Ralph Burns is the CEO of Tier 11, a digital advertising agency that specializes in helping businesses scale through Facebook and Instagram advertising. Ralph’s agency manages a portfolio of Facebook advertising customer accounts in over 30 industries with an annual spend in excess of $50 million. Ralph is also the co-host of the wildly successful Perpetual Traffic Podcast.
How did the concept for Tier 11 come about?
It came for a combination of our eleven tiers of pricing, with the thinking that the more you spend on advertising with us the more you grow your business – combined with the This Is Spinal Tap reference to “Taking it up to eleven” (Google it if you do not know it).
How was the first year in business?
Sucky. I had created a educational program for sales managers and I was convinced it would change the way sales training works, but in fact nobody wanted it, or even worse, bought it. Then I got fired from my cushy six figure corporate job and realized I better start hustling or I wouldn’t be able to eat.
What was your marketing strategy?
At first, Google Adwords for worldwide “sales management” keyword audiences, mostly opt-ins from India and Malaysia who never bought a thing – but loved all my free giveaways!
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Not very quickly. It wasn’t until 2013 (four years in business) when we crossed six figures in sales.
How do you define success?
Being happy with what you have today instead of constantly striving for happiness in the future. As a striver, this is still a tough one for me. It’s very Buddhist (I’m 100% casual Catholic), but it’s real.
What is the key to success?
Never giving up and doing your best every day. Also, being smart enough to realize how to pivot your business model towards products and services people actually need, while filling a big hole in a particular market.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Always be yourself. Accept yourself for who you are, you’re not perfect – so deal with it. Don’t try to be somebody you aren’t.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” – Samuel Johnson
“Money is a great servant but a horrible master.” – Tony Robbins
“How you do anything is how you do everything.”
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister
“Do what you do best and let others do the rest.” – Joe Torre
What are some of your favorite books?
How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie
Good to Great – Jim Collins
The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
Ready. Fire. Aim. – Michael Masterson
The Go Giver – Bob Burg
The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferris
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
When I was just starting, I had a small web design side business and our largest customer reneged with a charge reversal on his credit card trying to screw us. The amount was so large, I couldn’t pay any of our bills for three months. Bad day. Bad quarter. Almost considered giving it all up and going back to work for the man. Of course, that happened thousands of times, not just on this one…
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
It’s the drive to help as many amazing businesses grow faster than they could on their own using Facebook and Instagram advertising and what’s really cool is that the more companies we can help do the above, the more we can contribute to charitable causes we deeply believe in.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Never, ever give up. That’s #1 by far.
#2 is stay humble and never think you have all the answers. Collaboration with the right people is the big key to success that unsuccessful (or completely overworked) entrepreneurs usually completely forget.
#3 is don’t take too long to hire others to do the work that you do. Anything can be replaced and outsourced – and chances are they can do it better than you! So many entrepreneurs think “only I can do this.” Bullshit. Hire great people, teach them to do what you do, have them document your processes, and that’s the only way you can grow a business.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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