When Eric McGehearty learned that his family was about to grow, he did what comes naturally – well, for him, anyway – he started a new company to make ends meet. Now that’s resourceful! This sort of initiative comes from an entrepreneur who is also a conceptual artist and a sculpture. His latest venture, Globe Runner SEO, reflects the fruits of his unique vision and drive.
Necessity might qualify as motivation ordinary enough, but there’s nothing conventional about how McGehearty has earned his successes. In this interview, he speaks frankly about obstacles overcome, managing multiple businesses along with considerable family commitments, and the importance of entrepreneurship. Enjoy. (And look out! If this man has triplets, he may just invent the next Google.)
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
Necessity is the mother of invention. I was working as a consultant at a non-profit, and was told that they couldn’t renew my contract at the same time that I learned that my wife and I were about to have a baby. I knew I needed to make money, and I knew that I didn’t want to take the traditional route.
There were several reasons I decided against working for someone else’s company:
- I’m a natural leader. I’m best at helping develop a team. That’s not the kind of role you can walk into on day one at a new company. I felt I knew how to run a business, but not necessarily work in one.
- My formal education was in sculpture. I knew that my artistic background was a plus in terms of creativity and problem-solving, but wasn’t sure that businesses would see it that way.
- I’m dyslexic. Though I believe that my dyslexia has helped me to become the successful person I am, I was afraid that I’d be judged harshly in a business environment, since I can’t read in the standard way.
- Plus, I was certain I could make money with my own business. Yes, I was pretty naïve. It was very hard at first. We were poor and in debt for a period of time. But we managed to scrape by, survive and eventually thrive.
What inspired your current startup?
Necessity again – twins, this time. My first company, BabySafeTravel.com, was doing well, but not well enough to support my wife and I plus three kids. I decided that a consulting business would be the fastest way to make fee-based revenue.
Part of the reason for BabySafeTravel’s success was my use of search engine optimization (SEO). I’d also helped several friends optimize SEO for their companies. With that proven track record and a “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude, I landed my first few clients.
What makes your startup so killer? How is it different from the competition?
I focused on building a team of motivated and intelligent people who genuinely care about results for our clients, and developed a process that is not just a methodology, but a philosophy.
How do you motivate yourself and your team?
We keep the work environment fun, but I don’t think that’s what ultimately motivates my team. Instead, we’re driven by success. When a client makes an extra million dollars because of our efforts, we know we did a good job. Bottom line: when we make money for our clients, we make money, too, and we get excited about that.
On a more personal level, I’m motivated by my family.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their businesses off the ground?
To begin with, objectively figure out where the problem lies. Is it in finance, sales, operations, maybe product pricing? Then recognize which areas you have control over and which you do not. To be a successful entrepreneur, I believe you have to extract yourself and your emotional investment from the business.
What has been the biggest startup surprise for you (good or bad)? Have you had any incredible /funny / challenging experiences that you can share with us?
Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I like to make people happy. When I first started GlobeRunner, I gave away deals. I’d sell a $30,000 website for $5000. But it didn’t work. We didn’t make any money, and the clients who got the deals weren’t really happy. I learned that it’s not a good idea to have the salesman also be the guy who decides how much things cost. Instead, give the sales rep a ten to fifteen percent margin, so both the rep and the company can make rational decisions without accidentally giving away the farm.
How do you handle frustration or disappointment?
I go home and give my kids a hug. It re-centers me and reminds me what my priorities are.
What are the top 3 online tools / websites / devices that you couldn’t live without? (And why?)
- Natural Reader. Since I’m dyslexic, I rely on this text-to-speech software to read everything to me. It makes the Internet, documents and email accessible.
- Outlook. I know it’s old school, but for me, Outlook manages email best. It’s critical to me.
- Asana.com. I find this task and project management software extremely intuitive.
If you had $1 million and one year off, what would you do? (Other than work on your current startup
I’d definitely travel. I love going to places where I can really dive into other cultures. I’d like to spend a lot of time in Europe, maybe Japan and China. And I’d take my wife to the beach. She loves the beach. Then I’d come home and just play with the kids. We could go to the zoo, the science museum, or even just the park down the road.
How do you maintain work / life balance?
My priorities are my business and my family. And though it can be tough to balance the two, it’s easy to stay focused. My wife and I now have four kids, and let me tell you, when you have four, they remind you they’re there.
To maintain a balance, I keep a rigid schedule. I drive my kids to school in the morning, which gives me a little extra time with them. I get to the office a little before 9 AM. If the day’s gone well, I leave at 5 PM and play racquetball. If I need to stay later, I leave at 6 PM and go straight home. Whatever is left to do can wait for the next day. I spend the evening with my family. Every so often I might boot up my laptop after the kids have gone to bed, but they get my full attention from 6 to 8 PM.
Weekends are set aside for my family, too. I don’t work. I don’t check email. I don’t even turn on the computer.
Who would play you in the movie of your life, and what would be the theme song?
I see myself as played by Tom Hanks. He’s the ultimate good guy, and chooses roles that reflect who I am: a good father (Sleepless in Seattle), a kid at heart (Big), an innovative survivor (Castaway), an underestimated visionary (Forrest Gump), and someone who leads through mentorship (Saving Private Ryan).
For a theme song, I’d choose “My Favorite Things.” Not the original version, but John Coltrane’s instrumental interpretation. It’s upbeat, spontaneous, and somewhat impromptu.
How has being an entrepreneur changed you for the better? How has it enriched your life?
I’ve become better at business process. Like many talented people, I have the ability to do a lot of things well, but before I had my own business, I wasn’t very good at explaining how I accomplished those things. Now I’ve become good at setting up systems that others can follow, and I’m getting better at that all the time.
What is the tech scene like where you live?
The tech scene here in Dallas is pretty good. We’ve got quite a few tech companies, a lot of start-ups, and some organized angel investment groups. The Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, where I’m on the board, also provides great education, promotion, and networking opportunities.
Where can our readers find you?
How can the KillerStartups community help YOU?
I’m always interested in meeting other entrepreneurs, and seeking out other individuals for a mutually beneficial relationship.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur?
For me, the entrepreneurial spirit is an incredibly important part of what it means to be a person and an American. Change is never easy, but we entrepreneurs are the radicals who are willing to begin things and to push our own agendas. Our ideas may sometimes seem selfish or single-minded, but it’s these ideas that innovate solutions, create jobs, and fuel the economy.
I don’t believe that entrepreneurship is limited to business, either. The mom who starts the PTA, the kid who organizes the soccer game in the field behind his house, those people are entrepreneurs, too.