My 20 Biggest Lessons Of 2018 As A Small Business Owner

My name is Mike and I run a Digital Marketing Agency that first opened this time last year.  2018 was an up and down year for Precision Digital Media, but overall—I took away HUGE insights about how to run a successful marketing company in 2019. Even though the insights are specific to my experience, I have worked with hundreds of small and medium sized business owners—and I have noticed certain reoccurring themes that come up again and again. Here is a shortlist of the lessons I learned in 2018.michaeloverzat_precision_digital

  1. Not Paying Myself
  2. Expecting Too Much In Too Little Time
  3. Thinking Product Will Sell Itself
  4. Approaching Trade Like Amateur Rather Than Professional
  5. Not Keeping Metrics on Sales, Marketing, or Product Delivery
  6. Not Analyzing The Market For Correct Pricing
  7. No Budget for Advertising
  8. Thinking Too Damn Small (Closed Box Mentality)
  9. Indecisive
  10. Don’t Know Target Audience
  11. Don’t Know Competition
  12. Hiring Bad People or Wasting Time Trying to Hire at Wrong Time
  13. Underestimating Value of Existing Customers
  14. Not Offering Low-Risk Offers Like Giveaways or Novelty Items
  15. Wrong Niche or Concentrating On One Niche
  16. Not Managing Time
  17. No Participation in Community
  18. Unfaithful to CRM Wife
  19. Bad Website/Underestimate the Power of Internet
  20. Not Willing to Automate


No Paying Myself

After starting my company at this time in 2017, perhaps the biggest mistake I made with my company last year was not paying myself… Like literally, I didn’t make sure I had a separate account from my business account.

Huge F*cking Mistake!

Excuse my french…

I am saying this as a serious warning to all the new entrepreneurs out there:


This theme comes up again and again on this list.

Whether it’s Quickbooks, Zohobooks, or some accounting app, if I had systemized and automated the accounting process early on, then I could have spent way more time doing what I do best: Marketing and Sales!

2. Expecting Too Much In Too Little Time

Building a powerhouse brand that customers fawn over takes an immense amount of time and money… And money is really just energy… I was not prepared for the rollercoaster of sleepless nights, headaches, heart aches, betrayals, disappointments, and so many more tumultuous emotions that I’d soon experience over the coming year… Now I don’t want to falsely claim like it was all vinegar and garlic—that there wasn’t those cloud 9 high points… But I’m not going to kid myself. As young man trying to start a multi million dollar business, I was not ready for all this sh*t.

And unless you are ready to give up your freedom to your customers, toss away those weekends with the drinking buddies, prematurely give up what should be the golden years of your life—run the other way, fast!

This entrepreneur business is no f*cking joke.

Be ready for hell. You got to be ready to give 110% and some.

In 2019, I am committed to going to tons of events, making a blog post daily like this to send to my customers, create Youtube Videos weekly, run massive social and email campaigns, on top of all the usual duties of growing a business; cold calling, handling customer service complaints, delivering products, CRM data entry, hiring employees, and on and on.

Hellweek is 52 weeks a year. Any entrepreneur who wants to be successful in this cut-throat marketplace better get use to it fast.

3. Thinking Product Will Sell Itself

I got nothing against HVACers, or roofers, or people in the service industries. In fact, I concentrated on these niches almost exclusively in 2018 because I felt sorry for many of these guys’ inability to sell their own products. Concentrating on these industries was a mistake I made that I’ll go into more detail later (Mistake number 15)… Seriously, I felt sorry for these guys because they are great mechanics/handymen but boy do they suck at selling their products. They have this mentality like the customer is supposed to come to them. Like the moment the customer’s AC goes down, there is this Batman distress light that appears in the sky telling the customer to call their company… If it worked like that, there’d be no reason for Home Advisor or Google Adwords… I watched several of these companies go out of business because of the inability to sell and bring awareness to their company’s services. Even if they are the best and most fair priced HVACer, I’ve watched these guys get beat down by the market because they don’t understand the importance of outbound sales or even customer maintenance programs.

I had one young entrepreneur like me from New York that I invested an immense amount of time into, even convincing him to leave his stable job as a refrigerator tech to go out on his own. He saw great success through traditional sales method, cold calling restaurants, setting up deals left and right from only a short time on the phones… But as the AC season winded down, and the inbound sales slowed down, I saw him start to panic and consider going back to his former employee. Too keep a long story short; he caused me much grief and financial damages when he backed out of a $4500 website contract. Now you can’t even find his company anywhere on Google, which tells me he went back to his old employer and gave up on trying to sell his own services.

Anybody who thinks a product will sell itself should never go into business. Cases like Apple Iphones where everybody lines up in the streets to buy it are RARE occurrences. The rest of us need to work tirelessly and sell endlessly to secure our business’ future.

4. Approaching Trade Like Amateur Rather Than Professional

Do I even need to say more? In my business, if I stop learning for a single day, there is a new google update that totally changes how SEO works… The worst thing that could happen to my business is getting left behind in the dust of old SEO algorithms and outdated programs. You know what happens when you approach your trade like an amateur?

You turn out like Blockbusters!

While Netflix and Redboxes blow up the scene. 

5. Not Keeping Metrics on Accounting, Sales, Marketing, or Product Delivery

The big boys measure everything. Look at professional athletes: they want to know how high is their vertical, how fast are they running the 40 yard dash, how much can they lift… That’s no difference with business. If I would have been more focused on our major KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), then we could have saved a lot of headaches.

Just a few examples:

Sales—Total cold calls, total follow up calls, what stage in the deal, lead source, wins by lead source, total number of appointments, total number of demonstrations, total number of sales, lead conversion rate, appointments vs. closes, average lead response time, etc.

Accounting—expenses, overhead, reoccurring payments, bills, payroll, investments, projections, etc.

Delivery—Our problem was that we kept giving our product away. And part of that reason was we were focusing on leads that were not qualified in the first place to buy our product. That’s why it is so important that in 2019, we keep metrics on all the KPIs… That will tell us how to price our products fairly.

7. No Budget for Advertising

Because our approach wasn’t systemized, we kept running into cashflow issues. In fact, most businesses run into cashflow issues… Even the big ones… Then when it came down to it to reinvest into advertising, there was no money there. Systemize. Systemize. Systemize. Everything from Accounting to how many minutes a day you’re spending in the bathroom. This is the path to explosive growth. And there is no way we or any other business can stay competitive without extensive inbound and OUTBOUND (Advertising) efforts in 2019.

It won’t be long before ad prices on Facebook and Instagram are triple what they cost now just like when Amazon was buying up Google ads for pennies on the dollar back in the day. The time is to move is now!

8. Thinking Too Damn Small (Closed Box Mentality)

The closed box mentality is called a closed box for a reason. It sticks the mind into a one-track way of thinking. This is the problem I faced in 2018… I was always thinking about the next customer, getting that person locked down. Not thinking in terms of how can I serve my existing customer base, build my brand, and create a culture around me. No more of that garbage in 2019. This is the year that the culture around me will blow the f*ck up. Watch!

9. Indecision

I use to think I was indecisive, but now I am not sure.


The funny part isn’t what indecision cost my business in 2018. I was hesitant to make investments that I knew my staff and I needed, and it cost my business HUGE.

I shouldn’t have wasted time on what I knew needed to be done. Because now I have made those moves already, and it would’ve been so much profitable to make those decisions 5 months ago.

Business is this funny thing like a moving train… You have your shot to jump on it when it’s rolling by, but one moment of hesitation could end up costing you your chance, or even worse: you slip, fall under the train tracks, and get ripped into a bloody mess.

10. Don’t Know My Target Audience

My customer was like this elusive character from Alice In Wonderland when I first started PDM. I knew that they were business owners, but I didn’t know what kind. I knew they had an ad budget, but I didn’t know how much. I knew they needed websites, and review generation, and leads, but I didn’t know where to find them.

This all goes back to approaching the trade like an amateur. The amateur guesses, so he is never sure. The professional is like the cold hard assassin. All he needs is one shot and he kills his prey.

In 2019, I’m the assassin of anybody in my target audience. If you’re a small to medium sized business owner who is trying to scale, you will remember my name!

11. Don’t Know Competition

I learned a huge lesson about learning my competition when I approached a window company out of Ventura, California. This window shop was being cold called by a much larger digital marketing agency from Arizona.

They told me all the benefits about my competitor, how they had been mailing them stuff for months, and about how great they were. After my first visit, I quietly slipped one of my competitors marketing materials into my binder before leaving…

While I was home, I called the competitor. I pretended I was a window company, Precision Windows. I inquired about their price sheets, their features, the benefits. I gathered all the information and hung up on the rep when I got what I wanted (later they tracked my number and found out who I really was and threatened me with legal action).

When I went back to the window shop, I had tons of ammunition. I showed them their products, compared them to ours, and pretty much had the sale rapped up. When the owner said he doesn’t know who to chose, that the other company has been calling and building rapport for months, I very simply replied, “Who is the one that is visiting you in person?”

That sealed the deal.

But most importantly I learned the value of researching my competitors.

12) Hiring Malpractice

Early on, I shouldn’t have wasted my time trying to hire people my company didn’t need. All it did was frustrate me. If you can get someone else in your company to do it, then pay them more.

And studies show that bad hires at the beginning of a startup can tank a business. So all I suggest is take your time before you start your hiring process.

13) Underestimating Value of Existing Customers

Why do people hunt down new leads when they have customers who aren’t on a second product? I actually had customers who were begging for me to put them on a second product—upsell them— and instead I was focusing on new leads. STUPID!

The second sale is the easiest sale you will ever make. But most people—like me—never try to make it.

This is especially true for service industries like HVAC, who never put their customers on a maintenance program for that new, shiny unit they just installed. Money lost.

Lifetime value of customer is a metric you need to track.

14) Not Offering Low-Risk Offers

Imagine this: you want a girl to come over your house for a movie date, but you tell her if you come over I am going to chain the door. This is the equivalency of me trying to sell 5k deals to customers who know nothing about me or my product. It’s insane.

Low-risk offers like free webinars, web downloads, or newsletter materials like this are a low risk way that your customer can interact with you, without feeling the obligation to buy.

People don’t like feeling obligated. So don’t make them!

15) Wrong Niche or Concentrating Too Much On One Niche

This is what I did with the HVAC industry. Then when AC season ended and all the HVACers stopped buying, I was left wondering why aren’t we selling?

I had a lot of success with the HVACers early in the season when they were doing well, ie. beginning of summer when all the AC calls were coming in. Then once the season changed, so did my sales revenue.

I was relying too much on one industry and it was costing me big. Lesson learned.

16) Poor Time Management

Every day, I’d spend too much time on things that weren’t going to bring optimal results. For example, I would eat lunch with a fellow employee. What good is it to eat lunch with a fellow employee when he won’t ever buy my product?

Now I go out to lunch—and I don’t mean like McDonald’s—-I go to higher end restaurants where qualified leads congregate, ie. business owners with money. Even though I spend more for the lunch, I am spending more TIME in front of qualified leads.

Every moment in 2019, I pledge to spend in a optimal fashion. I want to reach the WORLD in 2019. And it starts by breaking down my hours into minutes, my minutes into seconds. That’s how I make the most out of this elusive, fluid thing called time.

17. No Participation in the Community

My clients—business owners—where do they congregate? Do they go to church? Do they attend trade shows? Are they part of the local chambers?

Just like the example of the lunch break, every industry has hotbeds for potential clients. Getting involved in these events—becoming part of a community—is essential to my financial growth in 2019. My calendar is going to be filled up every day, every slot. That’s how I am going to explode in 2019.

18. Unfaithful to my CRM Wife

In 2018, I spent too much time cheating on my CRM with paper-written lead lists, and too little time with my wife Zoho One… It doesn’t matter who your CRM wife is, whether it’s Salesforce or some other. Your CRM is like your other half. It’s going to help you when you forget a name. It’s going to remind you to follow up when you forgot about a prospect. It’s your best friend. And use it, because she will also make you very, very rich.

You know they say, happy wife, happy life.

Happy Customer Relationship Management system, Happy sales team.

19. Bad Website/Underestimating the Power of Internet

Yes, even as a DIGITAL Marketing Company, there were huge things we needed to improve on our website, through our social media campaigns, and with our overall branding/content development. Even we made that mistake.

20. Not Willing to Automate

It’s ironic that the last two in this list are what they are. People are like old dogs: they don’t like change. It’s normal. But as technology is changing moment to moment, things are becoming faster and better and sleeker. It’s critically important that my company—as well as yours—stays up with the times and finds ways to reduce energy on monotonous tasks so more energy can be spent on interpersonal relationships, branding, content development and human interaction. The THINGS That Matter.

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Michael Overzat is the founder of Precision Digital Media. His background started when he worked for a large digital marketing and publishing agency called Action Media. He started Precision Digital as a means of helping small/medium sized businesses increase revenue, hire more, and scale up. He takes pride in seeing these companies grow to the point where they can hire more. Reach him at (301) 364-9388
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