Matt Certo serves as the CEO & Principal of Findsome & Winmore, an Orlando, Florida-based digital marketing agency. He's also the author of Found: Connecting with Customers in the Digital Age. Originally called WebSolvers, the company’s first client was his alma mater, Rollins College, where at the age of 19 he put the college's website together in his dorm room and it was a big hit!.
If you're looking for consistent inspiration and savvy, feel free to get into his pipeline for free at www.MarketingTipMonday.com where he sends out one powerhouse marketing tip per week to his growing and thriving audience. That said, in this interview Matt shares with us his entrepreneurial journey about starting a digital marketing agency before the digital age began; a spirited man who's still overcoming the odds for himself and his clients.
What motivated you to start Findsome & Winmore? How did the idea come about?
I originally started the company in 1995 as a website development firm called WebSolvers. At that time, there wasn’t much to digital marketing but I saw the need for small businesses and non-profit organizations to create websites as the Web became more and more integral.
At the age of 19, I knew enough about marketing and technology to know that the internet was going to be big! We changed the name years later to reflect the breadth of services and practices that we wanted to embody well beyond website creation.
Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest? How did you find it and ‘niche down’?
We look for all sorts of ways to capitalize on how we’re different. For starters, we’ve got a whole lot more digital history and experience than most any competitor. We’ve been here since digital marketing started. That makes us more competitive than a traditional agency trying to “figure out” digital.
Second, we think our approach to strategy is grounded in a variety of disciplines, including what we know about successful marketing tactics and our ability to quickly size up a client’s struggles and opportunities. Furthermore, the diversity of our almost 30-person team gives us depth in a variety of areas not known to smaller agencies - we’re small enough to be nimble yet big enough to have scale and leverage to bring to client engagements. That also makes us competitive!
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you are most proud of?
The fact that it’s a blank canvas every day and you get to paint on it; dream about possibilities, apply your own talents and passions to the craft, and do what you love to do. Mostly, though, it’s the opportunity to work with exceptional people both internally and within the offices of our clients.
What's the toughest decision you’ve ever made when starting a business? How did it make you better at the end of the day?
Probably the first time I had to let someone go that wasn’t performing. It helped me realize that regardless of your efforts to help someone, sometimes you aren’t the fit for them and vice versa. It made me better at hiring and set that person on a course to find a position better suited for him.
How did you find the time and money to get Findsome & Winmore off the ground? Any advice for entrepreneurs with minimal time or resources?
I was young and without a family when I started (as well as in school), so I didn’t need a whole lot of money to live. I saved everything I made and took out a $10,000 loan from my father for operating capital. It turned out that we didn’t need much of it, but it helped to serve as a safety net.
I always advise people to start businesses with limited capital requirements and to live simply while starting. I love the story of Mark Cuban living on ketchup sandwiches while starting a company that he eventually sold for over $1 billion!
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you've hit with your business?
Winning awards regarding the health and vibrancy of our workplace. That's been the most gratifying thing. The number one thing I did to get there was to be intentional about culture and relationships. You can never do enough, but it’s important to do all you can in this department.
What does your day-in, day-out look like? Is there any specific habit that's helped you become a better person?
Day-to-day for me is always different. Mostly working with clients and teammates on the day’s challenges and making time for planning. I love the quote that “plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” That holds true.
Who's been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey?
Definitely my Dad, a business professor. He inspired me, encouraged me, help me find clients, taught me about business, and helped me believe anything is possible!
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones?
Always hard for most everyone. I put my faith in Jesus as the number one priority, my personal relationships second, and my work relationships third. I think those things, and maintaining that order, helps to keep me centered and focused on what’s important. Other things work for other people, but that seems to work for me.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Florida today?
Look for pain points in the marketplace that need resolution. Look for unmet needs and voids in your day. Or look to someone doing something and consider how you might do it better. Ultimately, though, you have to be focused on passion. If you don’t have that, you’ll tire quickly.