We were lucky to catch up with Eric Elkins recently and have shared our conversation below.
Eric, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. What’s the best or worst investment you’ve made?
When I started WideFoc.us Social Media in 2007, it was just me consulting with agencies and brands — providing guidance and insights. But once companies started asking for deliverables and social media management, I grew the company year over year, bringing on new team members, increasing revenue, and building out new roles and processes. But I was always a writer/creative/strategist first, so the running a business side of things was trial and error… with many errors.
It wasn’t until I started working with a business advising team (Cultivate Advisors) that I started to understand how to be smart about pricing, payroll, expenses, and even just cash flow. For at least a decade, I eyeballed the financials from our bookkeeper, had a rough idea of monthly revenue, and priced out retainers based on what I thought we could get. But once I was given the time and insights to understand our financial situation, I was embarrassed at how sloppy I’d been. By digging deep into our revenue and expenses, our projections, and our output, we were slowly able to create better structures and pricing, which meant smarter staffing and salary decisions, control of time spent on client work, and an understanding of how to get more profitable. I wonder how much better our margins could have been earlier on, if I’d only known how biz finance really works.
I can’t believe I waited years and years to get that kind of hands-on education. But as my first advisor used to say, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago… and now.” Glad we’re moving in the right direction.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I’m the owner and chief strategist of WideFoc.us Social Media, a Denver-based agency (100% remote now, with team members all over the country) that helps medium and large-sized businesses grow revenue and hit their goals with effective organic and paid social strategies.
We manage our clients’ social channels, monitor for customer service issues and questions and comments, use paid campaigns to increase their visibility and drive sales. The first thing our clients notice is the quality and consistency of the content, but it’s our team-based approach that keeps them happy and secure in their brands’ social media performance. When a marketing pro has too many plates to spin to keep their company’s social media firing on all cylinders, we’re the team that provides peace of mind while making them look like a superhero.
I live in LoHi, write books on the side, and have a website dedicated to the best our city’s bars and restaurants have to offer (denverlicious.com). My Instagram (ericelkins) is all about food and cocktails and living well.
Do you have any insights you can share related to maintaining high team morale?
I’ve made so many mistakes as a boss and business owner over the years — it took me a long time to realize my role should be as a coach and educator, rather than a disciplinarian. And as a former teacher, you’d think I would have figured that out sooner.
We’ve learned as leaders at WideFoc.us to slow our roll when it comes to how we address mistakes or performance issues, taking on a more consultative approach and asking questions. Our whole team works to be open, honest, direct, and kind in our communications with each other, taking a deep breath and thinking about how our message is coming across.
When something does go sideways, we find that a conversation goes better than a terse email or Slack message. We strive to be warm and patient with each other, which goes a long way now that we’re 100% remote.
Finally, the little things help us keep morale up — a surprise GrubHub gift card, a gift from Amazon, or even just an earnest check-in can help someone feel like he or she is an essential part of the team.
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
Focusing on one thing and doing it well.
We don’t do overall digital strategy. We don’t do PPC. We don’t do SEO. Or PR. Or programmatic advertising. We stay in our lane and have built a reputation for being a comprehensive social media agency that’s able to deliver real results for our clients. Because we focus on being very good in one discipline, we’re able to work with other agencies that are also best in class for their areas of expertise.
What that means is, not only do our clients share their positive experiences and send new business our way, but partner agencies look to us to help their clients meet their goals. We’re generous in making introductions and referrals as well, because we want our own clients to work with the best possible partners.
Our reputation for being up-front, skilled, kind, and constantly on top of the latest in social media comes in no small part from the way we’ve focused our efforts on our wheelhouse services.
If you want to build up a reputation for expertise and proficiency, consider focusing your energy on one thing and do it really well.