Jobs are difficult to come by for millennials, so it’s no surprise that many create jobs for themselves as entrepreneurs. Launching a company is not as easy as it sounds and requires tons of hard work, but the rewards are incomparable. With more and more people aspiring to become entrepreneurs instead of working a 9-5, there may be some questions that are overlooked in the process. To give a clear look into the life of an entrepreneur, we connected with Nehemiah Burney-Porter, Founder of Ram Media Group. He runs a digital marketing agency that specializes in maximizing marketing ROI and measuring content effectiveness. Nehemiah recognized value and demand in digital marketing early on, giving him a head start in the industry. He was able to give insight into building a business and what you have to do in order to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
What are some surprises that have risen after the start of your own business?
Honestly, the biggest surprise for me was the amount of legal and tax paperwork that was needed to make the company legitimate. Everything from insurance, corporate quarterly tax reporting and the legal aspects of registering for an LLC. Not to mention figuring out how to pay myself and separate the two incomes. You go from working your job from 9 to 5 and then going home, to having to be an accountant, HR manager and salesperson in your non-working hours.
Another surprise was realizing how fluid I needed to be in my product offerings. I went into business thinking I would just sell my Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics reporting expertise like I did when I was consulting for other companies. But I quickly realized that if I wanted to continue relationships with these clients that I would have to be their go to for any new supplemental tools they were looking at getting into. Essentially, I was already a SME (Subject Matter Expert) at the reporting sides of Google and Adobe but most of these companies need an data strategy SME who is tool agnostic. In less than a year, I had to learn the pros and cons and how to implement at an enterprise level close to 20 different tools all ranging from cloud based data lakes to machine learning implementations.
What are some risks that you have had to take when starting your own business?
The biggest risk that I take over and over again is putting my name or brand on the line to prove my value as an expert. In my industry, people aren’t paying you to get work done, but instead they’re essentially paying you to know more than them on a specific subject. Because of this I find myself going toe-to-toe with very intelligent and powerful people within these companies. And if I’m wrong about something, that’s it. There’s no training or conference they will send me to to get smart on a subject. That contract would be cancelled and they’ll get someone else in there.
I also picked up and moved my life when I signed my first major client because they were 2 hours away and I needed to give them a lot of face time. Its unnerving putting everything on the line with no real safety net. Knowing if it doesn’t work out I would have to move again, or downgrade my life a bit to make ends meet. But honestly that became sort of a driving force for me. Knowing how easily I can lose everything makes me work even harder to stay ahead in this industry.
Have you had to ever make an irrational decision to safeguard your business?
Yes. Before when my biggest client wasn’t enough to go full time with, I got wind that one of my smaller clients were thinking about switching providers so they could get more face time or whatever. Work was good and they were happy with results, but there’s something about southern culture that they want to see you every once in awhile. Anyway, they were meeting with a local agency the next day out in Houston (or so I thought). I bought a last minute plane ticket and popped into their offices to take him to lunch. Come to find out, once I landed I get an email telling me he was working out of the florida offices. So I bought another ticket and that lunch became dinner. Well $1300 and many hours later I was able to keep that $400 a month client. The worst part was a couple of months later I had to let that client go to make time for a bigger one. I don’t know if it all was worth it.
How do you enter an industry and make a lasting impression?
To put it simply, do good work. I was lucky enough to be doing the same exact work for a number of different companies before I branched out on my own. I was already getting recruiting calls on a regular basis and I changed those to sales leads. The Philadelphia data analytics industry is a pretty small tight knit community. So by doing well at a number of different companies, word spreads. The problem is Nehemiah Burney-Porter is already a proven data analyst and business strategist with a strong resume. But Ram Media Group isn’t. That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet. How to take the name that I built for myself in this industry and get my company name to outshine that.
Why do you think business owners fail more frequently?
In my experience, people don’t market themselves well enough to stay afloat. You can have a great product but at the end of the day you need people to buy into whatever you’re selling. It’s not easy and at times you can start to take rejection personally. But once you find your niche or specific target demographic it becomes easier. Or you may have to be open to change the product somewhat to give it an edge. At first I thought I knew my target (smaller ecommerce companies just starting to get into online sales). And I was missing left and right. But then I kept signing large services based companies. The work changed significantly and the pressure of perfection was significantly higher and not exactly what I wanted. But I adjusted and kept working. Learning from failure is a big necessity when trying to go out on your own. A “no” isn’t an “I don’t need this product.” It’s an “I don’t need your version of this product.” Your job as an owner is to figure out and produce what version sells.
Owning a business is not easy, what recommendations would you make to an aspiring business owner?
The biggest mistake you can make when starting out is trying to make something that everyone thinks is great. Find the people you want to sell to and listen to them. A lot of people that have nothing to do with your offerings may try to give you advice, but from a business standpoint they’re not important. Take failure as a learning experience and the biggest thing is don’t give up. There is A LOT you will have to learn along the way that may not have anything to do with your main product but everything to do with running a business. Lastly, you don’t have to be ahead of all the competition, just ahead of your clients’ needs.