As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing George Kocher, a data driven leader with experience building and managing high performance sales and marketing teams. After graduating from Cornell University, George worked as an Analyst at Barclays Capital and VP of Business Development for Lakeview Health, a portfolio company of The Riverside Company. He currently serves as the Founder and CEO of Brand North, a digital marketing and growth consulting agency that focuses on applying sophisticated marketing strategies and technical solutions to local and national businesses. George has a proven track record of success in leading teams and an ability to find overlooked opportunities. As a former Division 1 wrestler, George is still an avid health and wellness enthusiast, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fan, and marathoner. In addition to caring about his own health, George is a mental health advocate and enjoys volunteering.
Thank you so much for joining us! 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?
I graduated from Cornell and was surrounded by students that went on to work on Wall Street in finance, so I did the same thing. I didn’t love it. My mom is an artist and my father is a developer which always gave me a feeling that I wanted to create something. I moved from finance to marketing and ultimately founded my company.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
It wasn’t so much of an “Aha Moment” as I just enjoyed solving customer acquisition problems through marketing and technology. I also loved family owned or founder owned businesses and felt I could provide a real solution for them, so that’s what I did.
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?
One of the funniest mistakes I’ve made is spending a bunch of money on a big office because I thought I would need a sales team to work by my side. I learned that my marketing sold itself and I didn’t need a sales team, just a larger operations team to keep up which does not require an office.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I started Brand North my vision was to bring sophisticated marketing and technology to businesses who needed it to grow. I really enjoy working with founder owned companies.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
We have our values listed on our website as well as almost all of our documents. We also talk about them frequently in our meetings. Family By Design, Unconditional Accountability, Never Stop Dreaming.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Whatever happens is your fault, you are responsible no matter what happens.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Six months into the start of my business the SEO and project manager that I hired moved on and took most of my employees with her. This set me back and made me consider giving up. After half a year it was like restarting back from square one. It sucked, but these things come with the territory and I just worked harder and built back up better than before. Everything is a learning experience if you are a founder, otherwise you’re in the wrong business.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
We have definitely turned the corner, commitment to quality work, employee engagement and accountability helped push my business to where it is now.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
1)There has to be a great process
2) Great training on the process which allows employees to succeed at completing the process (no ambiguity).
3) Sales systems that educate consumers and sell to your process without adjusting process per customer. Service businesses are very hard to scale with constant process deviation.
4) Employee appreciation is huge. Without engaged employees there usually is no business.
5) Try not to sell your services in an area or demographic that can’t pay for them. If you are only competing on price, it can be a race to bankruptcy. Whenever possible pick affluent demographics as your target service area because they have those communities have the ability to pay for your services.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My first few clients are who I’m grateful towards because they stuck with me since the beginning. In particular one of my clients knew I was just starting off and he knew what he needed. He guided me through the proposal process and it has been a model to my company for proposals in the future.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Business education, funding and incubation for small businesses. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely daunting journey without help and guidance.
How can our readers follow you on social media?