First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
F.M. Byers: Thankfully, my immediate family and everyone in the SMDigital family is healthy, home, and safe during this very unique time. I can say that some of us have family members that have contracted Covid, but again, everyone has recovered and is expected to make a full recovery.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SMDigital
F.M. Byers: My career began working for a FORTUNE 100 company – right out of college. It was a terrific experience, a fantastic company, and I learned a great deal about both the larger corporate (and often bureaucratic) world as well as the operational gotta-make-it-happen-now world of smaller businesses. Over these years, I really enjoyed parts of the business that challenged me to solve problems, design new solutions, think differently, and make a meaningful and measurable difference. This led me down the path and into the digital world, where I co-founded and helped create a number of different businesses.
How does SMDigital innovate?
F.M. Byers: Our team innovates through trial and error in a culture that fosters accountable and disciplined risk-taking. I firmly believe there is always a better way to do things, and we are constantly pushing our team to take risks. Sure, we make mistakes at times, or we may not produce the results we had originally hoped for – but our “wins” with the other tactics we run in tandem often offset these experimental risks. And that’s how we learn. Become more effective. And innovate. We’ve found that we all learn, grow, and become more valuable to our customers by constantly pushing ourselves to be better. And that means continually innovating.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
F.M. Byers: At first, in early March, when Covid started to hit the US, we – like many businesses – were concerned. The health and safety of our teammates in North and South America were of most concern, and we closed our offices on March 9th, and all 120 teammates worked from home. For a month, it took some adjustment. Some of our customers were hit very hard, and business slowed, but we didn’t lose one customer. We did have to readjust some of our agreements to help them manage through these times, but we’re proud to say we kept a full roster. And, we kept our entire team. We became more productive, too. In fact, in mid-May, things started to accelerate, and I think 2020 will be our best year ever. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
F.M. Byers: I’m not sure I’d call them difficult, but we did have to make some new choices. As our name SMDigital “Partners” suggests, we always view our customers as our Partners (never “Clients”). We’ve stayed true to our belief that when our Partners are being challenged unexpectedly via Covid-19, it’s time to rise to the occasion, pivot, think differently, and help. The lessons we learned — and continue to reflect on — is that fluid, open and honest communication is absolutely essential for a healthy relationship. It almost sounds trivial saying this as it’s so cliché…but it’s surprising just how often we find that this does not happen in “Client-Agency” relationships.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and SMDigital in the future?
F.M. Byers: I like to think that I operate with a cool and calm head most all the time. Like everyone, we get our share of surprises and curveballs that might jolt some folks, but I’ve learned that there’s no use expelling negative energy for things that you can’t control. You have to roll with it. Remain positive. Ask questions. Communicate fluidly. Trust the process. I feel our entire team is positive, smiling, and results-oriented, and when things go south, we simply deal with it as best we can.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
F.M. Byers: The canvas is paved with the company that considers themselves competitors – or are trying to be. We don’t worry about them; there’s too many to mention. Instead, we focus on ourselves, constantly improving, learning, contributing, and creating value for our Partners. We’re fast approaching our 20th year of business. And we’re always thinking about how we can continue to excel over the next 10 years. Together.
Your final thoughts?
F.M. Byers: “We let the data do the talking…”