Apr 26, 2015
That was Jay Feitlinger, a serial entrepreneur and CEO and Founder of StringCan Interactive, a digital marketing agency in Phoenix. In this episode I talk to Jay about some of his biggest successes, failures, lessons learned, and how he takes calculated risks to take his business to the next level.
A common thread throughout Jay’s entrepreneurial journey was having to contend with skeptics…people who thought his ideas or the direction he was taking was crazy and wouldn’t work. Jay often plowed forward anyways, but not without the right amount of due diligence first and building a solid foundation.
Jay went from corporate America to entrepreneurship, first launching a pet grooming franchise, but quickly learned it was not his passion.
Following the pet grooming stint, he got into a few other businesses launching a publishing business focused on real estate, but timing was not on his side. The launch happened to coincide with the crash of the real estate market, and though he was passionate about the industry, a successful business requires more than just passion alone. But what came next, Jay considers one of his bigger wins.
“I was doing a lot of consulting for some larger retail organizations, and this was when social media started getting really popular,” Jay said. “I started recommending my retail clients get involved there, and ended up launching a business called Site Tab. We were one of the first social commerce applications for business launched.”
He sold that company and used the funds to fast track his next business….his current business StringCan Interactive, which he launched in 2010.
“That’s really the main focus of my energy today where I’m leveraging all of my backgrounding marketing and sales and trying to disrupt the whole digital marketing landscape,” he said.
Beyond the hiring, what were some of the other challenges Jay faced in the early days of StringCan?
“One challenge was that no one heard of our company, there are more than 800 agencies in Arizona alone, but also my main service offering was one that was one that was very uncommon to sell,” he said. “The good news is that also differentiated us.”
Calculated Risk and Reward
Over the years Jay has grown StringCan significantly, working with major brands, and even expanding the company into the European market. But during these periods of massive growth, how did he know the risk would pay off? It goes back to due diligence and building a solid foundation.
Jay and his team went out there and did a trial, got positive feedback, met with other agencies out there and closed the largest European cruise company. Once they worked with that company and validated the idea, set up a different entity and have been building up operations in Paris over the course of the last year. But it wasn’t easy, they had to acclimate to the way business was done there, but they took the time to do that.
“You really want to vet and validate your expansion strategies before you invest a ton of money and time,” he said. “Just because you believe this idea is going to be a goldmine, almost like the Midas touch, that isn’t always the case.”
Taking the time to validate this idea of expanding into an international market enabled Jay and his team to build something they are proud of. That isn’t to say they didn’t have their skeptics…
“When I launched it I got a lot more negative feedback from people thinking I’m absolutely crazy,” he said. “But we figured out what the gaps were there and we knew we had a solid solution to solve it.”
Running a business of scale, and now an international office, requires a lot of work and achieving balance can be a challenge. Jay said finding balance has been a work in progress over the years, but one strategy he implements is finding his MIT (most important thing) each morning and tackling it before anything else.
“You find yourself as an entrepreneur…all you’re seeing is opportunity out there,” he said. “My first few businesses…I pull all-nighters all the time. It can be very hard to stay focused. But I”m only going to be of value to my team and my clients if I’m healthy and focused on the right things. So I decided to build this thing personally, called MITs…most important things.”
The idea of tackling your most important thing or your ONE thing has been around for some time. In fact there’s a famous quote by Mark Twain that says, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” And William James, who has been called the father of American psychology, noted there’s nothing as fatiguing as an uncompleted task.
Fast forward several decades and we have books like “Eat That Frog!” by Brian Tracy and “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller - all based around the notion that if you do your most difficult task…the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on, doing so will give you energy and momentum for the rest of the day. Not doing it can crush your productivity. So follow Jay’s advice, set your more important thing and tackle first thing in the morning. It’s one of the best ways to kickstart your energy and momentum for the rest of the day.
I recently started using Sanebox and fell in love with it. It basically works on top of your email account to help prioritize important emails and summarize the rest. It enables one-click unsubscribes, response tracking - notifying you when an email you sent hasn’t been replied to so you can follow up, you can also snooze non-urgent emails, and filter out any unimportant emails. It works across all devices and platforms, basically fitting in seamlessly with everything you’re currently doing, but helps you get to inbox zero!
Quote of the Week: “The man who goes the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-think boat never gets far from the shore. ~ Dale Carnegie
Thank you to Jay Feitlinger for sharing his challenges, successes and lessons learned. To connect with Jay or StringCan find them on any social network…and they’re easily found on all of them…they are an interactive marketing company after all. Or head to successlab.fm for the link. The music in this podcast is “Float” by The Lab Rats and “They Just Don’t Know” by Gyft. And for those of you keeping track this was episode 41. Now get out there and eat that frog!