As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Gerster, CEO of Joybyte.
Ben Gerster, owner and CEO of Joybyte, is an Entrepreneur, Visionary, Creative Thinker and Problem Solver. His core focus is on helping small businesses become more productive, connected, and effective through the innovation of marketing and technology. With a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a Master’s degree in Design and Visual Communications from Arizona State University, Ben is highly skilled in strategy, digital marketing, branding, and web and mobile application development.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
A passion for branding, marketing, and visual design led me to start working with small businesses as a freelancer, designing logos, websites, and marketing collateral. As I worked with more clients, I saw a consistent need for affordable design and marketing services that could be accessible to small businesses. I felt like I could productize the process of designing logos, websites, and managing social media to still offer premium quality, but on a budget. This is when Joybyte started. I hired a few fellow graphic designers and web developers from my classes at ASU and enlisted friends and family to help run social media campaigns for our clients. Our company grew quickly, serving over 500 small businesses in our first 2 years with our digital marketing subscription service. We continued to expand and eventually opened our technology division; another passion project to design and build applications that would transform the customer experience for our customers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I was first starting I had to learn the hard way about how to hire the right people. I was so eager to keep up with the growing demand for our custom websites, that I hired a developer way too fast without verifying his qualifications. I saw one sample project and thought “Perfect, he’ll be great.” Turns out his friend built the sample project and during his first week on the job he unknowingly deleted the code to one of the custom websites we had been working on for weeks, just days before it was supposed to launch. The takeaway was to have a clear process for interviewing that would reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person. I found the cost of doing due diligence in the interview process is 10x less expensive than the cost of hiring the wrong person.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
“The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber. This book outlines the importance of having a clear process for your business and documenting it so your team can execute consistently ― allowing you to work on the business not in the business as an owner.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I wanted to help small businesses that couldn’t afford agency-level design and marketing services to uplevel their brands. I had a passion for good design and felt every hard-working company deserved to effectively communicate their unique value.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Remain positive and focused on what you can control. Running a business can be hard. There are so many variables that are not in your control and some business owners get sidetracked by the distractions of trying to manage the unmanageable. Take stock of the problems or issues you are facing, set targets to achieve the outcome you desire, and begin to execute on what you can control.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Getting consumed by the negativity of the news. After the first week we decided to stop watching the news daily and only checked periodically with news sources we trusted like the New York Times or local outlets that had information related to our state. It helps to keep your mind focused on what you can actually control and not be filled with fear about all the what ifs.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The most significant challenge was the loss of revenue from clients that had their businesses directly impacted by the shutdown of the economy. We were hit pretty hard within a 2 week period, with many clients putting services on hold and new engagements that were canceled. Because of this we had to lay off several team members and become very lean in our operating costs. But in an effort to build back quickly, we paid close attention to what the market was asking for. We listened to what our customers and most other businesses needed ― they needed support, leadership, and cost savings. We immediately pivoted our value proposition from top quality to budget-friendly programs with added support. As a result, we launched a new program called Joybyte Lite ― designed to give our professional agency-level tools and support to small companies, empowering them to manage their own digital marketing or work with a dedicated marketer on our team at a major discount. The response has been remarkable and we are starting to grow faster than we were previously. We have already started to hire back some of the team members we lost at the start of the crisis and it feels amazing to be getting such a positive response from customers.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
We make sure to stay in contact using video calls often and we try to keep our interactions focused on gratitude and other current events in our lives.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I believe there will be some incredible innovation in the social networking space. I think we will see business networking get a major overhaul with the reduced opportunities for in-person conferences, networking events, etc. The business community is motivated to move forward quickly and is highly active; I see platforms offering a more personalized, video-driven experience for engaging and networking with other professionals. Think Zoom meets LinkedIn meets TikTok.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think we are going to be sensitive to large groups or gatherings, but I don’t think this will be permanent. I hope we start to vote differently in support of policies that invest in science and disease prevention. We should have better response plans in place to give society assurance that we will be better prepared for something like this in the future. I also hope we take global warming much more seriously as we now see how fragile our economy is to disruptions of the basic daily activities we take for granted.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We are going big with our Joybyte Lite program: scalable social media marketing strategies for small businesses centered around your own virtual social media manager. We know how important social media is already and will continue to be for businesses in the Post-COVID economy. We want to be the go-to resource for any small business to engage and connect with customers online.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Consider how your offerings can be virtually available to your customers. How can your customers do business with you without physically being in front of you? Inspect all aspects of your business and consider which touch points can be transformed to digital. Maybe that means developing your own mobile application to keep in constant contact with your customers or building an e-commerce site for ordering products or scheduling services.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t ― you’re right.” — Henry Ford
Most of the accomplishments of my life have been a direct reflection of this quote. Belief in yourself is in your control ― nothing can take that away from you.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Go to www.joybyte.com or lite.joybyte.com
Or connect with me on LinkedIn @ben-gerster