First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Patrick Coombe: Hello, and thanks for asking! So far, so good. No one is infected, thank God, and fingers crossed. I really cannot complain at all because I have it so good as a result of working hard for many years. I am business partners with my wife, Jacquelyn Sherry Coombe, one of the industry’s greatest minds. We are lucky to have a great work/life balance and work really well together. I have 3 beautiful children Phoenix, Reiss, and Lennon (9, 3, and 1), who keep me very busy and are my favorite “hobbies.”
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Elite Strategies
Patrick Coombe: I founded my company in 2009. I was an early internet pioneer, involved in the www since 1999, building LAN’s as a teenager in my home with 386 computers, BBS’s, AOL, Usenet, the creation of Linux and *nix systems, and everything since. So I had a strong foundation in the www. Building websites and coding always came 2nd nature, so when the big web 2.0 boom happened, it was truly organic to start a company that helped businesses. I’ve always said that being a marketer trying to market a marketing company up against other marketers is a very difficult job. With that said, I’ve always put my marketing foot forward even though the technology is the basis of my education.
How does Elite Strategies innovate?
Patrick Coombe: I spend a lot of time talking to business owners and technology partners. I read a lot of news and spend a lot of time on social media, good social media, not the drama. With that said, if there is a new marketing medium or website technology, we will experiment with it in-house then roll it out to our customers. For example, for many years, we built HTML templates for clients; when CMS’s started getting popular, we learned Joomla, Drupal, Concrete, WordPress, and started rolling them out. We will always try a bunch of different technologies and then see who the “winner” is. Another example is call tracking, we tried a lot of different solutions, but ultimately Call Rail won the race.
The way we innovate is not by asking “what will make us a lot of money” but by asking, “what do our clients need?” So with that, we look at services that our clients really stress about; for example, a lot of business owners really don’t like dealing with website maintenance, but it is easy for us, so we turn that into service. It is something that business owners have to do, no matter what. Many business owners can’t afford or don’t need a full-time in-house webmaster, so they go with us instead.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Patrick Coombe: In the beginning, like most people, we played it super safe and cautious. We then employed a Team A / Team B roster where half of our team came in Mon / Weds / Fri, and the other half came in Tues / Thurs. Then we’d switch every other week. We had clients that had their entire business shut down because their entire industry is on pause! This caused a number of our clients that had to pause consulting services with us.
We are coping with this by pivoting our sales approach to working more with evergreen businesses that are less likely to be shut down by the pandemic. We are really lucky to be in a thriving industry and to be able to continue to grow our business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Patrick Coombe: At one point, we had to make the decision for everyone to work from home; that was really rough. Since we are Floridians, it really felt like we were in a hurricane with everyone “hunkered down” like we were. My job as CEO is all about making difficult choices. Hiring, firing, interviews, making financial decisions, approving requests are all part of my job. At this point, I’ve delegated most of that, but I still need to oversee it. 1 month of bad decisions could lead to a sharp decline in revenue. I’ve had contractors steal from me, I’ve had major fraud, slander but I just deal with these issues as they come up.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Elite Strategies in the future?
Patrick Coombe: I think I do well with stress and anxiety. Everyone has it. At the very beginning of the pandemic, I was really stressed out and almost wasn’t able to do any work. Something happened, and I snapped out of it, I don’t know how but I just kind of turned it around. I know that isn’t a very good answer. I also look at myself as a fortunate individual; the world is truly in turmoil right now. I have a lot of privilege being born in America; even though I grew up in lower-middle-class upbringings, I am still very lucky to be born here.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Patrick Coombe: I really don’t pay attention to any of my competition. The ones that I am aware of in our local area I’m very friendly with. It isn’t like I am sitting across a pitch table from them. Maybe if there were a finite amount of business like other industries, we are in a booming capitalistic economy with new businesses being born every day.
Right now, we are expanding our services; we are always learning more about what exactly our clients’ needs are and are helping them with whatever they need. We plan to stay on the game by continuing to do the little things that our clients love. We don’t nickel and dime people for small tasks. We pick up the phone every time it rings, and we respond to every email. Not a lot of people can say that these days.
Your final thoughts
Patrick Coombe: The next 6 months are going to really say a lot about how we, as a society, move forward. In one sense, we are powerless over what the virus is going to do; on the other hand, we can now get an idea of some of the things we can do to protect ourselves from the virus. The most important thing is that we take care of one another and look out for each other. We only get one life, so make the most out of it.
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