Rick Hoskins is 29 years old and is the founder and CEO of Miami’s On the Map Marketing, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. On the Map has three offices and 60 staff members. The internet marketing firm has also been listed on the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list.
How did the concept for On the Map come about?
When I was 17 years old, I worked for a company called Labitat as an intern for almost three years. When we lost one of our biggest clients, I realized how vulnerable both the company and my job were. That’s when I started considering becoming an entrepreneur and conceptualizing On the Map. I had already learned a great deal about internet marketing from the internship and I could see that it was an explosive field. Of course, On the Map looks a lot different than I had originally envisioned it.
How was the first year of business?
There weren’t a lot of frills. I made cold calls to attorneys from my living room. I had low overhead, so I was able to become profitable almost immediately. We exclusively sold the Google Local (the Maps section on Google). We probably realized that there were much bigger ways to make money, but Google Local was where we put our foot in the door. The problem with that space is that it became smaller and there were a lot of other companies doing it. As the market became more competitive, we shifted to search engine optimization (SEO).
What was your marketing strategy?
We started out with cold calling and that is still a huge part of what we do. It’s still one of the most effective ways to market B2B, but we also recognize the power in what we do. We’re a successful SEO firm and we put our money where our mouth is. On the Map has our own aggressive SEO marketing campaign and that brings us in a number of leads. If you Google “lawyer SEO,” we’re at the top of Google’s organic search. We’ve had similar success with a number of our clients.
How fast did the company during the first few years?
We made $70k our first year and doubled it in the second. Again, overhead was low, so we were profitable right from the beginning. Of course, a lot of that money went back into the business. It’s almost impossible to grow staff while working out of your living room.
How do you define success?
I have a few different measures for success, but being able to pay my employees is one of the most important. I want my business to grow and be profitable, but if I can’t take care of the people working for me, it’s not going to happen. With regard to my customers, if they’re satisfied and seeing that we’re doing a good job for them, we’re successful. If you take care of your employees and customers, increased opportunities will follow in the marketplace.
What is the key to success?
Hard work and determination may seem like cliche answers, but those really are the qualities that you need to make it as an entrepreneur. Luck can only take you so far. You might get lucky, but you can’t operate in a competitive field for long if you’re not among the hardest working people.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I think being honest is one of the most important things I’ve learned. Being straight and truthful, even when the news is unpleasant, is really important to success and building relationships. When everyone has accurate information, you can work toward a solution.
One other important business lesson that I learned when the first company I worked for lost their one major account: it’s better to have a bunch of small clients than one big client.
What are some of the quotes you live by?
“Just do it.” It’s perfect and simple. I also find myself saying, “I hope we’re not betting on the wrong horse” sometimes.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve as an entrepreneur.
Back in 2014, we overestimated the number of employees that we’d need for that particular phase of our business, so we had to lay some of them off. That was a particularly tough time, and it’s a mistake that I try very hard not to repeat. We try to keep the growth of our staff in line with the needs of the business. It helps to avoid overstaffing.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I think it’s realizing that there isn’t much back for me in the other direction. Once you start to tackle a goal, you’ve chosen a completely different course than if you had never picked it up in the first place. Most worthwhile ventures are going to have some difficulty, so it shouldn’t surprise you when they happen. There are definitely a lot of reasons you can fail that are completely outside of your control, but lack of effort isn’t one of them.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to try and start something on your own. Do it while you’re young and you can absorb the risk. Once you start to have a family and a mortgage, it’s going to be a lot more difficult, so do it now.