Mike Ramsey, President of Nifty Marketing, gets JobShadowed about his career. You can find him at his site of above and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I am the President of Nifty Marketing which focuses on local search marketing for small and large businesses across the country. I also own The Voice which is a free weekly print newspaper delivered to around 17,000 households in Southern Idaho.
How would you describe what you do?
We just moved Nifty Marketing to an awesome new location that has a ton of sidewalk traffic and big open windows. We don’t really work with local businesses in my hometown so we haven’t gotten around to putting signs on our building yet. People will come in the front door (as the building used to be a popular boutique store) and ask what we do and a couple days ago one of my employees said, “We Internet Market Businesses”. Clearly, the statement came out wrong, but it has stuck and we got a marker and wrote that on the outside of our office building windows for passerby’s.
Technically speaking, we work with companies that are looking to gain customers in geographic specific markets. We do this with search engine optimization, paid online advertising, content marketing, social media, and other various channels. I personally think “We Internet Marketing Businesses” works just fine though.
What does your work entail?
That is a hard question to answer as it always changes. I am a startup guy. I have two companies that were bootstrapped so there isn’t much I haven’t done from janitorial duties to bookkeeping. So, instead of talking about everything I will talk about what I consider the most important things I do, and the things I need to spend more time one.
1. I hire talent. This is my hardest job. I live in Burley, Idaho and have to compete against big city markets and it’s hard to attract and keep great team members. So, I have to do whatever is necessary to find and keep people who I can trust.
I have learned the true meaning of wealth. It’s the difference between what you make and what you spend.
2. I study. I am so passionate about search and advertising that I find myself spending a large amount of time studying the industry by ready blogs, case studies, researching, and analyzing. The search industry moves fast enough that if you don’t continue learn and improve, you will fail.
3. I teach. I try to share everything I know to the search community and my employees by blogging and speaking about various topics. This keeps me focused on progressing myself and my team members and it also keeps me in front of the search community.
4. I think. This is the most draining part of the job. I think all the time about how to grow the businesses, how to help clients, how to position ourselves, new opportunities, internal growing pains, competition and a thousand other things. I talk to people about my thoughts. I ask for advice. I give advice. But I think a lot.
What’s a typical work week like?
I used to put in well over 70+ hours a week. I quickly realized that was not sustainable as I came to understand the statement that man shouldn’t run faster than they have been given strength for. This was largely due to me not delegating enough responsibilities and totally burning out ever few months and being sick and worthless for a week or more. So, now, I work 40-60 hours per week. I travel a lot for work (mainly speaking events). I work from my home office which is less than 2 miles from both my business offices about 60% of the time.
I have learned that I am not trying to take my companies public, I don’t need to grow them quickly to pay back investors, and I need to focus on sustainability and the right type of growth. I do this best when I am able to balance my home life that includes 2 kids (with another on a way) and my wonderful wife Hillary with the demands of work. Most things can wait. If you have too many things that can’t wait, then you need more help.
How did you get started?
I was employed as the CMO of a regional pest control company right out of college. I had done door to door sales for them all through my summers in order to pay for school and worked my way up. I had a nice fat contract in place before I graduated with my Business Management degree and I had started to build a house in my hometown of Burley, Idaho as I could work from anywhere. Since the pest control company was making a move to the internet I decided that in my last semester of school I should take a class on internet marketing and another class on html. I loved them both and built a couple of really crappy websites like this one. It was all for fun, but I did learn a lot.
When it came to my job, things changed rapidly and it was clear that I needed to leave the pest control business. At the time, I was building a home that I could no longer afford in a town where there was no job opportunities. On top of that my wife was pregnant with our first child.
I was desperate. I am religious and I prayed. I don’t care whether people believe in God, or believe in themselves but it takes two things to start a business in the situation that I did. Faith, and Foolishness. I had both. I felt very strongly that I needed to start a business and needed to do so in Burley, Idaho. Our town needs businesses that bring in revenue from other areas but can provide local jobs. I dove in 100%. That was 2008.
The newspaper is a much longer and harder story to tell. It started in 2010.
What do you like about what you do?
I love business. I love the strategy behind decision-making. Like my friend from the A-Team… I love it when a plan comes together. I also love teaching. I always wanted to be a teacher. My mom taught Special Education and loved what she did. That inspired me. I also love art. I suck at making it, but I am really good at understanding why certain things look good and why certain things don’t. I appreciate it. Last, I love tech. Shiny new ideas, gadgets, and technologies are as exciting to me as lego’s are to my son. I thought I would have to choose between these but I have been lucky enough to find an industry that includes them all. What more could I ask for?
What do you dislike?
Google. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship that I don’t want to talk about.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
Both of my businesses are B2B recurring revenue models. Nifty has a monthly retainer for our services that can range from $500-$50,000 per month. The newspaper signs contracts with businesses for certain ad placement and sizes on a weekly basis.
I love business. I love the strategy behind decision-making….I always wanted to be a teacher. My mom taught Special Education and loved what she did. That inspired me. I also love art…Last, I love tech. Shiny new ideas, gadgets, and technologies are as exciting to me as lego’s are to my son. I thought I would have to choose between these but I have been lucky enough to find an industry that includes them all. What more could I ask for?
How much do you make?
I pay myself $48,000 per year. Everything else stays in the business to grow and start new projects with. Occasionally I will take out more based on specific situations or needs.
My wife and I worked really hard during school to stay out of debt and save money. So, we are currently debt free. We own our cars, our home and have a really low cost of living. It’s actually hard to find things to spend money on in small towns. We are cheap. The only thing I spend money on is Apple products and traveling. I could take a spending wage 3-5x this if I wanted, but I have learned the true meaning of wealth. It’s the difference between what you make and what you spend. Right now, my business is making a lot and spending very little. I do the same. Cash is king and if you have it, you can make the right business decisions at the right time. Especially if you own 100% of your business.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
I didn’t take a dime the first year. I had $50,000 I had saved over the course of college to get up and running with.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Add passion to that list and you can learn anything. Most of the things being done in the Internet marketing field aren’t taught in a classroom. They are learned in forums, blogs, and private conversations.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The constant change. It’s exciting, but very difficult to stay on top of.
What is most rewarding?
Providing jobs for good people who deserve them in a town where work is hard to come by.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Being willing to learn, share, and change constantly. Be honest in your work to clients, your employees, and employers, and learn to diversify away from Google.
How much time off do you get/take?
In 2012 I was out of town for almost 3 months. I work on the road. I enjoy what I do. I speak at a lot of industry events. I don’t consider it work even though it is. I had one “off the grid” trip this past year. I went to Turkey for a couple weeks.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That is is a bunch of crazy tricks and dirty secrets. Google has done a good job of smearing the SEO industry with one hand and dangling a carrot from the other.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
1. Help people in my community start successful businesses that keep our town growing.
2. Provide many more jobs to good people in Idaho.
3. Serve in my church. I spent two years in England as a missionary and loved it. I want to do something like this again with my wife.
I’m a fairly simple guy. Making and spending money hasn’t ever been the major motivation for me. I have enough to cover my needs and wants. If those needs and wants change I will pay myself more money. Personally, I get more joy out of the journey my businesses are on than I could imagine at a destination. Being an employer can be difficult, but it is extremely rewarding.