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Manage Like You’re Dying: A Humbled Entrepreneur’s Reflections

By

aimClear  /  SEM Poetry Slam


We’ve all heard the expression “live like you’re dying.” I’ve experienced that first hand and it’s colored my experience founding aimClear, in profound and beautiful ways. This post is dedicated to our special friend who’s currently kicking cancer’s butt.

I started aimClear on the heels of surviving Lymphoma stage 3B, still handling the effects of chemo and radiation. As a result, aimClear was born to a person ready to embrace the joy of life and work.  That was four years ago. Every day I go to work with a invaluable combination of excitement, awe, and fear.

Upon aimClear’s recent and humbling nomination for a respected regional award, I was invited to share tips with other entrepreneurs growing their businesses. I’ve been feeling a bit introspective about how we’ve done things here,  because it’s been quite a ride as our company scaled from just me to 14 people in a little over four years. Here’s what comes to mind, in 20/20 hindsight, as keys to growing aimClear. I learned so much from cancer.

1- Achieve consensus for new hires amongst all employees, even if it means not hiring candidates the CEO believes to be qualified. Choose employees you love to be around. Never hire at the rate you can get work. Take work at the speed you can hire amazing people.  There is no reason to ever go to work with people you don’t like. Matt, Manny, Merry, Lauren, Alyssa, Kathy, Joe W., Lindsay, Molly, Erica, Joe D., Laura and Mia… you’re amazing. You blow my mind every day and we are so lucky to have you.

2- Place the highest emphasis on culture and creating an atmosphere of respect, love, dignity, human rights, accountability, and natural consequences. Why accept less?


Plans for aimClear’s New Space, 6000 Sq Feet

3- The executive team should work for the employees, not the other way around. Nurture others as you expect the universe to nurture you.

4- Achieve buy-in for the financial and product development missions. Everyone needs to be on the same page, determined, and committed to the process.

5- Be totally willing to change your mind in light of feedback from employees and customers. Face the actual odds. Kick butt.

6- Apologize when you are wrong, and don’t give ground when you are right. I say I’m sorry often. I’m not co-dependent when I think I’m right. Keep the slate clean with everyone as if there is not another chance tomorrow. Remember that there will be another chance tomorrow.

7- Invest in each employee’s personal brand to the greatest extent possible.  This is huge. Back promises up with action, training and money. In 2011, five aimClear team members will have spoken at 15+ advanced international online marketing conferences including SES, SMX, PubCon, International Search Summit, Media Post Insider Search Summit, OMMA Global, MediaBistro and DMA. Cities include three New York appearances, four in San Francisco, Sydney, Australia, London, Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, Park City, Utah, and numerous others. It’s important to embrace opportunities as if they are unique and priceless. 

8- Pay it forward. In the technology space, daily training is crucial. A person can’t live unless their mind is somehow active.

9- Be conservative financially and hire employees who compliment your weaknesses. Be brutal in your assessment of your weaknesses. It’s completely essential to understand your own vulnerabilities.

10- Invest in thought-leadership and share until it hurts. In Q1 2011, we’ve devoted over 250 hours to scientific studies of YouTube, Bing and Google, which resulted in marketing insights, literally, no other company in the world knew. We gave it away. Five aimClear employees contribute to major trade publications including SearchEngineWatch, SearchEngineLand, SearchEngineRoundTable and BruceClay Blog.

11- Reach as high as possible. aimClear Blog is decorated including stints as Technorati Top 100 Business Blogs & Top 50 SEO Blogs. The blog has status as an AdAge Power 150 publication, a consensus measure of the best online marketing blogs in the world. PRWeb cited aimClear Blog as a top 25 PR blog and Cision ACB as a top10 social media blog. We’ve published over 600 articles, the publication is over 3,000 pages, and we attract web visitors from all over the world.

12- Understand that luck and the actions of others have as great an impact on the outcome as any personal action. Know that personal action can manufacture luck.

13- Never allow customers or vendors to treat your employees badly. If they do, fire them. Always have your employee’s backs. In the technology business, you can’t have customers unable to understand and implement your team’s recommendations. Don’t accept anything that drains your life’s energy.

14- Take jobs you can succeed at and don’t kid yourself by taking jobs you can’t win just for the cash. Life is too short.

15- Don’t try to be something your not. A company has to be aimClear’s size before it’s reasonable to take on areas of expertise not core to the founders. Teach your employees what you personally know, slowly expanding the knowledge base with the addition of specialized employees.  Pass your knowledge on to the next generation, unselfishly.

16- Manage like you are dying. Be determined to leave this earth with all emotional and personal ledgers even.

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48 Comments

  1. Mike Glover on March 30, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Some AWESOME points Marty! Sounds like you have built an AWESOME team and a great, creative and inspirational environment.

    Hope I can do the same ;)

    Thanks for the share!

  2. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 9:58 am

    @Mike Glover: Thanks. The are super special. I appreciate the comment.

  3. Elmer Boutin on March 30, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Marty – I’ve heard you speak at PubCon a few times now and enjoy your unique perspective on things web marketing. Thank you for sharing this piece of genius. I especially agree with #3 and #13. They embody servant leadership – leaders helping the team through support and by equipping them to do their best. Well done and I wish you much success.

  4. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 10:27 am

    @Elmer Boutin: “The executive team should work for the employees, not the other way around. Nurture others as you expect the universe to nurture you.” Yes, in reality it’s that way whether the leaders understand it or not. Dedicate to your employees and you’ll get it back 3 fold. Thanks for stopping by and the kind words.

  5. brad on March 30, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Marty –

    My favorite point was ‘the executive team should work for….’ that’s great.
    The second one – and I just can’t say how liberating this is for employees: Allow them to fire clients. They might not do it often, but the ability to do so makes them realize they won’t be trapped and have options.
    All were good points.

    It’s interesting to hear you say to promote your employees brands. I happen to agree with you; but I can’t count the debates I’ve had over this one. Many, many people disagree. But, since you don’t back down when your right… what is your biggest argument (or two or three) for promoting employees brands?

    -brad

  6. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 11:00 am

    @brad: Top reasons to promote employees’ brands:

    1) If that’s what they’re in it for, then they will anyway. Help them along the road with all your might, and the partnerships forged benefit every node of your business. Their “Stardom” shines beautiful light on the agency. They will leave when they’re ready to leave anyway, and evangelize how amazing it was to work for your shop.

    2) Making the team’s brand as individuals speaks volumes about an agency’s ability to make their clients brands respected. The message is in the medium.

    3) If you love them, set them free. If they don’t come back. Hunt them down and kill them…just kidding :)

  7. Justin Hornung on March 30, 2011 at 11:05 am

    This is an incredibly powerful wind for the soul’s sails. The way your personal journey has informed your professional one is nothing short of inspiring. The members of your team I’ve had the pleasure of meeting/interacting with are truly brilliant, and it’s my honor to call some of them my friends.

    I love pieces like this where the author’s passion for what they do shines through each word, lending them weight. Many of these points seem like they should be common sense, but such are all too often the most overlooked, or worse, ignored. You’re to be applauded for not giving in to doing either. :)

  8. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Justin Hornung: Thank you Justin. When life throws eggs at you, make Eggs Benedict :).

  9. brad on March 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

    @marty

    That’s exactly my arguments (and yes, I’ve used the hunting one too :) )

    Maybe someday companies will be enlightened.

  10. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 11:16 am

    @brad: I would say your reputation and success in the industry bears such thinking as true. Enjoy your day.

  11. Rand Fishkin on March 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Marty – I loved this post and I’m so impressed by what AimClear has accomplished. All of you should be proud to work in a place with values and culture like this – I hope it takes you to even more exciting places in years to come.

  12. AmyV on March 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Marty – may everyone be so fortunate to work for someone like you at some point in their career. Especially if they don’t have to move to Minnesota to do it. ;-)

    It’s hard for me to select just one point in here that’s my favorite, so I’d just say: The sum of the whole.

  13. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    @Rand Fishkin: That means a lot to me coming from you. I get very much the same feel visiting moz. Thanks for the well wishes and I look forward to speaking with you on the, “Future of Search” panel at #SMX Sydney. Safe travels.

  14. Laura Perttula on March 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Marty – as always, you rock.

  15. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    @AmyV: Minnesota is wonderful, especially from May to October. Thanks for the affirming comment.

  16. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    @Laura Perttula: I know you are, but what am I? :)

  17. Rhea Drysdale on March 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Marty, truly inspiring and wonderfully insightful reflection on what it means to run your own business. As a small business owner, I can relate to several of those points and aspire to be better in others. Love reading the enthusiasm and attitude you bring to the office. It’s evident in the happiness of your team and the quality of your content and presentations. And not to be entirely cheesy, but we need more posts like this to fuel our hearts and minds. Thank you for going there and being an example of what to do.

  18. Elmer Boutin on March 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    “Their “Stardom” shines beautiful light on the agency.” It amazes me how many people don’t get this concept. When team members shine, the whole team shines. It creates a beautiful “Karmic” critical mass which benefits the entire group. Once again, well put.

  19. Erin Jones on March 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Marty ~ As always, I loved reading this post. Your passion and energy for all that you do inspires me both personally and professionally.
    I love having the opportunity to hear you speak almost as much as I enjoy sitting next to you and hearing your commentary when others are speaking :) You are amazing!

  20. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    @Rhea Drysdale: I get the same sort of inspiration back from the community, truly. You’re so sweet. @Elmer Boutin: Yep, and the concept is so obvious. @Erin Jones: Thanks for the kind words. I love the way you see it in terms of Karmic critical mass. Rock on all.

  21. Jeff Quipp on March 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Great post Marty! I love the quote “take business at the speed you can hire amazing people” … so true!

  22. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    @Jeff Quipp: Wow, it’s so great to see you in this thread. Your support and friendship in the early days was instrumental. I learned some of this from you my friend.

  23. Jeff Quipp on March 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Likewise Marty … I’ve learned (and still am) alot from you! :) Will I see you at SMX Advanced this year?

  24. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    @Jeff Quipp: Sure will see me at ‘Advanced. Enjoy your afternoon!

  25. Jen Sable Lopez on March 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Marty thank you for this post. When I saw it come through my feed this morning, I honestly had tears in my eyes before even clicking the link. I appreciate your constant enthusiasm for life. I agree with all of these but the ones that really call out to me are:
    6- Apologize when you are wrong, and don’t give ground when you are right.
    11- Reach as high as possible.
    15- Don’t try to be something your not.

    Words to live by Marty. Thank you again my friend. :)

  26. John Schneider on March 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Easily one of the best posts on authentic leadership I have ever read. Thanks for sharing this.

  27. Mike Marshall on March 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Positivity and benevolence Marty – and you’re new office so wicked cool!

  28. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    @Jen Sable Lopez: You’re the inspiration here. Our conversations at SMX West and SES NY were inspiring to me, as I’ve been down the same road. You were put in my life to remind me that we can’t ever take things for granted. Keep up the awesome work. Heal. Peace, love.

  29. Lisa Raehsler on March 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Marty, its nice you invest in your employees and their personal brand. I’ve seen them speak and attended their webinars on many occasions!

  30. Amy Kuronen on March 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Hi Marty – Laura forwarded this to me – it is awesome! I am going to really reflect on your comments
    and adopt your suggestions in my management at work – and at home! Thank you.

  31. Wil Reynolds on March 30, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Marty, I got this from my WIFE of all people, she’s a PHD in Urban Education…I don’t know how she got to your blog, but she forwarded it to me today…that is how far your reach is! This is a great piece, kind of inspiring me to write something about SEER the same way! Thanks for all your sharing dude.

  32. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    @Wil Reynolds: Please tell your wife that she made my day. I watched this post bang around the planet, in and out of our circles today. it was completely humbling….very humbling stuff. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  33. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    @Amy Kuronen, @Lisa Raehsler: I’m glad that the aimClear story resonates. It’s good to have y’all as friend. Thank you.

  34. Marty Weintraub on March 30, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    @John Schneider: You’re welcome. That’s a really nice compliment. It matter a lot to me. Thanks for stopping by to share back. @Mike Marshall: Will you be at any conferences upcoming? Always great to see you in these threads.

  35. Jason Mulek on March 30, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I enjoyed that read. These thoughts will stick with me, I’m sure of it.

  36. Matt McGee on March 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Wonderful thoughts and ideas here, Marty. Makes me wish the SEMMYs weren’t on hiatus because this would be a surefire nominee/finalist in the “Industry” category. Methinks you and I may have more in common than we know, at least judging from what I’ve learned about you from reading this.

    Hire amazing people — amen a million times over. In fact, I’d add a little to that: Don’t hire the best people for your open positions. Hire the best people and FIND positions for them. If you surround yourself with great people, great things will always happen.

    Likewise, hire people smarter than you. It makes everyone better (and smarter). The boss is doing a poor job if s/he’s the smartest person in the company.

    Anyway … thx again.

  37. Marty Weintraub on March 31, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    @Matt McGee: We miss the Semmy’s too :). “Don’t hire the best people for your open positions.Hire the best people and FIND positions for them.” Yes, let’s officially include this by way of your comment. In SMBs it’s more important to shape the direction of the company based on the intersection of the founders’ visions and the unique talents of the best players available. It’s so hard to know exactly what business one is in, until one is in it.

    You made my day when we crossed paths in person and the threads at SMX West. You made my day again here. As you know from our conversations, I learned a lot about the real meaning of being social, within our wonderful industry, from you. Thanks and we’ll see you at ‘Advanced in Seattle. Cheers!

  38. Jackie Osborn on March 31, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    This is a wonderful way of writing a statement of what your company is passionate about and how you achieve your succees with out it sounding like a mission/vision statement. Secondly, here at BSI, we are proud to say that we embrace your practices and seeing this captured in writing is very inspiring. We enjoy being the best in our industry for our clients, candidates and staff. Thank you for sharing what should be the standard and has so much to offer for all those who may read this. Bravo!

  39. Marty Weintraub on March 31, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    @Jackie Osborn: Thanks for the comment. We’re glad the ad resonated and very glad to share.

  40. Josh Gill on April 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    This was truly moving information, especially since we are a company in a similar space and always trying to find ways to improve the culture around the office. I really loved the thought of never allowing customers to treat employees badly. We have had a string of that, and have fired every single customer that has done that and never looked back. It has proved to be a great business move. Everyone is happier, and they know we have their back. Thanks for this wonderful piece of work that we will use as a guide for a long time to come.

  41. Monica Wright on April 3, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Marty, you have a fantastic team, there is no doubt about that. I know now why you attract some of the best and talented people around. They are proud to work for you, and that is something you don’t see enough of. I have always said that I would be nothing without the people that have worked with me in the past – you live it. You are an inspiration, and have made Duluth a new mecca for internet marketing.

  42. Marty Weintraub on April 5, 2011 at 7:49 am

    @Monica Wright: Yep, we’re very lucky to have such a great group of pros here. Thanks for the kind words and, yes, we think that we bring a unique perspective to Duluth, Minnesota :). Cheers!

  43. Marty Weintraub on April 5, 2011 at 7:50 am

    @Josh Gill: Yes, human rights are the most important value. There have been so many times where, when someone was treating a team member badly, I thought, “If that’s the business we need to be in, I want another job.” The work environment is sacred. Thank for the thoughtful comment Josh and best of luck with your company.

  44. Terri Perich on April 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Marty- you will continue to go far and grow with this attitude! Proud of you and Laura (and obviously the rest of your team) for where you’ve taken your company! Such great words of wisdom! Thanks for sharing!

  45. Marty Weintraub on April 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    @Terri Perich: Thanks, sweet, I appreciate the sentiment and that you stopped by to comment. Peace :)

  46. Sean Elkin on April 8, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Marty,

    I had lunch with you in Toronto like 5 years ago (or more, can’t really remember). You were obviously in chemo and not quite well, but I really enjoyed our conversation and remembered you before I ever saw you speak or moderate or knew who you were. The skies the limit! Thanks for your optimism and enthusiasm!

    Sean

  47. Gregory Markel on May 4, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Hey Marty, I remember you “when”…proud of ya, me boy! Go get em! – Gregory

  48. Marty Weintraub on May 5, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    @Gregory Markel: Thanks mate! It’s still, “Then” to my mind. :) Hope to see you soon.

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