How to Grow Your Business During COVID
Learn how to Grow Your Business During COVID using my 5 Key Principles that allowed me to 2X BOTH my companies amidst the Coronavirus.
In the video and blog below I explain How to Grow Your Business Business During COVID using 5 methods I used to Double the Revenue of BOTH my companies in just a few months.
If you dont feel like reading you can watch my 10-minute video, but I go into gritty detail with the written story below.
Hi, my name is Mac Frederick and I’m a 30-year-old entrepreneur living in Philadelphia. 5 years ago I was fired from my dream job at Google for starting a small agency on the side. This forced me to go all-in on becoming a full-time entrepreneur and small business owner. A few months later I moved to Philadelphia, PA and started Momentum Digital and Phone Repair Philly. I started both these companies really out of necessity, but thinking back, all I did was take my skillset and passion in starting a business to make money.
I’ll spare you the details and setbacks, but the past few years haven’t been easy; full of ups-and-downs, losing clients, hiring and firing, getting burnt out and many long nights. Even though Momentum Digital was voted #33 Fastest Growing Business in 2019, and Phone Repair Philly won Best of Philly in 2018, it doesn’t mean life has been full of victories…. it’s really been more the opposite. I’ve enjoyed both pains and triumphs. It’s part of the journey. Yet, it wasn’t until this disaster of 2020 (as people say) that I’ve truly made a difference in growing my companies.
Growing a company isn’t easy, especially if you don’t have adequate resources: time, money, people (for starters). Naturally, growing TWO businesses at the same time can be even more daunting and counterproductive. Your time is split. Your attention is split. Nothing really ever comes together.
So let me get into the details. You can skip the new few paragraphs about the backstory leading up to the virus.
At the end of 2019 I was really burnt out. In late August I took a 2-week trip to London, Croatia (Yacht Week), and Thailand. It was amazing. Before leaving I had 1000 plates spinning. Imagine all your anxieties surfacing at once. Right before I left I was in the process of signing a new partner with Momentum who could help run the business. She quit and backed out the day I left. On top of that, my assistant/manager was having a nervous breakdown and on the verge of quitting. I tried to save what I could but my bags were already packed and I needed an escape.
The trip was incredible and just what I needed. Halfway through the trip my phone exploded as I was on a sailboat in the Adriatic Sea. All I could do is laugh. Funny, I know. The guy who owns a phone repair shop was stranded with a broken phone. Instead of fixing it I said ‘Fuck it’ and went without it. I cut myself off from both companies. My thought process is that I was over it. I was burnt out and if the companies failed then whatever, I would build them back up and restart. That’s the worst that could happen … and it basically did.
Upon my return I felt rejuvenated. However, nothing was right at home. I had a few contractors and employees quit from both companies. I found some others slacking and/or stealing, and had to cut bait with them as well. At this point Phone Repair Philly had been keeping me financially afloat, but it was losing money at this point too. So I decided to focus back on that company and rebuilt Momentum later.
December rolled around and I was audited by the State of PA. Not random though, as one of the guys I fired tried to claim Unemployment. I denied it and was subsequently audited. Imagine the joy! What was I to do now? Give up? Throw in the towel? Well, I guess quite the opposite. I had 3 shops at the time and decided to work one more myself as it was struggling. So through December and January I started getting more involved in the day-to-day operations and going through the finances. I started making some changes and found out 3 more people had been stealing. They were immediately fired, leaving me with 5 employees, which was half the amount I had months prior but with the same amount of locations. Luckily I passed the UC audit, but now I was forced to work one of my locations full-time.
Cue the Coronavirus…
In late January of 2020 I had just fired 3 more employees for stealing, passed the tax audit, and started working one of my shops full-time, that of which used to be producing $30,000 per month and just finished last month with a measly $13,000. Pathetic. I was legitimately shopping around to move locations because I thought the location was the issue. During this time period I heard from some Chinese manufacturers that some plants were shutting down early to some Coronavirus going on. I thought it was a novel name and nothing more than a sign for me to stock up on parts. So here I am, buying mass amounts of inventory on credit, hoping for the best.
At this same time Momentum had become the ugly ducking bringing in less than $20k per month. I had a few clients and a few contractors. My team had fallen apart and I was over it, waiting for some saving grace. Maybe the only reason that I’m not embarrassed to say all this is because I was able to turn both companies around, but it wasn’t easy.
So here’s what happened next …
I went back to rest on my laurels. Back to what got me started. Back to my first time making money in 2011 fixing phones on campus at Penn State. I started fixing phones and devices in my one shop every day and working on Momentum in my spare time. For the next few months I focused on these 5 Core Aspects leading to How I Doubled My Businesses During COVID.
Here are the 5 Core Tactics to Growing My Business during COVID
#1) Luck & Good Fortune
Okay, so this isn’t a tactic. Let’s be honest and call a spade a spade. Sometimes in life you need to get lucky. So how did I get lucky? Well, for starters I passed the UC Audit without owing any money to the state. This also allowed me to fix some things I was doing wrong and get certain aspects of my business and payroll straightened up. I cut the fat so to speak, and learned more about my businesses.
More importantly, as COVID hit, I was scared of being forced to shut down. I specifically remember telling myself I wasn’t going to shut down even if required. Nonetheless, the State & Local Government declared my business as essential, since we fix many devices for first line defense, healthcare, and local government employees.
Not only were we allowed to stay open, many competitors had to shut down, including Apple, Carrier Stores, and other 3rd party electronics shops. This meant anybody looking for electronics repair or phone related issues found us (using Google mostly). Being able to acquire these new customers was vital not only to our bottom line, but for future revenue, as our customer service and quality has improved and we will have acquired life-long customers (repeat revenue).
Then the riots and looting hit the city. Guess who stayed open and wasn’t hit? Phone Repair Philly. None of our stores or locations were affected at all. Running two of my locations in danger zones kept my business safe.
Last but not least, Momentum started picking up for Real Estate marketing as realtors were no longer able to meet buyers in person and were forced to hire digital services for Virtual Tours and Digital Marketing for Real Estate.
#2) Hard Work and Perseverance
This sounds cliche I know, but it’s true. People say work smarter not harder. Well, it can be both. From February – April, over 3 months, I worked every day over 12 hours per day. This might sound normal to some, and insane to others. For over 2 months straight I worked my Phone Repair Philly shops fixing devices, improving processes, and growing the business. I did it out of necessity. I just fired 3 people and I had 2 employees who didn’t want to work due to Covid concerns. This was my time to step up.
As an entrepreneur you have to take the good with the bad. True entrepreneurs don’t know anything else. We eat what we kill. We reap what we sow. This was such a blessing in disguise honestly because I had no idea what was going on in the daily operations of my phone repair business and things had been falling through the cracks. Our shops are open daily from 10am to 6pm. However, I came in every day at 8am and worked until 8pm. Sometimes earlier and sometimes later. My shops grew consistently busier as we were the only game in town too. Our traffic for our downtown locations slowed at Center City & University City, but the residential market in Northern Liberties at the location I was working really picked up. During down time and before and after work I’d actually focus on Momentum and growing that business. The cycle seemed endless. Yet, everyone else was at home watching Netflix, doing nothing, while I was working relentlessly. I am grateful for it.
#3) Getting Partners
Running a business by yourself is more than difficult. It’s tiring. It’s lonely. It’s frustrating. You feel like you have nobody around you and when things are going well you have nobody to celebrate with. When things aren’t going well you have nobody there to cope with. In my opinion, having a business partner not only will improve your business production; it will improve your entire mental outlook. For the past few years I haven’t had a business partner for either company. In 2015 I started Momentum with a friend in LA who ended up losing focus and we fell apart. I bought out his equity before things got ugly. Luckily we’re still friends and have moved on. Phone Repair Philly has never had a partner, or even a manager. A few years ago we were growing and doing well and I attach some of that success to one of my techs who was basically my manager, but I had to let him go for stealing. Since then things have been tough as I can only manage so much on my own. Last year for Momentum I was bringing on a business partner who ended up bailing right before the official paperwork and my trip overseas. Needless to say, it’s been a long winding and lonely road.
So over the past two years I have been looking for business partners. I posted on Linkedin, Angels List, Startup Forums, and had endless conversations with friends and mentors. I was at the point where I would literally give up part of my company to bring on someone from scratch to help run either company.
Less than 3 years ago I hired Sean for Momentum and Joseph for Phone Repair Philly. They were both Sophomores in college. They were brought on as entry level interns. The months and years to follow I noticed similar traits from both of them. They were smart, hard-working, responsible, ambitious, eager to learn, reliable, and focused on getting better. Neither of them came in with the skills or experience to do their job. But they learned. They learned quickly. Those key traits grew on me and I began to understand how much I cared about those characteristics, and about them as people. I actually get along with both of them in many ways. I see myself in them. I can grow with them. We can be a team.
Early in 2020 I brought up the conversation of bringing them on as partners. Both were very open to and excited by this idea, but they still hadn’t even finished school. So over the next few months I pushed and challenged them to see how they could function as full-time students and employees. They both excelled. When graduation came around I presented them with the opportunity and paperwork. We signed and I gave them gifts and words of appreciation and validation. It was time to grow together. Since then they have been nothing but the best and more than what I could have wished for in a partner. I’m grateful for both of them.
This goes to show you that it’s important to promote from within based on your culture, values, and your intuition. You don’t need some fancy high-profile resume with tons of experience. You need someone you can train and who is eager to learn and get their hands dirty.
#4) Systems and Processes
NOW is the time to focus on systems, processes and procedures. As a small business owner you spend most of your time working in your business and running your business instead of working on the business. Imagine a world in which you have a bunch of free time to work on all the aspects of your business you have procrastinated on completing. You have soo much to do yet so little time. Well, guess what, now you have the time. You have no choice. This part of the business can be considered growth hacking, which is definitely a key aspect to helping your grow your business during COVID.
During the Coronavirus over 90% of businesses were forced to close. THIS is the time everyone should have been focusing on the things you haven’t had time to fix. Remember that website you’ve bee trying to rebuild? Remember those classes you wanted to take online? Remember that new vendor or manufacturer you wanted to find? Some of these procedures and systems I was able to create during this time, even as we were still open.
- Optimizing our website and SEO
- We began fixing our website for Momentum and Phone Repair Philly. Momentum Digital had
design and SEO issues I’d been slacking on for months. PRP I updated our content and added a full e-commerce portal and processing.
- A lot of our focus lately has been on Local SEO and Google My Business. We have been increasing our relevance, citation and link building, getting more reviews, utilizing Google posts, and posting more content. Our organic local rankings have steadily increased.
- We began fixing our website for Momentum and Phone Repair Philly. Momentum Digital had
- Creating hiring and onboarding procedures.
- Both my companies needed a major overhaul for HR. I converted Phone Repair Philly to an S Corp then setup a new payroll system and workers compensation and bonus plan for employees. I also instituted a new background check, shadowing, training, and onboarding system for employees. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than it was.
- For Momentum Digital we created a new hiring and recruiting process. We also got help creating new paperwork and contracts for employees and contractors. We finished our taxes and got a new accountant. Then we switched to ADP for payroll.
- Taking Payments, Payment Processing, Invoicing, and Point of Sale System.
- For Phone Repair Philly we have been using Square and it’s great and easy to use. I now have it setup to do Payroll, workers compensation, time tracking, inventory tracking and more. I updated our pricing and also a system to send follow-ups and marketing emails. The past few months we really focused on improving our inventory and point of sale customization.
- For Momentum Digital we also went back to using Square and started setting up more recurring and automated payments to make things easier. We also setup portals with clients for direct deposit ACH transfers.
- Sales and Marketing
- Over the past few months I have been running more campaigns on Facebook and Instagram for both companies. We also just brought on a social media manager with design experience who has been adding a lot of value and saving us time.
- For Phone Repair Philly I’m also in the process of hiring two good sales people to help sell B2B and upsell current customers on buying/selling phones, phone insurance, new carrier plans and more. I expect this to increase gross revenue 25%.
- For Momentum Digital we keep hiring and training new sales people to help with direct outreach and cold calling real estate agents and small businesses to pitch them on virtual tours. This is getting more traction and leads and the overhead is low as they’re all sales commission based only. We also started using Torch Leads for prospecting and email campaigns then creating landing pages and marketing funnels using High Level. This will drastically increase our automation of lead generation.
- Organization and Communication
- For both companies we have weekly calls and reporting. We also use Slack and setup systems to track our work and progress. Slack can be overwhelming but its quick and easy to use for team collaboration.
- Recently I started using BlueFolder for Phone Repair Philly to track customers, work orders, progress and a lot of details. Things were complex and confusing and falling through the cracks before implementing this CRM and Ticket Management system.
- Momentum Digital is using 17hats for leads, questionnaires, invoicing, and more. It’s a very cheap and useful automation and tracking tool that can be used as a CRM and much more.
#5) Local SEO
Over 50% of our leads and customers from both businesses come from Google, and more specifically Local SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization (organically ranking at the top of Google). The term Local SEO has to do with ranking your business at the top of Google local search results for your products or services. For example, if you search “Digital Marketing agencies philadelphia” and you’re in the center city area you’ll notice Momentum Digital typically shows up it the Local Google Maps 3-Pack. This drive a lot of calls and website visits. Similarly, if you search keywords such as “cell phone repair shops philadelphia”, you’ll get search results that have at least 1 Phone Repair Philly location in the Google Maps 3-pack. These Google search results are very demand driven and lead to more responsive leads and active customers.
Local SEO is typically categorized and lumped in with SEO, but really it’s the aspect of SEO that focuses on geographically significant results that rank in the Map Pack using your Google My Business account. This account is free to setup and use. In this recent blog I talk about the Google Local SEO Cheat Sheet for small businesses. I recommend watching and reading this content if you want to learn how to rank higher on Google for free, which will lead to more customers.
A few key aspects we have been focusing on for Local SEO involves managing and optimizing our GMB listing (mentioned above). We are more focused on getting 5-star reviews, adding Google Posts, and adding more overall Local GMB content —- all on a weekly basis. If you master these key aspects then you’ll have you business ranking on Google in no time.
Recap of How You Can Grow Your Business During COVID
First you need to stop playing the victim game. We’ve all had rough patches, some more than others. And yes, this has to be one of the worst, BUT are you just going to give up and lose your business? No. Not me. Not ever. So, get back on that horse and focus on these areas of your business during this time.
- Good Fortune — Do the right thing and eventually you’ll be rewarded. Keep your intentions clear.
- Work Hard — Don’t give up. Now is the time to focus and work overtime on key aspects of your business and ways to pivot.
- Get Partners — Hire from within and grow your team and marketing partners to grow your business.
- Build Systems & Processes — Fix all the things you’ve been slacking on. Work on the hard things that will make a huge difference.
- SEO — This is a way to get more business and customers online, and for free, without having to pay for marketing.
Thanks so much for reading this article! I hope this was helpful and informative. Trust me when I say if you’ve read this far than that means this is important to you, and me, and that I have been in your shoes.
Time to put your head down and put in the work.
My name is Mac Frederick and I’m a small business entrepreneur and digital consultant. You can find me on Instagram (@MacFrederick) Linkedin, Facebook and more!