Go For It
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Go For It
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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start doing and go go for it right like people are very i would say information overload um the reading the writing blog watching videos but they never aren't action takers right i would rather people go for it and learn from the mistakes at least you don't live with regret hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we've got another great uh guest on the podcast john boeing boing john and i knew that first name was easy enough to pronounce i got to last night i'm like oh i'm in trouble so uh john um just as a quick introduction parents came from vietnam um and he they grew up as a pretty tight family and he you know he worked like crazy in high school to help out and support the family um and then went to the university and while there did a whole bunch of different jobs to continue to support both studies as well as his family got a degree in finance and then decided he after uh graduating would take a year abroad in england um i think it was maybe as part of the degree maybe after the degree you'll have to remind me for the first uh and then after that went into sales and worked at yellow pages for a while and then decided after that to go off on his own and start his own seo agency that's focused on small businesses so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast john well thanks a lot devin uh for the intro and it was pretty much a summary of uh just highlights um and that was great because you know i can delve deeper uh for sure for a lot of your listeners to hear but it's been quite a ride um growing up it was challenging but for me it felt normal right because that's all i knew which was we were i was a family of four children my parents left the war for a better future for us children so next generation they sacrificed everything didn't know the language didn't have funds but they knew it's probably healthier and it's for the children right better education better culture better support system better resource and access and choice right so that's what they did growing up you know for us it was about family it was taking care of one another helping each other survive so i worked at a young age and i had many many jobs probably 20 30 jobs before i even finished uh university now let's not go through all of the 20 30 jaws give us kind of a a smattering or give us an idea of what were some of the jobs that you did or kind of what was the areas that you hit or that you did help out with the family yeah first was newspaper route i think it was like 9 or 10 years old i started doing that i worked at a library to you know pay the bills i i worked in factory line work i did landscaping i did um at every single restaurant as a waiter as a friar as a concession stand you name it i probably worked at all the major landmarks in my city and town where i was living because i mean it was a part of me being curious but also trying to survive right and take care of just having additional funds for support for the family as well as access to purchase and do things on my own so we didn't rely on any other medium of uh access of money so we just had to do it on our own um but i learned a lot of skill uh life life lessons as well right like how to get good interviews how to hand a job how to you know communicate with others right like life lessons that i think is a foundation of every human i believe if you want a good career or to be on your own you need these skill sets um to be positioned in the future no and i definitely agree so i think it's you know it's one thing it's definitely great to as you're kind of getting younger as you're younger to develop a work ethic understand hey you know things don't come for free you have to get the experience you have to get the skills you have to figure it out and then you just have to put in a ton of time and effort and then also you know looking to hey i'm big you know bigger than just me i'm looking to support the family and help out and i think those are all great lessons so now as you grow up in kind of that environment you're coming out of high school had a whole bunch of different jobs and kind of work to help support the family and you go off to university to school now you know remind us where did you where did you go and what did you study yeah so i went an hour and a half away from where i live so i'm in toronto like close to toronto canada um which is an hour away i grew up in hamilton ontario and i went to school in london ontario so university of western ontario i went there um it was funny because for me again i wanted to be like everyone else but i wasn't i didn't come from a lot of access and resources right so we had a student loan um i didn't have a vehicle like three quarters of the population and student that were there i took public transit i was working along the way and i was trying to fit in right like but i didn't know how other people were living prior to coming to university and living on their campus so me wearing different clothes acting differently i was just different right because again i never growing up i never had a sleepover i never even stayed at a friend's house right like birthday parties that was family cake event right once in a year we traveled to a festival but we didn't really you know now that i look at what my child is doing and how much information and choice that they have i want them to embrace the culture that we have available and that's what most of the students that were in university had like a a upbringing that allowed for choice freedom travel like real travel like flying to different countries and doing different things like i've never flew in my life until i i did that one time exchange program to london and i think that really was an eye opener to me because i was then able to not just survive on my own live on my own but why as well like i've never flown in my life i i never you know moved to a different country without my family nearby and i just had to figure it out i also worked along the way i also got more loans but i had to figure it out so it was great of a life experience i believe now remind me with that so did you go now because i mentioned it briefly in intro but i couldn't remember did you go to england why you were studying or did you take a year off after you studied yeah it was england in my third years of uh university studies and it was the exchange program so it was a great opportunity that the university allowed for and i took advantage of it so for me it was more a great life experience to embrace a new culture that allowed me to just live in a different country opportunities i've never even been able to travel before and then learn from other people that were also exchange students from all over the world so it gave me a really good breath of i used to live in a bubble in a government housing kind of landscape where everyone kind of knew each other and that was great at that time but as the world is now an open book and there's so many more opportunities so many different cultures so many people i i now you know want to travel more i want to experience different cultures different people and understand how people live differently so it was a great eye-opener for me and that actually transformed me to be better in just not just communicating with my friends and family but in all my career choices moving forward because now i'm more grateful for the opportunity that my parents endured during the that lifetime to pass it on to me and now i'm trying to pass on those skill sets to my child as well no i think that that's definitely i'm amicable and definitely as a great uh great endeavor to take on so so now you finished so you did the year abroad you finished up your degree i think you got in finance and then after you graduated i think you if you mentioned before we talked you went into sales and worked for yellow pages is that right yeah before i went to yellow pages actually so i i actually spent 10 years in advertising sales and five of those years was at yellow pages group but before you get into yellow pages group you have to be actually pretty good in sales because here in canada we were the only yellow pages was the only unionized sales force and it was a one year probation to get in and you had to be vetted because there's hundreds of applicants so what happened let me just one really quick point of clarification because when i think of yellow pages there i guess there's two technical things that it could be one is that it's the old actual yellow pages book that you opened up at everybody's business in the user sometimes it would have people's phone numbers and you would actually physically turn the pages i believe it evolved i haven't gone there in a long time to a to a website right where you could go and actually yellowpages.com or whatever and it was kind of the digital version of that i don't know if or which ones are still around or how well they're around so were you doing more of the physical book you know yellow pages that you delivered to the homes or was it more online so in canada we own both assets it's a brand and there's only one monopoly right and i know in the us there's yellow book yellow pages there's yellow and there's all these other variations but here in canada we had a monopoly one book and also online and we sold both right so it's the same company and so we had a sales force of over 2000 sales reps and it was very competitive not just to get in but also do well and so five years prior to getting into yellow pages i had to really learn how to sell properly and i learned from absorbing a lot of content going to conferences reading books just following the footsteps of great sales people within the organizations i was a part of and i wanted to get better i understood what it took in terms of work ethic hard work trying to just persevere be persistent try to just that grit mentality right like just keep doing and action taker try to show up earlier do things longer whatever it takes right and that's how i got these positions and i got better and while at yellow pages you know out of those 2000 reps now i'm now one or two percent of the popped here i was going on these trips and i was learning a lot right and i was getting better in sales now and during that tenure i worked with thousands of business owners and they just advised me like it was great in terms of life lessons because they taught me so much about how important running a business is what really mattered in life which meant uh family typically they do it they're small medium-sized business owners that i was dealing with and they were the hardest working people in that i can even think of it right like and they were not just doing it for a couple years they were doing it every single day for five 10 20 and sometimes generations being passed on so now so you did so no and i and i and i think it's great that early on in the career you can get kind of that mentorship or that guidance in the sense that okay you know hey i don't know what i don't know let's let's figure out how did you you know go through and be a good sales person how to you know look and see what others have done to build their book of business or their sales or network and get all that mentorship so you worked there i think it was for about eight years how many years i know eight years you've been doing your seo firm how long were you at the yellow pages five years also for you did that for five years now kind of as you reach the end of that five years and you know then you obviously started your own seo agency but kind of what prompted to leave or to you know want to do your own thing or start your own thing you're kind of how did your journey evolve after being at yellow pages for five years yeah like the last couple years those business owners just advised me they were not getting a good roi they were spending money that they no longer got good results from and they knew there was a behavioral shift in how people were consuming and searching for their type of business they knew there were people still seeking out their services and products but me myself was spending more time on online right digital and i was now you know out of smartphones were starting to pick up internet was faster people are now accessible real time speaking out their services digitally and with traditional media google kind of took off and yellow pages started to damper and therefore i knew i either had to go work at google or facebook or amazon or one of those big players or try something different and i knew there was a client base that was under service the small medium-sized business owners just didn't know where to turn to how to do it and who to trust and i wanted to hit all those major pillars so that i can serve them well so i went out learn as much as i can about seo even though i didn't know anything when i first started i got to learn it in the last eight years to make make sure that i serve them well know who i ideally want to service and work with and produce a really good return on their investment which is all about results um so we've worked and harvest systems procedures processes to ensure that we have a really optimal you know results and drive and it's like a whole system right in place so that we can do things better and grow now one thing i'll jump back just a bit in time because you know you touched on it but dive into it just a bit deeper is you know so you've been yellow pages for five years you know and they and i get they're saying okay things are slowing down people are going more digital google apple and others are kind of encroaching in our space and so it's going to be hard to continue to compete and i honestly don't know if they're still live or not alive i haven't used a yellow page usually like everybody else you'll google it but you know so that that's starting to wean down or at least they're having to pivot and evolve now how did you decide okay i'm going to get into local seo i'm going to start to kind of start my own agency was it a matter of this sounds fun and exciting it's a matter of hey i've got to do something and this job isn't going to be here much longer was it you know kind of how did you make that decision or that jump as to okay i'm going to be leaving like yellow pages what am i going to do next yeah i think it was and that's a great question because for me it was a pivotal time in my life and if you look at the lifespan of a human like typically there's career paths right and i just recently got married i recently purchased a place and i now had the decision to continue working at a corporation or pivot to a different company where i'd be kind of doing the same sales kind of role or try something different right so being an entrepreneur meant you just have to have clarity on what your vision and goals are and i had support from my wife so that really helped me make a decision and make me really pivot to being an employee to now an entrepreneur and business owner and do it fully committed and so at the early days it was challenging because i didn't know how to run a business i didn't really know how to do seo i didn't know how to hire people like all these things were thrown at you and then you got to figure it out just like how i kind of figured out growing up right and so when i look at the challenges i know it's hard it's hard for a lot of business owners but if i've already kind of gone through some hard challenges growing up it's just another hard thing that i have to endure and figure out so that's what i did i went out there seek good advice from other seours learn as much as i can read blogs watch videos go to conferences and then as as a business owner now i'm consuming a ton of content on business ownership how to absorb it how to run it properly operations management hiring accounting bookkeeping uh everything right and there's so many facets so now so so as you make because you did that so you decide okay this is what i'm gonna do there's a whole bunch of things to learn things i don't know but i'm going to dive in figure it out and you know get it and get it going you know was it a hey i jumped in i had clientele from day one and it was just the cash cow and making lots of money was it hey i took a lot of time learned it took a while to build a book of business was it ups and downs or kind of as you started out in the business because you know i've been doing it i think for about eight years right but you know as you started out how did that initial kind of diving in and getting it figured out how did it go so getting in right off the bat not knowing anything about seo i knew my biggest strength was sales as a skill set so i went out there and sold with a concept and idea on my smartphone with a laptop i was like okay i gotta make sure that there's revenue number one in any business is you need money and people paying you so i went out there got my first dozen or so clients paying me um with you know a couple thousand bucks where then i i knew i had an idea people want right so that's how i got the ball rolling then i started hiring i started doing things to grow the business but at the beginning i was spending so much time in the business because i had to learn everything seo how to run all these different pillars and operations and then after a couple years i started hiring more people to manage and then they were more you know controlling different pieces within the organization which is now someone in operation someone that is in accounting bookkeeping sales and marketing all these fun you know different departments that when you structure it properly then it allows you to then focus on the bigger picture about growth marketing things that really matter when you're working on the business so it didn't happen overnight like i didn't have money to grow start the business at the beginning i was bootstrapping everything i had to figure it out because i was like you know i just got married and bought a home so there goes all my money right so i got to figure it out um and as you grow and and you evolve and learn more um you appreciate what your team can do and you learn leadership skills how to delegate properly how to you know use you know learn about what triggers your employees to want to be excited and passionate about what your dreams and desires are and so i i really focus on building a really good solid core team that understands my vision and values right and that replicates and expands and amplifies my my my dream really no i think that's awesome and it's always fun you know you always think you know a lot about business until you start your own business and then you figure out all the things that you didn't really think about or did learn you know hey i actually have to do marketing i have to do sales oh i get new bookkeeping get into taxes who's going to be the janitor who's going to pick up after things who's going to do hiring and firing who's going to do you know managing people who's going to give direction who's going to you know or set up the office and blah blah blah you know it goes on and on you know that i think that's a lot of the fun and excitement if you take it with the the right lens so so now you've done all that and that kind of brings us up to today and now looking kind of the next six months six to 12 months kind of looking out just a bit into the future kind of where do you see things heading for headed for you for the business and kind of what's the next steps for you guys yeah it's exciting because you go through all these journeys right in terms of not just business ownership entrepreneurship but every day is i i'm as passionate and excited as when i first started it's just different challenges right and for me it's not even six to 12 months i'm looking at like a 10 year plan i look at it like what is my next thing and do i still wake up excited doing what i do and if not i have to change it so it's just a different pivot of what i need to really be inspired to do so we have a lot of different projects and initiatives and everything i'm doing has to be fun and exciting so for me right now we're in the works of not just growing in into different markets because we've been really focused in canada us is a different beast and i get it so that's a different marketing growth plan also then there's other platforms we're really heavy on podcasting we've been doing podcasts for two and a half years but really commit on doing it properly i've been working on a book so that's going to be another six months to a year plan we're working on the community and that's not another thing youtube channel speaking all these are big projects but i have a team now that is that gets me that understand why i'm above so i can allocate some people to on these projects and i can focus on all these passion projects that i think will elevate the brand more and it's a lot so i need to really allocate based on time and have fun and own it so everything i do has to resonate with my people my staff and it has to be a part of me where it personalize and customize what i'm trying to do right which is ultimately to give and bring as much value as possible to the audience members no i think that and i think that's uh that's a great way to look at it and the sentence said always you know i you hear a lot of people say you know you have to be you have to chase your passion find your passion i think that there's some truth to that but you know if you can be really passionate about something if nobody in the marketplace wants to buy it from you it doesn't matter how passionate are you are about it but where you can find the mix of that passion and where the market's willing to pay you for it that's where i think that that sweet spot is in that mix and then i think i like the idea of kind of reevaluating as you're going to always say hey am i still as passionate is this still exciting or do i need to adjust either the business or find something else to do or whatever that might be as you're as you're going along so well as we wrap up we're starting to hit towards the end of the podcast and so i always have two questions that i ask at the end of each episode so we'll jump to those now so with that um first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it yeah so eight years i've had a lot of regrets well not really but a lot of learning opportunities learning opportunities and that's the only way to pick yourself up and see if you can endure it right there's going to be a lot of bumps in the road um so early days i was hiring for the wrong geofence right i was hiring just on skillset and no personality no values and that was a big big mistake because at the beginning i needed people so i didn't know how to hire properly what to look for so i was hiring just on them being great seo kind of people right not everyone is created equal and as i i grow and learn more about how to read people and uncover like what really meant that makes me different is it's the personality my values and how i i was brought up and the family values and everything else so that was a big you know learning curve and it probably was six months of a lot of mistakes um and a lot of like stress right because you don't know what you don't know but you got to get your foot wet and do it right and the more you do the more you're going to learn and try to mitigate those mistakes moving forward no no like because i mean i it's funny because i think hiring is one where everybody has to go through and it's one where a lot of times everybody thinks oh i'll do it differently i'll be so much more better at it and i'll i'll make it better you know blah blah blah and most time you get into i'm like hiring is hard it's hard to not just find the right fit the person with the right skill set the person that will fit the culture that will work hard they'll get the job done that you can trust i mean there's a lot that goes into the mix and so i think that especially early on as you're figuring it out you know a lot of times the temptation is to hey i just need to hire someone that has the skills they're a warm body they fill the seat they get the job done and oh they'll work hard they'll fit they'll you know and as you get farther into it you figure out no there's a lot more to hiring and figuring out those people that are right for the business and the team that meets the eye so i definitely get how that's an easy mistake to learn but something great to learn from as you as you go along so now as we jump to the second question which is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you give them i would say just start doing and go go for it right like people are very i would say information overload um the reading the writing blog watching videos but they never aren't action takers right i would rather people go for it and learn from the mistakes at least you don't live with regret most people will always you know over analyze a lot of decisions and as a business owner you have to be very decisive all the time and the first thing is go and live with the actions that you're to make and therefore i would have started earlier if i knew right and that's what a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners say if i knew what i knew today hey i would have started earlier in my life but i don't live with any of the regrets because i had a lot of experiences along the way and people that impacted my decisions at that time so after reflection after having a good perspective in life um i'm i'm learning i'm still growing i'm still making mistakes but i'm still doing and i'm still passionate doing and that's the other thing too like go move but be happy do things that make you and excite every action that you want to do because what brings you joy is what motivates you if you are just doing it for the purpose of money or some some other thing it's probably not going to bring as much fulfillment in your life no and i i definitely agree with that you know it's interesting i think we're coming up on 250 plus episodes now and i can't remember which ones have aired and which ones are still uh are going to be airing soon but out of all the episodes you know there's a lot of different answers people give i'd probably say the number one answer that people get more than anything else is some variation of get going just do it get started now i wish i'd started earlier because you know it's one of those i think that if you have that personality if you like doing your own business doing your own startup it's one where as soon as you get going on it you wish you started so much earlier because you enjoy it and you're so passionate about it so i think that that definitely resonates across a lot of different journeys well as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to be a they want to use your local seo services for their business they want to be a customer they want to be in client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out find out more and connect up with you yeah you can check out our website uh it's www.localseosearch.ca we also own the.com but originally we're from toronto canada slowly expanding across north america uk and australia and we are really passionate like we love what we do because we support the small medium-sized businesses and that's the lifeline of every community every city every neighborhood every country so if you are one yourself and you don't know who to turn to give us a call we're here to help and we want to add value in your life so that you don't have to worry about this whole digital space awesome i definitely encourage everybody to reach out check out the website see if you uh if they if you can utilize your services definitely an area where um comes in comes in handy for a lot of startups small businesses and even medium-sized businesses is a great resource to drive business so well thank you again john for coming on it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you the listeners if you have your own journey to share and you'd like to come on the podcast to share it feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the podcast two more things as a listener one make sure to click subscribe and your podcast players so you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so everybody else can find out about all of our awesome episodes last but not least if you never need help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help well thank you again john for coming on and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you david you