Brock Murray is the co-founder of Seoplus+, a Canadian digital marketing agency serving clients globally. He started the business in 2012 as a web design and online marketing firm that evolved into a full-service digital agency.
Brock also kicked off Seoplus+ with a friend and business associate, Eddy Abounehme. They had worked together previously in IT, and they partnered up to create a web design firm. They didn’t know where it would go, but with Eddy’s mentorship and advice and Brock’s digital marketing skills, they saw the potential of growing their business to be a leader in their industry.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Brock to discuss his journey as an entrepreneur, and here’s what went down:
When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?
Since I was a young child, I remember having an entrepreneurial spirit. I come from a family of entrepreneurs – my aunt, uncle, and grandfather all had their own businesses. This gave me the insight and opportunity to help them in their business, all the while setting the stage for me to do the same.
Even at the young age of 9, my sister and I created AMBRO’s community newspaper (Amanda + Brock). She would write articles about anything from the Spice Girls to the Ottawa Senators to book reviews, and I would go door-to-door around the neighbourhood to sell issues and pitch local businesses to have their business cards included in our issue.
Coincidentally my sister Amanda is the General Manager at seoplus+, so we have continued the trend of creating content and helping local businesses in our community.
How did your life look like before being an entrepreneur?
Before being an entrepreneur, I worked for many businesses in various roles. I did everything from telemarketing (cold calling), media (cameraman and audio technician) for local sports teams, for a local IT firm, as well as doing freelance web design for customers in various industries.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
The thing that motivates me the most is helping people. Nothing is more rewarding than hearing from a business owner or marketing team that I have helped them grow their business. That ties directly into our company mission to make life better for our team and our clients.
In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why.
It’s all about growth – both personally and professionally. You need to grow as an individual, looking for ways to improve and keep up with trends and opportunities. As a business, if you aren’t growing, you are dying. At times it can be uncomfortable, but this is when you are truly growing. So be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
What were your top three motivations for starting your business?
My top three motivations for starting a business were:
(1) Following my passion. I love digital marketing, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
(2) To be my own boss. Being a Leo, I am a natural leader, and I always wanted to lead a team.
(3) Control my destiny. I always envisioned being a part of something big, which would give me freedom later in life.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
The key elements for starting a business are:
- Have a plan. Conduct market research and be real about the opportunity, so you don’t fly blind.
- Build an amazing team. Have a strong vision, mission, and values that your team can get behind. Build a strong culture and get buy-in to ensure company success.
- Know your strengths and leverage them. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so be sure to look for ways to make the most of your strengths and have others care for areas where you aren’t as strong.
8) What are three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
The three biggest challenges I faced in growing the business were:
- Building predictable revenue. Initially, we launched as a web design firm. This was a challenge as web projects are typically a one-time/project-focused revenue model versus recurring. We wanted to create a predictable, recurring revenue model that would allow us to grow consistently while having the cash flow to fuel that growth. So we pivoted to create a new brand and service offering that allowed us to do just that.
- Creating demand. When I started the business, I had very few connections – my business network was very small. I had to find a way to create demand for a service (SEO) that many businesses didn’t even know existed. They most certainly didn’t have the budget for it. I started by leveraging any contacts I did have, attended networking events, got involved in the community, and bit by bit, was able to get bigger and bigger clients by being a trusted resource for businesses.
- Building a strong culture. Roughly five years into the business, we had a rough patch with staff turnover. For a company of approximately 15 people, we lost about 5 in about a month. At first, I took it personally. Where did I go wrong? What did I do? The biggest thing was the lack of clarity and communication around our mission, vision, and values. We then clearly defined these, lived them out daily, and included them in everything we did. I committed to leading by example – day in and day out. This was a turning point in our business, and we haven’t looked back since.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
What is beautiful about our business is we practice what we preach. Our core service offering is SEO, so we led with just that and dominated locally first (for terms like “SEO Ottawa”) and eventually ranked for national terms (“SEO Services”, “SEO Canada”), which generated countless business opportunities for us. At this point, we generate a ton of referral business – where our clients refer their associates to us. We care deeply about our clients, and we always go the extra mile.
As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leaderships lessons you have learned?
The most important leadership lesson I learned in business is always to evaluate challenges with the “people versus process” question. If there is ever an issue, problem, or challenge, always ask: was the issue related to a (broken) process or people (problem). Typically managers/owners tend to look at the people first versus asking how we can fix the process to protect the employee and the customer. When you make incremental improvements to your processes, this helps improve the customer experience, enabling you to scale your business and helps protect your employees.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I ever received in business was to read Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling.
The book taught me to win business by being a trusted expert, network myself, the business of being a thought leader and around personal branding. It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.
This helped push me to deliver presentations at industry events and attend networking events, which took a ton of energy but has paid dividends over the years.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
The advice I would give to a newbie entrepreneur setting up their first business is to follow your passion. Being a business owner is a rollercoaster. The highs are high, and the lows are low. When you are following your passion, this helps you through the tough times. I am a huge fan of the quote, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”