Apr 1, 2021
Technology has enhanced the business world in innumerable ways, and it is largely because of technology that many businesses were able to stay afloat after the COVID-19 pandemic started. However, while technology can do good, it can also hold us hostage. Most people nowadays are constantly checking their email and social media.
“Technology should be your servant, not your master” -Ludovic Tendron
Damon Burton is the author of the book Outrank, which focuses on search engine optimization. Damon is the president of an SEO agency called SEO National that he has run for about 14 years. He writes for Forbes, where he serves on the Forbes Council.
In today’s episode, Damon Burton and I discuss how we can use systems and processes to our advantage by controlling technology and not letting technology control us.
Damon used to work for a man, who was pretty successful but not the best to work with. One Friday night around 7 pm, Damon was out to dinner with his wife, and his boss called him. Damon didn’t answer, so his boss then texted him. Damon didn’t respond. This was at the time when email was new on phones, and his boss also emailed him. Damon decided right then that this was never going to happen again. He deleted email from his phone and has never gone back.
As technology and social media have evolved, Damon has made sure he limits what is on his phone. He is very active on LinkedIn and Facebook, but he only uses them on his desktop. He’s also disabled automatic downloads and dock notifications on his desktop email, so the only time he gets emails is when he manually presses the button. This prevents him from getting distracted by the flood of notifications.
So how does he manage a highly successful business and retain relationships without these forms of communication? Damon says it’s simpler than we might think. From day one, Damon sets expectations with his team and with his clients. In client contracts, it says SEO National is not available after 5 pm on weekdays, they’re not available on weekends, and they don’t do launches on Fridays because if anything goes wrong they won't be working on the weekend.
“I’ve made very clear, hard boundaries, and I’ve never had a problem with it because I set the expectations with the clients.” -Damon Burton
Damon has set boundaries without having issues because he established the expectations with his clients, telling them, “we’re not available at these times but that’s okay because we’re proactively doing other things to make sure everything works.” Because Damon has systems and processes for effective communication, he doesn’t have emergency communications at undesirable times.
Damon grew up in a lower, middle-class family, and they didn’t have many luxuries. So, when Damon took a typing class in junior high, he loved having access to a computer. He embraced all the opportunities he could to learn about technology. When Damon was in 9th grade, he was in an “exclusive class” with just six or seven other students. Graphic design and website builder technology had started to come out, and the class was able to use it to design things such as the school lunch menu.
In high school, Damon was learning HTML for the first time, and he loved it. He had the opportunity, with half a dozen other students who all knew HTML, to do the school district’s website.
In college, Damon took a communications class that had a project where students had to build an HTML website. Damon didn’t want to work hard on this website only to have it deleted off the school’s server later. He asked his professor if he could buy a domain and do the project there. Damon’s professor said that was fine, so Damon set to work creating this website.
At the time, he was a big car enthusiast, so he would stop nice cars he saw while driving and keep a little info sheet in his car. He’d ask the owners about the car, the make, model, and what modifications they’d made. Then on his website, Damon created little bios for the cars. The site started to pick up traction, especially when he added a message board. Damon wanted to make it better, and that’s when he took an intentional interest in design. As the site continued to grow, the movie The Fast and the Furious came out, which grew the market more. Damon thought. “how do I monetize this” and that’s what led him to marketing.
For the next couple of years, Damon began building websites on the side. He got better and better at it, to the point where he was spending about 20% of his time on it, while it brought in 50% of his income. He decided to leave his day job and start doing websites full time. Within 3 months of devoting all his time to websites, he was able to make more than he had made in his previous job.
Damon grew the business, bringing on an employee. A company asked him if he would consider consolidating with their company, and Damon learned that if he wanted to sell, buyers wanted a business with documented processes to take the keys and drive. He declined the offer and spent the next year documenting everything. After that, his company was immediately scalable, as it brought on more people and signed bigger contracts.
For Damon, being an entrepreneur is what he’s passionate about. He has other interests, but entrepreneurship is what he truly loves. Because of this, he is able to divide his time between his family and his work. He puts his family first, setting aside time for them.
Now, it’s been about 14 years since Damon started his business. He is at the point where he could leave the business, but he doesn’t know if he wants to. He is still passionate about the business he’s built. He loves networking, building relationships, and finding opportunities. However, part of him wants to take a break to find himself again. Entrepreneurs can often lose themselves a little bit in the process, and Damon wants to reconnect with himself. Another part of him wants to try something totally different, a new adventure.
One of the things Damon is most proud of in his career is that he can separate his work and family life and not feel like he is missing out on one while he is doing the other. He is able to block time out from about 7:30 to 8:45 every morning to eat breakfast with his kids or walk them to school, depending on the weather. He is also able to do the same thing from 3:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon when he walks or drives to school to pick them up.
Damon was able to work with the Utah Jazz team store and help the NBA team increase their merchandise sales. This was special for him because when Damon was a kid he was a part of the Junior Jazz, a youth basketball league. He also remembers going to his first Utah Jazz game when he was young.
Shortly after Damon finished his process documentation, the company got its first 5-figure monthly recurring retainer. Damon wouldn’t have been confident bidding on that client if he hadn’t done his process documentation. Because he had done that, he could confidently bid on it, knowing he would be able to fulfill that promise and build a good reputation.
Thank you so much Damon for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
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