Shay Berman is the founder and CEO of Digital Resource, a full-service digital marketing agency. Shay’s clear-cut approach has allowed Digital Resource to land on the Inc. 500 list after just four years.
How did the concept for Digital Resource come about?
I was selling digital marketing services for another company door to door and had a few small clients on the side. I was actually thinking of starting a landscaping company when my dad suggested that I try to create a digital marketing company, instead. Landscaping is something I had done for years up in Michigan before I moved to Florida and I thought it would be great to get into again. I’m very happy he convinced me otherwise.
How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was a lot of learning what it was like to have a client for marketing and learn how to anticipate their needs, upsell them on additional services, and manage them to grow my own company, financially. There was a lot of downtime, because if you only have a few clients, there’s not too much to do. But sometimes all the clients will need something at once and it can be overwhelming. Every new client was a big milestone and I took advantage of every opportunity to grow my own company through networking, client referrals, and beginning my website’s search engine optimization process early on.
What was your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy was mainly search engine optimization, but I knew that it would take some time to pay off so I had to use other avenues in the beginning. I found people who worked with other businesses and I worked with them in giving me referrals. They were happy to refer me as they knew the quality of my work and the success rates I have had with my clients.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The company is really only four and a half years old, but we have had extremely fast growth for the past three years. Things grew pretty quickly from a solo practitioner’s standpoint in the first year and a half. It was impressive on that level but nothing that could be noticed by the public. As soon as we hired our first employee about a year and a half in, things really started to takeoff. I do not think it had anything to do with the hiring, but more to do with the fact that we were becoming more well-known. We went from $100,000 in revenue my first full year of business to $2 million just three years later.
How do you define success?
I typically defined the success of my company by how many people we touch. Whether it be the number of clients we have, the number of partners that entrust us with their clients, or the number of people we employ on our team, the more these numbers go up, the more successful I consider myself and my company.
What is the key to success?
The key to success is to be willing to work harder, longer, and smarter than everyone else you’re competing against, and you are competing against everyone. If you really want to be successful, you must be willing to give up everything and anything in the way of obtaining it. That means putting aside hobbies, relationships, and other things not crucial to the goal at hand, even if that sometimes means sacrificing sleep and other things that most people would consider “needs.”
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that owning a business is a massive responsibility. In the beginning, you think of how it can affect your clients if things go poorly, but as you continue to grow, you realize that the people you employ rely on you and the number of people that rely on those people is exponential. One wrong move as a business owner and you can affect the lives of hundreds, or even thousands.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“There’s always a way” is the number one quote that I live by. I highly believe that there is a way to do anything. Whether by getting it done through pure force, extreme amount of time, or thinking about the problem in a different light to come up with a way to get things done that may be totally out of the box, there’s always a way to do it. Sometimes, what people don’t realize is that the problem at hand is only a small problem to the bigger picture. Finding a solution to the bigger problem can eliminate the need to solve the smaller one.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
One of the toughest days I’ve had as an entrepreneur, and these happen more often than you’d imagine, is when everything seems to be going wrong at once. Employees not executing or quitting their jobs, clients leaving, deals not closing, revenue growth stalling, capital needed to get into a new space, training needed for the team, not getting enough sleep, mistakes being made…I could go on and on. But the toughest thing is all of that happening and no one being able to help you. No one knows how it all feels, in your unique situation in your unique business with your unique services, clients, and employees. And no one can give you advice on a situation to which the bigger picture is too large to fathom. So anyone’s help is but a mere guess and you are alone trying to make the best decision on your own. The pressure is real.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The number one thing that pushes me to continue moving forward is the promises I made to myself and to other people out loud. People always say if you put your goals on paper you’re more likely to achieve them. But when you tell others about them, there’s accountability and people to hold you to those goals. Not having those goals would be a failure in my own eyes and in the eyes of everyone I have ever told. So the thought of failure in my eyes and to the world pushes me forward ever single day.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
My one piece of advice to young entrepreneurs is to be sure they love what they do. If you don’t love what you do it will be impossible to overcome all the failures and obstacles that are thrown your way. If you truly want to be successful, you must make sure you start on the right path, by picking what it is you truly want to do, every single day, every single hour, every single minute, every single second, because it will never leave your mind.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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