As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Greenberg.
Jeremy founded 97 Switch in 2013. 97 Switch is an award-winning Chicago digital marketing agency that specializes in digital marketing, web design and digital strategy.
Jeremy decided to start 97 Switch because he enjoyed solving digital marketing problems for people. Since the founding of the company, he continues to run it based on his desire to help people solve a wide range of digital marketing problems.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeremy and the 97 Switch team created a podcast called Restarting America. Restarting America features business owners and community leaders who talk about their experiences during the spread of COVID-19.
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?
I began my career at a music venue promoting concerts and marketing for private events. This gave me a really powerful understanding of small business and digital marketing. Then I worked at a hotel company before starting my digital marketing agency. Between the music venue and the hotel company, I saw a lack of transparency and efficiency from marketing agencies. For that reason, I thought I could provide better services than some other businesses.
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?
I almost got banned from Twitter. I was experimenting with a growth hack that grew some pages very fast. That helped me realize it’s rare and unsustainable to find growth shortcuts in all parts of business over long periods of time. That helped me focus on more sustainable practices.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I read it right before I started 97 Switch. Steve Jobs and Apple have shown me the power of focusing on long term products and services specializing in helping people interact with the world better than they could before. The book gave me some understanding that I always will have to focus on what the long term future looks like and to build for that.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My purpose was to make people happy by doing services that helped push businesses and organizations forward in the digital landscape.
That idea is simple but it’s very difficult because we have to always stay focused on providing services that help people.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Do things that make people happy
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?
Personally I’ve tried to look at the upside in all of this. It’s been an opportunity to be with my girlfriend and family in a new way that I didn’t think I would have had the opportunity if it wasn’t for the pandemic. There is obviously many challenges for everyone around me with the crisis in terms of job loss, uncertainty of future, lack of seeing family across the country, concern over health implications in a variety of forms, but I’ve tried as much as I can to focus on doing things that stay in my lane and control the things I can.
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?
My business works with a variety of location based businesses like hotels and restaurants. Those businesses have been deeply impacted, so we paused many marketing services while still keeping their website up. This caused a 57% loss in recurring revenue for several months.
We first started by doing what we can control. We rebuilt a new website for ourselves and created a variety of content that we’ve wanted to build in the past. After those projects were farther along, we eventually realized we needed to continue to do more of what we are good at. This helped us decide to create a podcast called Restarting America. The purpose of it was to connect with people by sharing businesses and community stories online of what has gone on during the pandemic and how they plan to move forward as society reopens.
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?
The first thing I’ve done to help the people around me is to validate the uncertainty, fears and loneliness that people are having. It’s very important to understand it’s ok to feel anxious about what’s going on because then you can identify internally where the anxiety is coming from.
I have also tried to help others, and myself, focus on what we can control. First establishing a routine to create some normalcy in a day. Then within the routine, I try to help myself and others understand where our abilities and resources can take us. From there, with the knowledge we have about what is going on, I think it’s really important to focus on building ourselves back up with a path forward in mind.
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 anticipate a big opportunity in communication. We are already improving our abilities to communicate rapidly with different technology tools, but I think that trend will continue and evolve in a variety of forms. As people live in a post COVID-19 society, they will want and need a variety of communication throughout their entire day that will be continually and rapidly evolving.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think the COVID-19 pandemic may help shape our priorities of what we need and how we save. I imagine initially a lot of consolidation in a variety of industries and with that, people will value saving more than before.
I also think people will try to create lifestyles that are more sustainable over long periods of time. This means they may want to live closer to loved ones, spend less time commuting, and become more of a homebody.
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?
I plan, and have kept, my team together to keep growing our abilities to do digital marketing services for other businesses. I have felt investing in our team is the highest priority that I can make because we are stronger together than apart.
As we have been together, we have focused on what we can control. We have kept the digital marketing services we have had, worked on building new content for ourselves, like a new company website.
As we have shifted, we started a podcast called Restarting America to help us connect to a lot of different business leaders to learn from them. We have seen the podcast enable a lot of learning between each other, and as we grow and hear more stories, we think we will be in a better position to understand how society is changing for a variety of industries and people.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage others to focus on what they are good at, and can do with the society restrictions, and do that.
There is obviously a tremendous amount of job loss but there is still a lot we can do and work on. I think if a job isn’t possible, I encourage people to create the job they want.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
As a business owner, I think I have been afraid a lot. COVID-19 has brought back a lot of fears that I had from the very beginning of my company and trying to figure out how this was all going to work.
I’ve always felt that being afraid has been one of my biggest assets because when I am afraid, I can see what’s ahead and do my best to be realistic with what it will take to overcome it. Right now, there are obviously a lot of reasons to be afraid, and I do my best to focus on how I can move forward.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can also check out my digital marketing agency, 97 Switch, at 97switch.com. There you’ll find our blog and social media profiles.