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In this Interview, Andrew Martinez explains why having an online presence for your business is more important than ever

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Andrew Martinez interview

Andrew Martinez is a known WordPress expert. In this interview, he talks about his entrepreneurial journey, why having an online presence during this pandemic is a must and about his upcoming bootcamp.

Andrew, Thank you for talking with us. Entrepreneurship is not new to you. However, before your current venture, you had the taste of entrepreneurship on various occasions. A few mildly successful ones and a few failures. Tell us something more about your journey.

Thank you for having me. It was around 2007 when I was introduced to the world of entrepreneurship. I was attending church with my girlfriend at the time, and another member of the congregation gave me this newsletter from a nutritional network marketing company and asked me to consider the opportunity. It talked about the benefits of having a home-based business and also had some suggested reading.

One of the books from that suggested reading list was Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad . I found the title very intriguing and ordered a copy for myself from Amazon. After I finished reading it, I felt it was the most eye-opening book I ever read.

I remember thinking to myself “wow it would be nice if they taught this kind of stuff in school!” In a nutshell, society programs us that the path to success is to go to school, get good grades, graduate with honors, find a good-paying job with benefits, and then look forward to retirement after ~40 years of working. Unfortunately, it does not always work like this.


Ever since I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and eventually his other book Cashflow Quadrant, I just knew that I did not want to work for someone else forever. Instead of working for my money, I wanted to eventually have my money and other resources working for me. I did eventually decide to give that nutritional network marketing company a try.

However, in less than a year I ended up quitting as it was a challenge to recruit others. I ultimately lost money from that business opportunity.

Over the next few years, I also attempted a few other ventures such as real estate bird dogging (locating properties for other investors for a referral fee), affiliate marketing (making money selling other people’s products), freelancing, and creating my own products.

With real estate bird-dogging, while I was able to maintain a buyer’s list (of investors ready to pay cash on the right deal), it would be an ongoing challenge finding deals for those investor buyers.

Then in 2012, I came across an online ad about an affiliate marketing online course. The basic premise of the course was to create a self hosted WordPress blog where you picked a niche, produced relevant content for that niche, strategically inserted affiliate links here and there, and also encourage people to sign up for your email list.

I invested in this affiliate marketing course. This is where I also first learned about the benefits of a WordPress website in addition to email marketing. When I was going through this course and building my WordPress website, I became fascinated with the whole website creation process.

Ever since then, I have taught myself more about web design, web development, and online marketing via platforms like Codecademy and Udemy. That affiliate marketing course from 2012 really kicked off my career in online entrepreneurship.

In 2014 I took on my very first client project – creating a website for a local makeup artist. It was such a huge thrill to have another person pay me money to put my techie skills to work. This also taught me an important lesson: it’s ok if you’re not a total expert at something. As long as you’re a step ahead of your audience (further along than them), and they are gaining genuine value from you, then this is all that matters.

I then eventually came up with my own website Powerful Digital Solutions where the focus would be helping service-based solopreneurs, startups, and other non-techie entrepreneurs establish their online presence.

For a while, I was doing this as a side hustle while working another full-time job. In October 2017 I made the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship and became a full-time WordPress Website Consultant. For a while, I had a steady flow of client projects including referrals. Eventually, I had a dry spell and realized I needed to make some adjustments. I also came across some resources about “productizing” your service and how freelancers can turn what they do into a digital product.

I remember one day I joined this Facebook group for people considering creating their own online course. When I made my introductory post and mentioned how I’ve considered making a course that would teach others how to build their own WordPress website, I got quite a bit of feedback.

Although I had not yet begun any official market research, a number of people commented and asked if I planned on releasing soon. Another person talked about the frustrations she had with making her own WordPress website. From that point on, I knew that I had to create a course.

Another milestone in my entrepreneurial journey was when I read Choose by Ryan Levesque. This book is all about teaching you how to pick your niche (one that is willing to spend money).

I remember this one part in the book that talked about the best types of business for your personality style. For instance, if you’re an introvert by nature then selling infoproducts and/or memberships would best suit you.

If you’re naturally extroverted, then selling coaching and/or live events might best suit you. Although network marketing was not categorized in this context, one could argue that it’s better suited for extroverts.

As an introverted entrepreneur, this insight was huge. This made me realize how it’s important to play to your natural strengths. This inspired me, even more, to work on my online course as well as consider other possible digital products in the future (such as a membership or Kindle book).

As of 2020, in addition to working on client projects, I am also coming up with do it yourself (DIY) resources for those who don’t want to hire someone. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I make sure to play to my natural strengths while outsourcing my weaknesses. I take very much pride in creating beautiful and professional WordPress websites, offering DIY resources, and also offering
relevant affiliate products.

What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor?

When I joined that nutritional network marketing company back in 2007, I was told to make a list of my family, friends, and everyone else I knew and to share the products as well as the business opportunity. It was definitely a challenge finding interested prospects this way.

This made me wonder if I was even cut out for entrepreneurship. Fast forward to October 2017: when I went full time with my side hustle of building websites, it did have its challenges. I had to teach myself how to better manage my time and prioritize my tasks. I also had occasional challenges with finding qualified prospects (especially those who would respect my expertise and not haggle me on price).

After investing in some resources (including a little coaching and mentorship), I learned how to better manage my time, qualify prospective clients, and manage client expectations. Over time I was able to really hone my internal systems and processes for success.

“If a business is not on the internet, the business does not exist at all.” Though a cliche, many businesses miss this point. What are your views on this?

Bill Gates once said “if your business is not on the Internet, then your business will be out of business.” I strongly believe that success leaves clues. When a billionaire shares some form of business advice with you, you might want to listen.

I firmly believe that if a business is serious about their overall long term success, then they need a professional website in place that is fast, secure, and search engine optimized.

A website should be treated like a member of their team: like a sales & marketing rep that works 24/7 to share their brand, serve customers (current & prospective), and ultimately contribute to the bottom line.

Some people might think that a Facebook business page (or other social media page) is all they need. However, since their algorithms can change over time, this can hurt a business’s organic reach. Plus it is nearly impossible to have your own look and feel on a social media page.

Many businesses are reluctant to have an online presence. Some think they are technically not sound to create their business’ digital presence. How justified is their fear? Also, do you think that irrespective of the nature of your business, a solid online presence is a must?

I can see why some businesses might be afraid. Creating a website does involve spending quite a bit of time in front of a computer, and some business owners may not have the time, focus, or concentration to be able to be in front of their computer for an extended amount of time.

Many also simply don’t know about the benefits of a WordPress website and how it makes the website creation process easier. People fear what they do not fully understand. If more entrepreneurs gained at least a basic understanding of WordPress, then they would see that the whole process doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

No matter what type of business you have, a solid online presence is a must for long term success.

People will often visit a business online before visiting in person.

If a business wants to get found on Google by prospective customers, maintain their credibility, and also have that 24/7 sales & marketing rep that never sleeps, then a professional website is needed.

Covid-19 has hit brick and mortar businesses hard. Those who are not adapting to the whole situation are filing for bankruptcy. How do you see the whole situation so far? What strategies can businesses adopt in order to tackle this unprecedented business challenge?

As of May 2020, I am seeing conditions slowly improve. I’ve noticed that more and more businesses are reopening while maintaining social distancing and other precautions.

I feel that this situation is an excellent example of the need to have an online presence in order to better adapt and survive. This whole situation has also been a reminder to me to never rely on just one source of income (nor on just one product/service offering).

Just as individuals should diversify their income, businesses should have an overall diversified strategy (e.g., some restaurants have been selling groceries in addition to prepared meals).

The number one suggestion I could offer to businesses during this time is to figure out how they can innovate and diversify their offerings. If someone runs a service-based business (such as an accountant or barber), maybe they could offer mobile services or somehow productize their service. I know that the online learning industry is a billion-dollar industry and recession-proof.

As part of a diversified business strategy, a small business owner could maybe come up with DIY resources for the public. At the same time, small business owners could use this downtime to audit their business strategy (figure out what has and has not been working before this pandemic) and then make improvements such as giving their website a revamp. In addition to merely surviving this pandemic, businesses should also ready themselves for after this pandemic is done with.

One final point I’d like to make is that many successful businesses were formed during a recession such as Uber and Groupon. This should serve as inspiration to focus more on innovating and less on how bad present conditions are.

You believe that taking your business online should not be a mystery and small businesses should not be looted in the name of making websites for their businesses. Tell us more about your upcoming Bootcamp which demystifies the entire website building process.

My 3 Day Website Planning Bootcamp which begins May 18, 2020 is all about helping service based solopreneurs, startups, and other non techie entrepreneurs make a plan for their online presence.

Whether you just need a basic “online brochure” or something more complex like an online shop, it all starts with a written plan. On Day 1, participants will receive an overview of the website creation process and how it’s not so bad once you get a bird’s eye view of it.

I also cover how WordPress makes it easy for any non techie to create and/or update their own website. On Day 2, participants will receive guidance on creating their own style guide – picking the right fonts and colors for their website and overall brand. They’ll learn how to make their own style guide in the form of a Google Doc.

On Day 3, we’ll get into completing the rest of the “website blueprint.” In addition to knowing what fonts and colors they’ll use, they’ll also have access to a website planning worksheet. This will help nail down their online goals, which web pages they’ll need, and other related questions.

The main goal of my bootcamp is to take participants from feeling lost or overwhelmed about the website creation process to feeling more empowered and having a written blueprint to help determine what direction they’d like to go. People can get more details and reserve their spots for this bootcamp.

Update: “The 3 Day Website Planning Bootcamp has already passed. However, there is an evergreen version of this bootcamp called How to Plan Your Website Blueprint. People can get more details and sign up here.

What suggestion would you give to those businesses who are facing enormous challenges due to the ongoing pandemic?

The number one suggestion I could give is to figure out how you can innovate and diversify your overall business strategy. Current and prospective customers can often help in this regard.

Interview

An Interview with Nicky Moffat, previously the highest ranked woman in The British Army

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nicky moffat interview with times of startups

In this exclusive interview with Nicky Moffat, via The Female Motivational Speakers Agency, discover the secrets to strong leadership and high-performance teamwork. Nicky was the highest-ranking woman in the British army until 2012, when she pursued her passion for workplace performance and became one of the UK’s foremost corporate consultants.

Nicky’s knowledge and extensive experience of leadership, teamwork and inclusion is proven in this insightful interview, where she reflects on the biggest life lesson she learned in the military. Do not miss this exclusive Q&A with Nicky Moffat, a pioneer of corporate excellence.

What is the most important quality of a leader?

“One of the important qualities in a leader is emotional intelligence, the ability to recognise that people process things in different ways and therefore, find ways to bring those people on board. There’s always going to be some people that have the same thinking and motivations that I might have as a leader, but just because the others don’t it doesn’t mean they’re not great employees!

“It just means that I’ve got to find another way to reach them, to give them time to process the change and then to encourage them to come on board with the journey. And of course, sometimes people who take longer to process change are busy reflecting and thinking about change in a way that might be different to me. They can come up with points, ideas, things that can actually make change go better because they have a different perspective.

“When we talk about diversity, it’s not just about Black, White, gay, straight, male, female and so on. It’s about people who lead differently, react differently or think differently.”

During periods of stress, how do you find the motivation to persevere?

“I think one of the things that brings on stress is a loss of control.

“What happens to me – and maybe this is one of the reasons why a career in the army was perfect for me – when I’m under stress, the adrenaline kicks in in a positive way. So I want to engage with it, whatever that thing is that’s stressing me, I want to make a plan. I try to be logical and to think through how to turn a bad situation, into a better situation.

“What I’m effectively doing is I’m trying to gain some semblance of control. And in terms of ownership, I’m trying to own the solution to the problem that I’m experiencing. But I thrive on responsibility, I think I do my best work when I’m under pressure and some element of stress. Sometimes I’ll inspire that by working late to a deadline rather than perhaps starting things earlier!

“And again, it’s important to know yourself, because if by doing that I’m stressing somebody else who process things differently, then I need to be aware of that. That’s a key part of emotional intelligence.”

What advice can you give businesses on how to build high performing teams?

“Building a high performing team starts with the leader. I often refer to something called Mission Command, it’s from the Prussian Chief of Staff many, many years ago.

“I can simplify it into three key areas: firstly, it’s about clarity of direction. A leader must have a clear vision and give direction on what needs to be done by the organisation. People must properly understand what’s being asked of them and why. 

“Secondly, you need to have an environment of mutual trust, where I trust my teams to go and deliver what I’ve set out. They also must trust that they can come to me if there’s, for example, a lack of clarity or insufficient resource. 

“And the third thing is true and full empowerment. So, building a high performing team, if I use Mission Command, is about clarity of direction in an environment and culture of mutual trust, where people are genuinely empowered.

“The other thing about a high performing team is that diversity within the team can add real value. I don’t just mean diversity as in Black, White, gay, straight, male, female. I mean diversity of experience, perspective, insight, culture and capability.” 

The military appears incredibly masculine, did you feel a pressure to fit in and conform to that environment?

“Back in 1985, it was very much a case of wanting to fit in, wanting to prove yourself. You wanted to prove your credibility. You don’t want to let your colleagues down.

“But I certainly found having done that and then having established myself and grown in confidence and knowledge and credibility and so on, I was able to be more myself. I mean, what the military does in training is it sort of breaks you down – and I don’t mean that in a really negative way, it breaks you down so you can contribute as part of an effective team.

“Once you’ve done that and you’ve proved yourself, then the military encourages people to bring their personalities to the fore.”

What was the biggest life lesson you learnt in the military?

“I think in terms of life lessons, again, this was something that came to me over time, and I actually think it’s about self-care. What military people tend to be, not just because it’s ingrained in us and in our training, is very mission focussed mission, hugely focussed on developing our teams and the individuals within it. So we expend a huge amount of our energy on other people.

“And I think it took me some time to realise later on in my career, when I was a Colonel, that I was pushing myself too hard. I remember a particular job when I was working in the Ministry of Defence, I was really focussed on helping to create ministerial endorsed and funded policies that would support our troops on operations.

“And, of course, that’s a really important task. But I put so much energy and effort into that, that I would go home at the weekend exhausted and tired.

“So the biggest life lesson is that if you’re going to be a good leader or deliver your best in any role, then you’ve got to be match fit. And I was most match fit when I made sure I got the balance right between the energy and effort that I was expending on my work and [making time for] rest, recuperation, decompression and some time out.”

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Interview

An Interview with David Malcolm, San Diego Real Estate Magnate

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David Malcolm San Diego Real Estate Professional and Philanthropist

Real estate, often seen as a sound investment, has been a hotter topic than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to record lows to support the economy. As a result, real estate prices have skyrocketed, though the industry is not without its challenges, especially for landlords.

According to a study commissioned by the Southern California Rental Housing Association (SCRHA), San Diego County landlords have lost close to $2.4 billion in unpaid rent since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. To better understand the real estate market as a whole, we recently spoke to David Malcolm, a San Diego real estate expert with over 40 years of experience. Malcolm earned his real estate broker’s license in 1974, held exclusive rights to Rally’s Hamburger stores in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties from 1989 to 1997, and holds the highest professional commercial real estate designation, CCIM – Certified Commercial Investment Member. He currently serves as the President of Cal West Apartments, a trusted provider of quality rental housing in San Diego and South Riverside counties.

You earned your real estate license at a very young age. Looking back, what first inspired you to pursue this particular industry?

President Nixon decided that you should be considered an adult once you became 18 (versus 21) and be allowed to vote. California followed the President’s lead and lowered most requirements (including a real estate license) to 18 years old. One week after my 18th birthday, I was reading the newspaper and saw an advertisement about an upcoming test to get your real estate license. I decided to take the test in April of 1972 and was fortunate enough to pass. Once I had my license, I decided I should try to put it to good use. I immediately fell in love with real estate and the challenges and opportunities it presents. It seems fate (reading a newspaper) led me to real estate versus me pursuing the real estate industry.

What was your biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment as a real estate professional?

When I was 18, I bought my first home with a loan from my grandfather (who charged me 10% interest). After fixing the house up, I sold it and made $5,500. This was an incredible amount of money to me, and I decided right then that this was the business I wanted as a career. I hope I never lose the excitement I experienced in my first transaction and never become too big or important not to savor making $5,500.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

Education! You will never have a greater opportunity than your preparation will allow you to make of it! Getting my Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation was the most important tool in my toolbox.

How has real estate evolved, for better or worse, in San Diego and the surrounding area?

San Diego is one of the best markets in the United States to invest in due to its geographical location. While many cities keep spreading out (think Phoenix or many cities in Texas), San Diego has to consider the Mexico–United States border to the south, the ocean to the west, Camp Pendleton to the north, and mountains to the east. These factors have helped push valuations up faster than most areas in the United States. However, my fear is California is losing the rule of law and property rights; it’s these two cherished items that have made America great, yet they are more endangered now than at any time in my life.

What risks is the real estate industry facing? How do you, as President of Cal West Apartments, and your team, plan to face those challenges?

Once again, the most significant risk for all firms, not just in San Diego County but all of California, is the erosion of property rights and the rule of law. I have a contract with every tenant that the State of California wants to ignore. The state wants to tell my contracted tenants that they don’t need to pay me, and I can’t evict them for non-payment. Funny that the state didn’t say I can now stop paying the government my property taxes, license fees, water bills, etc. The government wants their money but doesn’t care about me getting my money to pay the government, banker, maintenance, landscaping, management, water, gas and electric, insurance, etc. We have stepped up with the real estate industry to help fight the erosion of these important rights that made America the greatest country on earth.

What would you do with unlimited resources?

I would certainly buy more real estate in states that protect the rule of law and property rights. Is it any wonder that the fastest-growing states are states that protect these rights? Resources flow to where the investor can be assured a fair return on investment. Do you want to invest in an apartment building with rent control or an apartment building that doesn’t have rent control? A sixth grader knows the answer to this question, but most of our elected officials can’t figure this out.

How has your profession of choice helped you make a difference in the world?

My profession has allowed me to make more money than I ever dreamed of having. My wife and I are big believers in giving a portion of our success to those who need a hand up vs. a handout. For over 30 years, we have worked hard to move the homeless back into a productive society with dignity. This means tough love at times (something our elected officials refuse to acknowledge). A drug addict or an alcoholic needs tough love, and you can change their lives in a dignified manner if you are willing to do the right thing.

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Interview

An interview with London based Asset Management & Investment expert Fahim Imam-Sadeque

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Fahim Imam-Sadeque interview

Fahim Imam-Sadeque is a business development professional with proven experience in the asset management industry. He has a Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science from the City University of London and is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries. Fahim’s top skills include asset management, hedge funds, investment management, sales, and consultant & client relationship management.

Fahim, Thank you for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

Generally, the best days are when I interact with my clients instead of dealing with administrative matters. When working with my clients as prospective investors, I am helping them solve their problems. My goal is always to be a trusted adviser to my clients because they’ll come to me when they need the products I’m selling. I try not to actively sell them; it’s always a consultative sales process. My best days are when I’m helping my clients, and as a result, they come back to me and talk about my available solutions.

Then my worst days would be when nothing seems to be going right, and nothing we are working on is achieving what we wanted to achieve. I’m sure everybody has days like that, but all I can do is just keep going and trust in my process, and trust that I’ve got a tried and tested process that will work, even when I’ve had a rotten day and I think I’ve done everything wrong. If I keep going, I will, in all likelihood, be successful again.

Who do you enjoy the most working with?

The clients I’ve enjoyed working with the most are those I built up a deep rapport with. I understand where they’re coming from, so it’s not a salesman-purchaser relationship. Instead, it’s very much a trusted adviser relationship, whereby they know that I’m selling a product that can maybe help them solve issues they face. Or they come to me because they can have an intelligent and meaningful discussion about the issues they face.

What was your biggest “aha” moment?

My “aha” moment was when I was being interviewed by my mentor Alberto Francioni back in 2004, and I’d never interviewed for a salesman position before. I thought sales was a dirty word. He explained to me that what I was describing to him in terms of my character set— I was a technical individual, but I wanted to work and talk with clients and not invest money —he said, “Well, then you have the skill set of a salesperson. Everything you described tells me that you are potentially a salesperson of technical products, and I can help train you to be that.”

Suddenly, it all made sense because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t making progress in my existing job. I had all these skill sets, character traits, and qualifications, but I didn’t know how to put them together to find the sure-fitting role. But then he helped guide me and, in that way, I was very lucky to cross paths with him.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

The most fruitful part of my professional journey has been constantly trying to learn what my mentor Alberto Francioni taught me over the subsequent years. He just brought things out of me and would advise me on things after that.

After I stopped working with him later on in my career, I always heard his voice in my head. So when I see an issue, something I want to work on, I just ask, “What would Alberto tell me to do? What would his advice be?” He taught me everything about dealing with clients, managing their issues, assisting them, and moving things forward in the sales process.

The beauty of what he taught me is it’s not a static set of rules. The approach he gave me is very flexible, and it depends on each client. So it’s not one set of rules for every client; each has its own requirements. You are applying a set of principles and seeing how they fit that situation. Things won’t ever be exactly the same, but there will be things that you’ve tried in the past that may have worked in one situation and other things that may have worked in another. You can bring these principles to bear, and usually, you will find success. Not necessarily immediately, but you will make progress over time.

What are the risks associated with the alternative investment industry?

One of the risks of our industry is that the investors I deal with, the strategies they’re dealing with can be very complex. One has to be careful that one gets paid to take that complexity risk as an allocator. Also, illiquidity is another risk that people need to ensure they get paid to take on. The current geopolitical and economic environment that we face is quite unstable. So investors are very concerned when it comes to allocation decisions, potentially locking up money for 7 to 10 years. That means they have to do a lot of due diligence before investing tens or maybe hundreds of millions of dollars into a particular strategy.

What would you do with unlimited resources?

I would definitely retire for a few years, but then I’d probably get bored because I’m still relatively young, in my early 50s. My wife would want me to use my brain and not be in the house all the time. I’d probably go back to work again because I’m doing what I like. I genuinely enjoy my work. But before going back, I would take my wife around the world a couple of times and see all the places we’re planning to see because you never know when you’d get the chance to do that again.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

The last time I completely lost myself was when I was with my family in Antigua in the summer. That was just a great holiday. I remember sitting on the beach, and one of my sons was paddle boarding in front of me, my wife was next to me, and my other son was next to me. That was great.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I spend time with my family. I watch sports with my younger son. My older son is 20 now, and he’s into all sorts of things I have no understanding of. However, if I’m going to find a level with him outside of “How’s your university course going?” we have to have something to talk about so I make an effort to take an interest in what he’s interested in. I’d just like to stay on top of what my kids are up to and spend time with my family.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

Well, I hope I have made a difference. I don’t know if I have. I believe in something bigger than us. I’m a person of faith, so I just try to live my life every day as well as I can, and if that makes a difference, that’s great. I’ll always keep trying, but we don’t need to make a difference in life, in my opinion. You just need to try and live a good life and do the best you can every day. That’s all that matters.

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