First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Willy Grieve: We are surviving. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but I work from home, and we live a fairly quiet life – so aside from sacrificing a couple of days out a week, we can’t complain. No COVID yet (knock on wood)!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cityline Websites.
Willy Grieve: I always thought I’d work for a company as middle management for the rest of my life. Then, at 29, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was given a 50:50 chance of survival. You certainly learn what you can and cannot control in your life when going through 9 months of chemotherapy.
Well, my treatments went well, and that was nearly 20 years ago now. Once I recovered, I wanted to be away from the chemical side of things, so I took some courses and built our company website. That website turned into 2 then 4 and became 20+ hours per week on the side. Within a few years, I made the jump to building websites full time, working for myself.
I hired a designer, then as the business grew, the company expanded to marketing and full branding. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve been around my kids as they’ve grown up and never had to worry about getting approval to watch school plays, chaperone field trips, or travel on a whim.
How does Cityline Websites innovate?
Willy Grieve: Building websites and doing online marketing is somewhat of a commodity. Anyone can say they are the best or most innovative, but there isn’t any proof behind it – just someone selling the promise. It makes it difficult to stand out. However, we at Cityline Websites are different than most. We have built our own framework to build websites that is better suited for Google than most other websites. This framework allows us to truthfully say our websites have efficiencies that other companies cannot.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Willy Grieve: Being a website & online marketing company, Coronavirus has actually had a net positive effect on our business. Sure, we have lost a few clients in certain industries, and other clients have not been able to pay our invoices. But we have gained several more clients as people realized they needed more of an online presence. We certainly have been one of the lucky companies during this difficult time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Willy Grieve: During this time, we had a key team member pass suddenly of a heart attack. That was a difficult time, but there have been no difficult choices relating to this pandemic.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Willy Grieve: I am quite an even-keeled person. Having gone through cancer, work stress is minimal to me. I run several times a week for a physical & mental break. That seems to keep things in check.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Willy Grieve: The website & online marketing industry is quite saturated, no matter where you go. There are probably a few hundred options within an hour’s drive – from high school students to large, expensive firms. We have been around a long time and rank very well in Google. We have a great customer base and referral network. The need for our services continues to grow.
Your final thoughts?
Willy Grieve: I love helping small businesses. I will spend an hour on the phone with any small business owner that is looking for advice. It’s a super tough time right now, and I’m one of the fortunate ones. To anyone reading this, please feel free to contact me for my input.