Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in marketing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ryan Freeman, President of Strider, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Strider is a boutique agency offering specialized online marketing services to medical, legal, and professional service providers, along with small business retailers and non-profits. Our PerfectFit advertising platform combines demographic, user, and location data to help us find customers who are a perfect fit for our clients.
Tell us about yourself
In 1994, while in high school, I took on freelance IT work for a number of small business clients. At the same time, I had the opportunity to do some work for a local ISP. At-home internet service was brand new at the time, and our big emphasis was 56k dial-up connections! Since the internet was becoming more popular, my clients started asking for web services. I was "the computer guy," so by assumption, I was also "the internet guy." A few bad websites, waving flag GIFs, and such later, I realized that if I was going to build websites, I also needed to be able to market them.
This was the earliest days of SEO - directories, keyword spamming, submissions, etc. From there, the industry evolved, and I have spent 28 years trying to keep up in order to understand the best ways to help each client. When Google Adwords launched, I was part of the first stages of the program that would become the Google Partner program (originally Google Engage).
As online marketing became more complex and nuanced, I realized it was impossible to be an expert in all things, so I began to build a team of trusted developers and marketing specialists. Strider has been a remote international team for nearly 20 years, with people in Canada, the USA, the UK, and South America.
Over 28 years after starting in online marketing, I am still motivated by the joys of a big client win. Every time we deliver great results and successful campaigns, our client's joy is the primary reward.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
While each client win is a big deal, I get a special kind of satisfaction from working with clients who have some special or unique service that provides a new kind of benefit or treatment for people.
On two occasions, I've been able to play a significant marketing role with medical practitioners who were bringing new treatment modalities to their patients. This wasn't simply high-quality medical care; this was a kind of life-changing, surgery-avoiding treatment that dramatically improved the quality and length of life of the patients. To know that our team had even a small hand in impacting so many people in such a significant way is something I'm very proud of.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
For me, staffing and building a team has been a challenge. We have an awesome group of people working for Strider, but over 28 years and a learning curve as a business owner, you sometimes have to have difficult conversations and make tough decisions about who can and cannot be a part of that team. I've had to let go of people that I liked very much but who were not right for our situation and did not contribute to optimal outcomes for our clients.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Trust your gut. If an employee or client feels wrong for you, they probably are. If they feel like an awesome fit, do what you can to make it happen.
- Do something. Don't remain static while you plan, plan, plan. Make a decision, move on it, and pivot quickly. Don't be married to a bad idea.
- Find a good accountant early. Trust them, plan with them, and make sure they are bought into your vision. If not, find a better one.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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