Q. Please give our readers an introduction to your business.
A. Guardian Solutions LLC is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We specialize in helping small to medium sized businesses grow using strategic online marketing tools. We offer website design, search engine optimization, social media marketing, search engine marketing (pay-per-click) as well as online marketing strategy. Although we work with many businesses, we specialize in the Construction and Real Estate industries.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
A. My partner Gerald Watkins and I started the business in 2012. Gerald graduated from Colorado Technical University with a BS in Information Technology and an emphasis in Cybersecurity. I graduated from DeVry University with a BS in Computer Information Systems with an emphasis in Web Application Development.
Gerald had a computer repair business but wanted to move into Cybersecurity. Prior to moving to Colorado in 1999 I ran a management consulting company that provided technology solutions to clothing manufacturers and importers. When I moved to Colorado Springs there were no clothing companies and my technology skills didn’t match the heavy military influenced job openings. So I went into real estate and became a successful Realtor. During my time in real estate I worked on a lot of websites and really loved the technology. When Gerald and I met, we talked about how our skills complemented one another and we just knew we had to go into business together.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A. The first advice I would recommend is to find a mentor. As an entrepreneur one wears a lot of different hats. There will be a lot of information you don’t know. The longer it takes you to figure things out, the more mistakes you make, the longer it will take for you to be successful. Finding a mentor who has been successful in your field will definitely help overcome many obstacles.
Second, I would suggest reading the book E-Myth by Michael Gerber. In the book E-Myth they talk about why most businesses fail. The information that you will learn from this book is invaluable.
And last, I would say that you need to ensure that you write your goals down and focus on them every day. Put them up on your mirror so that you see them every time you go. Tape them to your steering wheel so you see them while you are driving. You become what you think about most often. I can’t over emphasize this enough.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A. As an entrepreneur you must be able to manage your time well and focus on the most important tasks that will take you to the next level. If you have trouble saying no to people who ask for help you will go off task and success will always elude you.
One also needs to know how to delegate. As the entrepreneur you come up with the great ideas but you need to find reliable people to help you implement. You must always remember to work on your business not in your business.
The third skill would be the ability to communicate well. When you are starting a company you need to rally people around you. Being able to convey your message and gain the support of others is invaluable.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
A. I work far too many hours. I saw something on Facebook last week that said only Entrepreneurs are willing to give up a 40 hour a week job to work an 80 hour per week job. It is true. I love what I do and I work at least 60 hours per week. I don’t mind though because I am doing something that I absolutely love and I am building something I believe in.
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
A. I attribute our success to our work ethic and the fact that we place our customer’s first. It has always been my philosophy that if you do the right thing it will come back to you. When we work with our clients we never make recommendations that we ourselves would not implement. If a customer finds a problem with something we’ve done, we correct it. No questions. We just do what is right.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A. We are an online marketing agency. We spend the majority of our marketing budget on online marketing. That being said, we have also built a lot of our business on word of mouth marketing and get a large amount of referrals from past clients.
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A. Our company is self-funded. In the first few years we put most of what we made back into the business. As our sales increase the percentage that we put back in goes down but it was how I started my real estate business and it is working for this business as well.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A. Consistency. If you want to be successful you have to be consistent. You also need to evaluate everything you do to see where you can do things better. We get feedback from all of our clients and we also have meetings after projects end to identify what could have been done better.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A. My five year goal is to profitably grow the company from 7 employees to 20. I haven’t really thought further than that.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A. I don’t know that there is just one. I have always admired Ben & Jerry’s for the way they pay their executives. I read once that they will never pay their executives more than 5 times what the least paid employee is making. I like that. One of my goals in starting a business is to create jobs for others.
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
A. We couldn’t do what we do without our employees. We have the best team of people working with us and each has strengths that complement our overall offerings.
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
A. It just really depends upon the idea. When it comes to marketing my philosophy is that if you start something you need to keep doing it for a year before you say that it didn’t work. We will always tweak what we are doing but we won’t abandon it until we have put a good amount of effort into making it work.
Q. What motivates you?
A. Truthfully, I love working with people and helping them to achieve something they can’t do by themselves. When a client calls and says that we helped them to increase sales or to thank me for connecting them with another professional that totally makes my day.
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
A. I research a lot. I am always looking to see what other similar companies are doing and I also ask my customers what they need. From there I get a lot of ideas.
Q. How do you define success?
A. Success is having a career that allows me to lead the lifestyle of my choice. For me that means I love what I do and I get paid for it. And, it means that I can spend time with friends and travel and I earn enough money to be debt-free.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A. I like knowing that I will never be unemployed and I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. I used to work for a software company in NYC. I had project managers lined up at my desk asking me questions. They were all making more money than I. I went to my manager and told him I wanted a Director’s position and a salary increase. He came back and said I could have the Director’s position but it would be six years before I would make the money I asked for. I left that company a few months later and made the money they didn’t want to pay me the next year.
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A. As I mentioned before, what is most satisfying for me is when someone I have helped comes back and tells me that something we’ve done has made a difference in their life or business. One of my proudest moments was when a girl I had mentored won an award and in her acceptance speech she thanked me for mentoring her.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
A. I would find a mentor earlier in the process. I joined a mastermind community last year and the information I have learned has totally changed much of how we do what we do.
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
A. When I was married, it caused a little rift between my husband and I because he felt I worked too much. He didn’t like that I wasn’t home with dinner on the table when he got home. He didn’t like that I worked after I got home. The interesting thing is that we are still good friends and he now has to cook dinner for himself every night. I asked him once how that was working for him. He saw my point. I think the thing I learned from my divorce is that to keep your marriage strong you need to be interesting and be interested. If I had it to do over I would pay more attention to my husband and do more with him.
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
A. I really am not afraid of anything. I have a very strong faith in God and he always provides for me.
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A. I listen to Joel Osteen almost every day. His sermons are so inspirational and uplifting. Listening to him keeps my mind focused on the positive.
Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
A. One of my favorite books is Think and Grow Rich. The whole book is amazing but there is one passage in particular that really stands out to me. It is a poem written by Jessie B. Rittenhouse and goes:
I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;
For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.
Essentially the poem is saying that you need to set your intentions and know that you can ask for so much more. I realized early in life that when I prayed, God gave me what I asked for. So now I am much more detailed about what I want.
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A. I love music and I like to dance. I play cards with the girls once a month. And I like to be outdoors whether it is a hike in the mountains or eating at an outdoor café.
Q. What makes you happy?
A. For me, connecting with and helping people really brings me great joy.
For more information visit https://guardiansolutionsllc.com/