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A digital marketing CEO explains why he left his 9 to 5 to start his own business

Via Business Insider : Starting a new business is never easy and doing it while having a full time job, a young growing family and the stress of living in an expensive city just adds to pain.

For me being an entrepreneur is built in, I don’t have to learn how to be one, I just am one to the core. My mother recently told me that my sister is looking for an apartment but can’t afford one in a certain area.

I told her to have her rent one in a place where she can afford it and AirBnB it out. Make enough off that to cover two apartments and boom. That just how I was born to think.

When I ran my own web design business, IT support company, eBay business, seo company, graphic design business, construction company and real estate website at the same time while having a full time job, I knew I was doing something wrong because it’s not humanly possible for someone do that and be successful at all of it.

The way I was able to graduate from a 6 figure income to a 7 figure income was to find the right partner and to focus my energies into one business. That is exactly what happened when I met my current business partner.

He asked me what I love doing most when he met me and I kept promoting all my businesses to him. I realized that it wasn’t about what business I was excited about but I was excited about promoting things. I was passionate about promoting ideas, businesses, concepts and more.

I get really excited when I get other people excited about something. We also all agree that I am a huge nerd. I spend hours in stores like FRY’s electronics. For me it’s like I become a kid in a candy store.

Once I realized that it was about focusing on one business, It was really hard to let go of all the money I was making doing little things. Running the advertising for a website that made me a few thousand a month, running my real estate website, running my web design company, my IT company. I was getting paid real money for all those things not to mention my full time job where I made 6 figures on that alone and had great benefits like health insurance and paid time off.

joe_apfelbaum_and_brandon_webb
Joe Apfelbaum and Brandon Webb of the Entrepreneurs Organization of New York.

I really needed next level and that meant giving up on current success for the next level of success. Its a huge risk but I was willing to take it because I knew that I can always go back to doing those other things again. Hard work? No problem, I love hard work. My mother and father taught to me love working hard. I work hard because its how I am wired.

In my construction business where I assembled outdoor huts for 400 clients during the Succot holiday in Brooklyn I was super excited to show my 12 employees how to work hard. How to break a sweat, how not to stop for a second, how to give out flyers and hustle while we wait for the homeowner to pay and tip us.

Many of my employees went out on their own and opened their own businesses but realized it was harder than it looked. When they called me, I told them there is no easy way out. Its all about hard work, embrace it and turn the pain into pleasure. Tell yourself a different story.

After watching my mother struggle with her business for over a decade and eventually go out of business after a robbery, I knew I wanted to build a company that had residual income but my web design company did not provide that. I built a website for a client and that was it.

But my SEO clients stayed with me for years. Every Time Google changed its algorithm, I would reverse engineer it and learn what to do to get my clients to the top. It was fun for me. A game that never ended and it paid really well. I decided to do this for companies and in June 2009 we acquired enough clients on our new SEO marketing plan that I took the plunge.

google

I went to the CEO of the luxury watch company I worked for and told him that my side business is taking off and I am making more money on the side than at the job. I asked him for his advice. He told me that I should leave and he would become my biggest client because he respected me so much. I was thrilled with that idea because the same thing happened with the three jobs I had before, they all become clients eventually.

I would attribute growing one of the fastest growing digital marketing companies in America to 3 things that I now tell everyone I know.

Embrace Failure – Most people don’t try new things because they are afraid they will fail. From a young age we were born to fail so stop trying to change nature and fail like its hot. When you fail enough and you learn from each failure you will be able to success. You need to fail many times and you only need to succeed once to really be successful. Once you succeed you know what works and you need to do the second thing.

Focus Like Crazy – There one thing that I learned about myself and most entrepreneurs that have an attention problem. We cannot focus on things naturally, its kind of again our nature. Even to sit and write this article right now, I feel like going to Costco and checking out the electronics but I decided to plow through this.

I went to the CEO of the luxury watch company I worked for and told him that my side business is taking off and I am making more money on the side than at the job. I asked him for his advice. He told me that I should leave and he would become my biggest client because he respected me so much. I was thrilled with that idea because the same thing happened with the three jobs I had before, they all become clients eventually.

I would attribute growing one of the fastest growing digital marketing companies in America to 3 things that I now tell everyone I know.

  1. Embrace Failure – Most people don’t try new things because they are afraid they will fail. From a young age we were born to fail so stop trying to change nature and fail like its hot. When you fail enough and you learn from each failure you will be able to success. You need to fail many times and you only need to succeed once to really be successful. Once you succeed you know what works and you need to do the second thing.
    Focus Like Crazy – There one thing that I learned about myself and most entrepreneurs that have an attention problem. We cannot focus on things naturally, its kind of again our nature. Even to sit and write this article right now, I feel like going to Costco and checking out the electronics but I decided to plow through this.
  2. Focus is a skill and you need to practice it to become good at it. Meditation especially guided meditation helps build focus. If you can focus you can really build up your skills. Im not talking about hyper focusing at crunch time, we are great at that, im talking about focusing way in advance and focusing each day on the most important thing to get you to your goal
  3. Relationships Are Everything – Everything I have in life right now comes from my relationships. My kids are from my relationship with my wife, my business is from the relationship with my partner and my investors. My faith as a Jew comes from my relationship with Hashem. The 1000+ clients that we served at Ajax Union all came from building relationships with them one at a time and growing those relationships. The bigger your business the more it depends on relationships. Learn to be great at that.

focus

I recently asked 25 of my closest friends in business what they think my special skill is, most of them answered relationships, I really take my relationships seriously and spend TIME our biggest asset on each and every relationship that I want to proactively build.

Joe Apfelbaum is the CEO and CO-Founder of Ajax Union, A digital marketing agency in Brooklyn NY. He is a certified Google Trainer and has spoken to over 10,000 business owners over the past 3 years. A founding board member at Entrepreneurs Organization in Brooklyn and most proud of his kosher busy foodie wife and 4 wonderful children.

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