We spent some time with Josh to learn about his web consulting firm, which he started in 2004.
Josh, tell us about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
We are a web development and internet marketing agency serving small to medium sized clients.
We help clients build and optimize their websites for better rankings in the major search engines. We do both "natural" search engine optimization as well as pay per click marketing.
We develop most of our sites based on the open source content management system called Drupal.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
This is my first business. Before this I was working for a small book and magazine publisher in the interactive division, and prior to that I worked at interactive agencies and technology consulting houses in project and account management roles.
Where did you get the startup money to start your company?
I slowly built a client list on a freelance basis over time. Finally, one day I realized I was, in effect, working two jobs.
One particular large client came along that allowed me to shed the day job and take on my business as a full time venture.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
Our competitors range from large, national interactive agencies, local small design firms like us, on down to college kids doing web development part time in their dorm rooms.
Our major competitive advantage against all comers is our experience, which gives us the ability to ask the right questions up front that set the groundwork for a smooth project.
Additionally, developing using the Drupal open source platform allows us to work very quickly, and save clients money versus developing from scratch.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I knew there would be government interaction, but I wasn't prepared for this much. The IRS, Department of Labor, state Commissioner of Revenue Services, etc, etc. It can take the fun out of starting and growing a compay.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I'd started my business sooner. Back in college perhaps.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Hiring the right people. There's just no way I could do this without a few key employees who I can depend on. And the words "depend on" are key. I'd rather have a less skilled employee who is willing to learn and is dependable than three super-skilled people who may or may not show up for work on any given day.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Make sure you set the right groundwork for yourself personally.
Make sure you can get healthcare through a spouse, for example. Even better, make sure you can live off your spouse's income for at least one year as things are coming together.
Prepare your family for the long hours and weekend interruptions you'll be getting as business picks up. Oh, and remember, you don't get sick days!
That's good advice for anybody who is interested in starting a business. It's much tougher than you expect, and it's a lot of work. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experiences with us.