by Guest Author on July 29, 2013
Entrepreneurship is one thing—entrepreneurship in an industry that evolves at the drop of an algorithmic change by Google is another. That is the nature of being an entrepreneur in the digital marketing field – and Jay Swansson can tell you all about it.
Jay, the Co-founder and Co-CEO at iAcquire, a full-service digital marketing firm based in NYC and Phoenix, is here to share the ins and outs of his experience in digital entrepreneurship.
The day after passing the Bar, Jay’s fate as a lawyer quickly shifted when he got a call from his friend and fellow entrepreneur asking to join the leadership team at search startup. In 2004, he joined the company as Vice President of Sales. Jay helped lead the company to more than $2 million in monthly recurring revenue and to eventual acquisition in 2008. Soon after, Jay partnered with fellow marketer and entrepreneur Joe Griffin to start a self-funded digital agency called iAcquire.
We’ve put together a list of questions for Jay to give us all a better idea of his background in the SEO world and his role in shaping digital marketing history:
Tell us about your background a bit…
Jay: I had just graduated from law school and taken the bar exam, and literally the next morning I got a call from my friend and entrepreneur who said, “Hey man, I have this idea and I think it can work.” I always wanted to get out on my own someday so I said, ‘let’s do this’ and two weeks later I moved to Cincinnati to become one of the founding member of the startup.
I was really fortunate to be able to work with a close group of friends, build a scalable startup business, and eventually see the company through its acquisition. In this phase of my life, I learned a lot about business strategy, marketing, search, and the importance of team and culture. We played hard and we worked even harder.
In 2008, my business partner Joe Griffin and I saw an opportunity in the market to do Internet marketing (and search) differently. We wanted to serve enterprise brands and help them compete and win –with that in mind we started iAcquire.
Tell us a little more about iAcquire…
Jay: iAcquire is a digital marketing agency that provides comprehensive marketing strategy with search, social, and content marketing at its core.
We aspire to be a disruptive force not only in content and search marketing, but also in digital marketing as a whole. Our iRank technology has allowed us to do scalable, quality content marketing and link building for our clients and partners. When you match our off-page strategy with on-page fundamentals and a social strategy you develop momentum that’s hard to beat.
Each of our 150-plus clients has a unique digital strategy and plan. We tailor our services to each brands’ needs. Whether it’s on-page content strategy and SEO or a link building campaign, we individualize the plan based on each client’s needs.
We’re also developing a platform we call ClearVoice. The goal for ClearVoice is to help connect brands with best-in-class content creators, curators, and publishers. It’s our goal to help connect brands with their target audience through scalable, quality content solutions. We’re excited about the progress and response we’ve seen with ClearVoice and you’ll hear more about this very soon. We think it’s a game changer.
What is your leadership manifesto?
Jay: I believe in recruiting the best talent and giving them everything they need to succeed, removing obstacles. I believe in competing and winning.
What can you do day-to-day as a business owner to breed success within in your organization?
Jay: I recently read an article on Fortune that I think really sums up the needs of a leader within any startup – or any enterprise for that matter. I created my own spin on it, but it’s essentially built on five pillars: strategy, communication, hiring, helping, and financing:
- Strategy: Create, edit, and execute on a market-forward, client/customer-sensitive business strategy.
- Communication: Keep everyone within your organization in the loop through one-on-ones, company emails, and all-hands-on-deck meetings.
- Hiring: Invest heavily in your workforce – hire the best and foster their professional growth.
- Helping: Remove any obstacles your team may have so they can do their jobs better.
- Financing: Keep a budget, sticking to it, and create new revenue opportunities: these are all essential to maintaining a healthy business.
What is one piece of advice you would give a budding startup founder?
Jay: Don’t quit. You will hit roadblocks as an entrepreneur and it’s your job to weather the rocky times and persevere. You need to have a positive outlook and empower talented people around you.
Work as hard as you can and you will succeed. Remember to have fun even in the tough times because those are the times you’ll look back and appreciate the times you fought through and “won”. That’s what makes you a success. There are undoubtedly ups and downs as an entrepreneur, but make sure that the things you can control are controlled and the rest will fall into place.
What is the number one indicator of success for you and your business?
Jay: That’s a good question. Once you get past the obvious needs of revenue and profit you can start thinking bigger. We want to create a company culture that our team members are proud to be a part of. Once you have that, recruiting becomes easier, sales compound, and clients and prospects benefit from the results of a competitive, happy workplace.
What was the best and worst thing that happened to you in your professional career thus far?
Jay: I’ve been really fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people – that’s probably the best thing. I’ve had the opportunity to combine friendship and business, and that makes it fun. When you surround yourself with competitive, loyal, and smart people, work becomes less and less a job and more about doing something special with your life.
As far as the worst thing, I don’t really know. There have been a handful of things that have probably made the difference between many millions of dollars but it’s not something I dwell on. I just keep moving, learning, and grinding.
iAcquire now has close to 100 employees and we have a very clear vision of our future. So, whether it’s good times or bad we have a team that will compete and win – for us and for our partners and brands.
Thank you, Jay for sharing your journey as an entrepreneur in digital marketing. Through this interview we hope you gained insight into both marketing and entrepreneurship. What is your biggest takeaway?
More about Jay Swansson:
Jay Swansson is Co-founder and CEO of iAcquire, a global leader in digital marketing. Regarded for his search industry knowledge and business development aptitude, Jay has experience as a digital marketing, search leader, and an entrepreneur. Find out more about iAcquire’s offerings.
Check out all our interviews with entrepreneurs!