it’ll just be brand awareness, maybe it’s like printable gift ideas for your mom or something that’s kind of you might send your mom flowers or something like that. So we’ll print out we’ll create nice printables we’ll actually take a print them take photos of them in context, and then we’ll actually pitch that content to bloggers to get links back to to that client to build their authority. So we’ll do that on top and middle funnel while also benefiting their bottom funnel page. like roses, send flowers, Mother’s Day flowers by building their overall authority from that work. And also will get links to those pages through the process of content creation. So when we say traffic value, it’s what that value is specifically on the blog. Although we definitely impact the bottom funnel to,

Jeremy Weisz 20:20
you know, see I love how you think you think a next level most people are and you had a, you had a great video of you with two other SEO people guys. And most people aren’t thinking I gotta put a piece of content out you’re not only thinking the background research for your thinking, is it going in a top funnel or middle funnel? And so and most people I mean that I when I talk to you about this aren’t thinking at that level, and I’m sure it goes way deeper than that. And again, this is just something you do naturally you’re do naturally over so many years. And I don’t know if you realize you’re even having that thought process, but there’s someone like me, who doesn’t think of it Like that. It’s like, Oh, I need to think about where they’re going to be coming into the funnel. And when you’re talking to those two, two gentlemen, they’re like, you need to plan out the goal for that piece of content. Right?

Ross Hudgens 21:15
Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure. We always say every single piece of content should have a distribution strategy. No matter what typically, it’s like search volume, like it should be able to, we believe it can rank, or we do email outreach to it to generate links to it. You can also do mentioned outreach, like, oh, Jonathan was on this post, we think Jonathan will distribute the podcasts because he’s on it. And then social is obviously a big component as well, if you have a big enough audience, but most people don’t have a big enough audience to get visibility. So they have to do one of the other things that they’re going to get anyone to watch their stuff. So if you don’t, we don’t think about that. Yeah, it’s wasted effort. Basically.

Jeremy Weisz 21:58
You know, Feel like some companies don’t. Some companies see the light they see the vision of this is really not only a short term benefit but a long term benefit for their company and their brand. What are some of the things holding people back from making an investment in their content when you talk to them?

Ross Hudgens 22:18
Yeah, it’s significant investment for one. FCO definitely takes a long time. So if you’re brand new site, and it kind of relates to the SAS traffic growth case study you mentioned earlier, it’s it’s, it takes 12 months probably of spending, at least in competitive markets have spending at least 10 k most likely to really even start seeing momentum. So it’s basically the belief that that’s going to come and if you do well, it will come but it is a 12 month slog to get there. So I think that’s one of the major reasons that SEO is a channel just people don’t invest in it either. It’s just it takes so long but in the SAS example And this is one of the positives for these companies that have kind of been around for a while. They have some authority already. So we were able to get them more quicker growth, which can often be in six months. If you already have a baseline of authority you’ve been around. Maybe you haven’t been deliberate, but that has helped you potentially accelerate the pace of results that a brand new website would not have.

Jeremy Weisz 23:22
Yeah, and I look, you look at your so anything else around the SAS example case study, there’ll be important with 131% growth?

Ross Hudgens 23:32
Yeah, I mean, another component we haven’t really touched on that we do think about with new websites is we do do a keyword opposition benefit analysis. So what this is saying is basically, How valuable is a topic, and then how competitive is it. So this allows newer businesses to also go after keywords earlier that actually have value to them, and have a capability of ranking for as compared to a very competitive term like Mother’s Day flowers, and brand new flower company can rank for that in 12 months, but maybe they can rank for a longtail version of that. And if they prioritize that in their content marketing strategy, they can keep the lights on, find ways to keep sending them money but that’s one thing we do think about and applied in a clever tap example. It’s like going after lower difficulty stuff until we can level up to the higher difficulty stuff.

Jeremy Weisz 24:22
What’s your philosophy Ross on you know, taking an amazing piece of content you helped the company produce in paid traffic versus organic.

Ross Hudgens 24:35
Well, often in the top in the middle funnel areas it it’s not going to convert. It’s more we help them build retargeting funnels and let their paid social teams kind of do that work for for that that’s the recommended activity. On the bottom funnel, middle funnel can be used in that way we we honestly, and I think this is one of the reasons we’re successful. We kind of describe ourselves as we will build audience for you the qualified audience. And then let you convert it. So often paid social teams will then take what we built and do that piece. But we don’t actually do that specifically ourselves. And we’ll kind of let the people who are experts like Jonathan Dane and client, Bruce, who was on your program, kind of lean into that side of it, you work in conjunction with a lot of those, those people so that because I could see they work really well together. Yes, we do frequently. So we’re very complimentary. reshare clients with Jonathan as an example and often work with paid social teams, we do create native social assets for our clients. And that’s kind of the way we describe it is like, well support your social and your email. But we’re not actually going to be writing the copy or like managing that strategy as compared to on site.

Jeremy Weisz 25:47
Over time, over, you know, when you started the company, I’m curious of some of the, what you consider the big wins, like the certain companies that are kind of Wow, I’m working with this company that you were especially proud of.

Ross Hudgens 26:06
Yeah, so we, I mean, we got some very early on where I was lucky enough to get asked to speak at Moz con, like very early in my career. And that got us Shutterfly, and proflowers. And FTD.

Jeremy Weisz 26:20
Like they were in the audience and heard you speak.

Ross Hudgens 26:23
Yeah, exactly. And both are still clients today. So that’s kind of one of awesome early relationships that we established that I’m proud of. Definitely I’m proud of working for clients like audible and into it and those types of clients and Casper is another one that we love. And

Jeremy Weisz 26:44
yeah, I don’t know what you can or can’t say so. So, you know, feel free if you can’t answer but what are some of the things that you have found working with audible?

Ross Hudgens 26:57
Yeah, I can’t share too much, I would say A lot of the things we talked about are pretty applicable here in terms of, we really do a lot of the same stuff for most of our clients, you can tweak the way you change or the way to kind of describe in broad swaths, how it changes for bigger brands, not always does an audible need ongoing link building, because they have so much link authority already. So at that point, it’s just more about high quality content and executing that. And it’s basically doing that at scale will allow you to be most effective. And that’s within shutterfly’s. A similar case where they big brand ton of authority is often that mid tier that needs that extra boost from link building to manual link going specifically to kind of get it over.

Jeremy Weisz 27:45
So how does it work? Ross it’s a purple mattress comes to you. Can you still work with them if you’re working with another mattress?

Ross Hudgens 27:55
No, we definitely didn’t try to avoid conflict. Interest wherever possible.

Jeremy Weisz 28:01
Got it. And so what I want to hear about is you know growth common a little bit as well, um, and you help a lot of different agencies entrepreneurs and if you check out you can kind of check out even amazing curriculum there. I wonder if you kind of touch on a few of the points from growth comment and you have a community behind that as well. And what made you first of all decide to team up with Jonathan from client boosts and create those you’re like you’re busy enough you accompany 85 staff, like I want to do something else I don’t have

Ross Hudgens 28:43
enough to do. I mean, I definitely focusing is is tough. Why? I won’t lie about that. But yeah, I had Jonathan on for an interview because I’d seen he’s a high growth company has done a good job at content marketing specifically. He’s in Southern California as well. We have office in San Diego, he’s in Irvine. So it was natural to do that. And then I realized, hey, Jonathan, I have something in common and that he’s on the paid side and is really grown in agency. I don’t think there’s always something new to learn, but we’re doing okay from that side and growth as well. So maybe there’s something to share there to help other agencies grow and also learn from other agencies as well. And the course so the course is basically along. We in one of the benefits of being in the same area, we did a video shoot of kind of all 12 months worth of basically every single thing we could think of that comes up in the agency kind of scenario, whether it’s getting new clients, hiring people, recruiting, letting people go unfortunately, potentially getting acquired and what you need to do to get acquired all those things kind of factor into that.

Jeremy Weisz 29:52
Um, so one of the topics is big I always hear people talk about is hiring and You were on the list of Best Places to Work. What were some of the things that you have done or put in place to make that happen?

Ross Hudgens 30:11
Yeah, so we just tried to exist and really care about people. I think that’s really at the end of the day what? What matters one of the ways I describe it is try to build the place I would want to work at and give those same things to everyone else and that’s like work from home flexibility. We have that up to two days a week. We might expand that with Coronavirus scenario once we go back to normal

Unknown Speaker 30:40
Yeah, what else do we have

Jeremy Weisz 30:41
what else has been important to people so it sounds like flexibility of work from home what else has been important that you found?

Ross Hudgens 30:48
Yeah, trust. I think we’re we don’t micromanage people. I think that kind of connects back to it is I’ve generally not been high stress also i from a culture standpoint. I try to make it so if someone makes a mistake, you’re not going to get fired when you make a mistake. It’s we’re going to learn from this, we’re gonna improve from this. And I think that environment of like low stress is probably contributed to a positive work environment as well. And trust specifically. So by no means do we think people can just keep messing up forever, but a one time mistake even if it cost us 50,000, which we’ve had, but we’ve had people make mistakes that have cost us like a 20 k engagement. And it’s fine. I liked it. It’s rough, but you learn from it. I think that kind of builds is one of the things Gary Vaynerchuk I think said that I really liked it. One point is at the end of day people want want to feel safe and they want to grow. I like that quote specifically is like we also try to we’ve been growing I think that has been something our team likes and people generally not firing like very quickly at all like we had we’re very upfront with people communicate when things are going well, and that hopefully contributes, I think, you know, the trust piece kind of goes into the foundation. Ross of a, you hire the right person.

Jeremy Weisz 32:12
And if you do that you can trust them and you have to micromanage them. So what is that hiring process look like? How do you make sure that you hire the best people or the fit for your company?

Ross Hudgens 32:25
Yeah, that’s a great point. I mean, it really does come down to that for sure. So we we have a relatively we try to make it quick where we jump on a call and vet the person. If they’re good to go, we’ll immediately send them a test project that’s short, that’s respectful of their time and not asking for free work. Once that’s approved, that test project will give us a sense of their writing skills and also their outreach knowledge. On the design side, we give them a very short design project to test their skills. Once that’s clear and good to go that shows their competency we We bring them in and we have around of three people interview them. They measure them on fit fire and function. We asked them to do that anonymously, into like email someone a third party that score. So there’s not group think about how they think about someone. We bring all that data together and email and it gives people like, Oh, this person got three, four or five, and you see everyone’s opinion. And hopefully within that combined data that we now have about how we feel about this person, we then tried to say hell yes or no on this concept, which I got from Derrick servers is like, Is it clear? Hell yes. On this person, or it should probably be a no. And that’s been pretty instrumental, I think in like hiring good people.

Jeremy Weisz 33:44
So when you see fit fire function, what do you mean by fire?

Ross Hudgens 33:49
So fire would be like, they’re brand new in their career and they’ve launched her own website on the side, or fire another example where it could be low as they really have have done research about siege at all.

Jeremy Weisz 34:03
Like there are fire.

Ross Hudgens 34:06
Yeah, it’s it’s pretty clear that they care they want to be doing content marketing specifically, is another example. That shows they’re not just trying to get a job, basically, they want this. They’re there. Yeah, they’re passionate about this career, they’re going to work hard to advance and do well. And that can kind of come across.

Jeremy Weisz 34:28
You know, you’ve grown at five or more people over time. What were some of the key hires along the way? Like position wise. Yeah, uh,

Ross Hudgens 34:44
I do think our video team has been big like that has helped differentiate us having a great video person, Kara Brown, who’s on our team because a lot of our competitors do not do that. So I think it creates a quality effect that they can’t leverage. I do think it’s just a lot of great hires over time for sure. What about early

Jeremy Weisz 35:05
on like early on I imagine you were doing the work right it was a personal one and I you said somewhere I just someone I don’t consider it was an accidental entrepreneur or something like that so when you first started what was kind of the first major hire like okay, I can’t do all this stuff. What was it kind of the next next level?

Ross Hudgens 35:29
Yeah, I was still doing link building at that time. And yeah, hired great person Brian, who actually is still with us. And he Yeah, it was just great. And he I think we got Lucky and he built a lot of trust. He like sent a thank you note after the the the email or the interview that was handwritten, which was great. It was like clear sign this guy gets it and is awesome. But basically he just made the decision at certain point like, we have enough revenue. I can help Someone on the side. I think at that point I hired him as a contractor. And which often is often the case with newer agencies, we don’t do that today anymore. Everyone’s full time. But he Yeah, we kind of started them in that direction. And that kind of lowered their felt like their lower their risk profile to get going

Jeremy Weisz 36:16
there. And then at that time, the priority was just taking the load off the link building, or was that what it was? That was the position you were looking for?

Ross Hudgens 36:25
Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it was very, it was seven years ago now. So we did do more manual link building without a connected to content. So we had him and then hire shortly thereafter, was a writer who actually ended up being a unicorn, Barbara, who’s also still with us, and she’s a front end, she actually had front end development and WordPress chops. So we transitioned her into a developer actually, because she was even better at that. So that was like a really lucky hire. I don’t know how early we would have hired a developer otherwise. But yeah,

Jeremy Weisz 36:58
and you know, because Uh, you know, in general, a lot of founders you know to is a, you know, full time job, just helping the company grow and doing all the pieces there. In addition to having to do other work within the company, I’m curious at different positions that will allow you to kind of remove yourself from the day to day so you can focus big picture. So one was, you know, obviously having someone do some of the actual technical work and writing what were some of the those other key positions you put in place you could kind of remove yourself from the, like, hundred percent day to day.

Ross Hudgens 37:38
Yeah, it started with link building and writing and then it slowly scaled up where we hired a an EA, who helped me with a lot of just office management type work. That was relatively early. I think we hired them part time at first, which is what I would recommend versus kind of jumping in full, full go. They also helped with the office management, payroll, those kinds of things that I just didn’t need to be spending my there wasn’t a high leverage use of my time ventually got people to help me with social media is almost doing that all myself, I did think the video person was a layer of saving me time it was a business development person because before I was writing all of our content, and this person allowed me to get in front of a camera and do something relatively quickly that still felt high quality, which was impossibly before where I had to write a long post. put a lot of thought and I still put a lot of thought into it, but you get what I’m saying. It helps remove some time. So I highly recommend video for that reason for agencies in a lot of the totals.

Jeremy Weisz 38:41
Yeah. What about as an executive function any specifically we like finance or HR that was helpful.

Ross Hudgens 38:50
We really had that that EA person do a lot of those things. We probably waited to wait way too long to hire an HR person and that person honestly came in through The mold of being an operations manager, she actually started as EA for me. Then we realized she was a rock star head HR experience. She ended up managing our office managers remotely, and also be an HR person. So yeah, we took a long time to hire HR that not going to that might not be the smartest strategy. We did hire ADP for payroll eventually when we got to a certain size, and they have an HR component that can protect you basically say like, if you have an issue where you need to fire someone or something like that, ask them a question and as long as they give you you follow their advice that protects you, okay?

Jeremy Weisz 39:39
I was gonna say that ADP call ADP like, I need to find this. Okay, we’ll fire him for you. Give me that for no more. It’s interesting. Where or whatever you your thoughts on having, you know, a like a project manager at what point how many accounts you want them in Managing or like people do you want them managing? I know like Richard Branson has a certain philosophies around how he creates these structures. I’m wondering your thoughts. Yeah,

Ross Hudgens 40:11
so that was definitely a layer that helped me as well. So I was basically a Content Marketing Manager for a while, and then eventually promoted someone to be a manager. I think we’re always kind of figuring out what people can handle. I think the way we structure it now is around five direct reports per content marketing manager is felt about right for us for a scaled up manager. We start new managers with around two to three people, very productive people with senior people on their team as well could sometimes get to six. I have like a people report to me honestly, which is way too high. And I’d probably do a bad job for them because of that. But yeah, that’s generally the structure, but we’d love to hear what

what his philosophy is for that. I haven’t heard that before.

Jeremy Weisz 40:59
Yeah, check it out. out. It’s really interesting. And and I don’t do just justice by trying to repeat it, but he has certain ways, you know, obviously he’s started many companies and how he kind of silos, the companies and how he structures things. So do you typically for the manager, do you typically promote them? Are they coming in from just specifically in for that position? They go from direct report your manager or?

Ross Hudgens 41:23
Yeah, we, Today we’ve had 100% of people grow internally into that position. I think that’s another motivating factor when they see. You can grow, there’s people you can point to basically all of our director and SES, there’s no, we don’t even technically have a C suite. Besides, yeah, I don’t even know if I would count myself. But directors have all started as content marketing specialists in us. So there’s a great success stories, they can talk to other people and tell them how they did it. And I think that’s probably hopefully motivating for people.

Unknown Speaker 41:58
You know,

Jeremy Weisz 41:59
first Eros I always ask two last questions because it’s in spirit Insider. So I’m going to ask them in a second one is what’s been a low moment challenging the you to push through? And on the flip side what’s been a proud moment that you know after running the company running companies in general is not easy. And Jonathan’s probably told you the title of his book or future book I have

Unknown Speaker 42:29
not heard that actually. Oh,

Jeremy Weisz 42:31
I thought he mentioned it with you how to eat shit is or something like that dude is he ever said that to you?

Unknown Speaker 42:37
I vague I vaguely okay.

Jeremy Weisz 42:39
And I’m like, that sounds disgusting, but I kind of know what you’re talking about. So there’s tough points, but there’s also it makes those proud moments and high points even more rewarding. But first, everyone should check out check out what they’re doing. If you have a need you Have a brand that needs you know more clients who doesn’t and actually wants to produce quality content Have you found from this, that Ross actually has a really serious thought process behind it not just throwing up hoping it goes viral? So go to it’s You can also check out if you’re an agency or service professional, it’s a really comprehensive, you look through all of their modules, really comprehensive and now knowing that they have a community behind it makes it even more valuable. So check both those out. So Ross, on the tough time, low moment that you had to push through to overcome to where you are now. I mean, we’re always overcoming but what’s something that sticks out?

Ross Hudgens 43:55
Yeah, I mean, I would love to say we’re on the other side of it right now but this is situation is definitely the hardest period I’ve ever gone through. As as an agency. Yeah, it’s

Jeremy Weisz 44:05
largely precedent times right now.

Ross Hudgens 44:07
Yeah. Yeah, it’s we. I mean, we lost clients before. But obviously, we’ve been relatively lucky to not have any major moments of pain in terms of our growth. To date, Intel this situation, it’s definitely trying. And, yeah, early on, we made some quick decisions on some rules. We weren’t. We were already thinking about moving on from which was a very tough scenario to get through. And just kind of pushing through this, this situation. We since hired a part time CFO around the year and a half ago, which I highly recommend doing something like that around 4050 people. It’s probably a good time to start doing that and she’s helped our thinking in our garden, being smarter from a cost standpoint. But I’m feeling optimistic. Now it’s really just, I don’t know, that’s helpful for PC owners at all. But I know a lot are going through struggles right now. Because contracts that are more expendable than the people on your team go first. So many agencies are seeing significant reductions in in in their, their client base because of that, which is rough. But it’s really also less than to just be smarter. We’re specifically trying to consolidate our office space a little bit coming out of this. We We also because work from home is so positive, we have more people who want to do it than ever before. And again, if you trust people that work so that’s one thing we’ve been doing is we have like a big space, we’re gonna like remove 30% of it. Just continue to be leaner and smarter that you can see, really think about every cost you have. And I think that’ll be make all of us smarter as entrepreneurs coming out of this. What do

Jeremy Weisz 45:59
you What about Earth On before you were at five people. Yeah, yeah.

Ross Hudgens 46:07
Yeah to probably be more helpful for our people.

I don’t know there’s any like, dark times. But how I think we got started was I left my college area where I had a lot of friends and I went to the San Francisco Bay Area in San Bruno, which is South San Francisco. And I just was heads down. I had a full time job, but every waking moment, that wasn’t a full time job. I hustled on the side, I was writing posts on my personal blog. I was networking. I did that for like two years, and it was relatively lonely time period. That is dark. There’s darkness to that of like, didn’t really have friends in there. Yeah. But I had two years where I just made a ton of headway in my career that I’m sure I wanted. We want to be in a good place now. I hadn’t like put in that work and gotten to the other side of it.

Jeremy Weisz 46:59
What was the decision To go out on your own decision and not a hard decision,

Ross Hudgens 47:07
not really I was building clients on the side, which was one of the that’s one of the things I highly suggest to people is like build momentum on the side. That’s proof that you can do this and then had a manager who was micromanaging me. And I just didn’t wasn’t a fan of that style. And I was kind of the trigger point I knew at that point because I built momentum. I could then outside quit my job and hopefully get clients and sure enough that that’s what happened. Nice. get more clients. Yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 47:36
What about on the flip side of things? What’s been especially proud moment for you in the business.

Ross Hudgens 47:47
I love seeing how everyone at the company has grown. I’m proud of that. We’ve created 85 jobs and helped a lot of people grow their careers and given hopefully people good lives, and good jobs that they’re proud of. So that’s something I’m proud of

Jeremy Weisz 48:06
anything on a personal level that you’re able to do now that you have your own company that before you remember, I remember those times when the bosses micromanaging me.

Ross Hudgens 48:17
Yeah, I think that’s definitely part of it. Just autonomy. But I think also, as a entrepreneur, it’s suggest to everyone to try to create that earn intrapreneurship I think is the word where you have it within a company. But that’s one of the things yeah, it is flexibility, which we didn’t have before. But I think you can also have that and I did have that at the last company until this boss came in. So that’s we can create entrepreneurs, even if they don’t have to be stressed that payroll

Jeremy Weisz 48:48
yeah intrapreneurs Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ross Thank you is I’m gonna be the first one. Thank you everyone. Check out and and I appreciate it. Thanks, Ross.

Ross Hudgens 49:01
Yeah, thanks for having me on.