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What One Entrepreneur Learned From Starting 22 Companies In 26 Years

What One Entrepreneur Learned From Starting 22 Companies In 26 Years

This week on Agencies Drinking Beer, Kevin and Kyle interview Bill Faeth, CEO of Inbound Marketing Agents, a certified platinum Hubspot partner based in Nashville, Tennessee. Incredibly, Bill has started 22 businesses over his career (dude is only 42!). He shares some of the lessons he’s learned and how he uses those experiences to help his clients at Inbound Marketing Agents. If you aren’t already intrigued, Bill also played professional golf for many years. Have a listen and find out why he’s earned the nickname ‘Wild Bill’.

Bill Faeth may be the CEO of Inbound Marketing Agents now, but he has a lengthy background of success and failures from starting 22 businesses since 1989.

Bill Faeth started his first business, a t-shirt company, in 1989 while he was still in high school and grew it into a $400,000/year business by his senior year.

It would be an understatement to say he caught the entrepreneurial bug at that point, and 22 companies later, he’s the CEO of Inbound Marketing Agents, a full service inbound marketing, content marketing, SEO, and web design firm. Bill’s had quite a ride over the span of those 22 companies.

How Pro Golf Led to the Online Bikini Business

After his high school t-shirt business, Bill went off to university but dropped out after his freshman year to play professional golf. He played for many years, touring across the United States, and 41 countries around the world.

It was on a golf tour to São Paulo, Brazil when Bill met a family who was manufacturing bikinis and Brazilian swimwear out of their mud hut. This led Bill to his second business - selling this Brazilian-made swimwear online.

The challenge was that it was 1996 - the days of dial-up connections and the infancy of e-commerce. There were no off-the-shelf options or plug-ins back then. Bill spent more than $160K to build a website and e-commerce system (insert jaw drop here).

It was his first foray into the online world but 18 months later he had built the business to a million dollars in revenue and it was acquired by Venus Swimwear.

What glow in the dark mini-golf has in common with an agency

Among Bill’s other companies were a chain of restaurants called Wild Bill’s Texas Smokehouse, and Glo Golf, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf courses in 78 locations across North America, a business that he’s still involved with today. Bill says that Glo Golf taught him a lot about how he operates his agency.

How the heck does a retail mini-golf business relate to an agency? Because we have employees, and we have operations. A lot of agencies start to fail because they don’t understand how to streamline operational processes and instead they just look at hours for dollars.

When Bill started his agency 3.5 years ago, he just wanted to be a consultant with his business partner. But 12 days after he set up he got a call from one of the largest ground transportation/limo companies in the US, an industry Bill had worked in previously.

This company became his 3rd client and signed a $24K/month retainer so Bill had to ramp up FAST and get infrastructure in place to service this very large client. With this big name recognition, many other clients followed and Inbound Marketing Agents grew quickly.

Within its first 10 months, Inbound Marketing Agents had 17 employees and grew to $1.1 million in revenue. That rate of growth caused a tremendous amount of issues and profit margins suffered. Fortunately through Bill’s focus on efficiencies and operations, their margins improved from 11% to 31%.

Through Bill’s firsthand experience as a business owner, he’s developed processes for how his agency works successfully with clients of all sizes

  1. Understand the business model

Before Bill and his team make any recommendations on marketing strategies, it is essential that they learn as much as possible about a client's sales process, operational process, and their business model. If they don’t have this foundation down, they can’t provide effective marketing solutions.

That’s where I see a lot of marketing companies just thinking about traditional ways of marketing and they don’t understand fully how that rolls into the other components of a business.

2. Know your numbers

Part of Bill’s process for acquiring a new client is an inbound marketing assessment where clients are asked three things:

  • What’s your average sales price?
  • What’s the lifetime value of a customer?
  • What’s your cost of customer acquisition?

According to Bill, 90% of people who approach their agency for help can’t answer these questions. They want to grow revenue but they don’t know their numbers.

This is a lesson Bill had to learn himself the hard way earlier in his career. Inbound Marketing Agents won’t take on a new client if they don’t these numbers or they’re not willing to learn them.

Whether you end up a client of mine or not, I want to educate people. Hopefully you learn something that will benefit your business just by going through our sales process.

Don’t forget your lost customers

One of Bill’s most successful marketing campaigns that he recommends to his clients is called the “We want you back” campaign. It’s a campaign to recapture customers a business has lost over a certain period of time.

Marketing doesn’t stop at a sales qualified lead or a marketing qualified lead. It stops when that customers DIES. Click to tweet

For Bill, ignoring lost customers is a huge missed opportunity that he claims your competitors are doing nothing about either. They lose a customer and they’re done. He believes every business owner and marketer needs to take advantage of the power of recapturing lost customers.

Other insights you’ll learn from Bill in this interview:

  • The importance of having a mentor (Bill’s had one for every business he’s owned).
  • Why his ultimate goal with every business he starts is to create an employee-owned company.
  • Why he runs his agency like a pasta-manufacturing company.
  • How Bill’s upbringing planted the seed for his entrepreneurial spirit.

    Which of Bill’s points resonated with you?
    Have any lessons you’d like to share as a business owner?
    We’d love to get your feedback on this interview!
Proposify Biz Chat

About the show

The Proposify Biz Chat is hosted by Kyle Racki, co-founder and CEO of Proposify proposal software. Each week, Kyle chats with friends and special guests about tips and strategies to help entrepreneurs, startups, and agencies grow profitable businesses.

author bio

About Kyle Racki

CEO of @proposify. Product designer and podcaster. Dad to two beautiful boys. Karaoke superstar. Freed cultist. Batman enthusiast. Follow me on Twitter

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