2020 was a crazy, amazing year. Here's a look back at the highlights, lowlights, and lessons we learned as a company!
2020 has been probably the strangest, most overwhelming year that most people can remember. You’re likely tired of hearing words like “unprecedented”, “quarantine”, “election”, and “Zoom”. We are also tired of hearing those words - like the rest of you, while 2020 held some great things and ultimately we are extremely grateful, we’re impatient to be past this crazy year and “onto the next”. However, looking back is always important in order to start the year right. “Without reflection,” Margaret J. Wheatley says, “we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” (Read that again if you skimmed it, because it’s powerful.)
At Empirical360, we prefer our consequences intended. We have taken some time to reflect on our 2020 as a team, and wanted to share some of our wins, losses, and lessons with you!
Here’s a recap of some of the highlights that happened this year:
New clients added: 53
Websites built: 22
Landing pages built: 200+
Leads generated: 100,000
Different legal practice areas represented: 25+
Months working from home: 10
Team members who tested positive for Covid: 1 (and hopefully only 1!)
Zoom meetings: 1,000,000,000 (probably) (at least it felt like it)
Google came to visit. (January)
On January 31st (before any of us had even heard of the word “coronavirus”), two of our Google Premier Partner representatives flew from New York to host a summit with a few of our current clients. Our conference room was packed, and we were extremely excited to share their knowledge with our clients and make introductions.
We achieved Google Premier Partner status last year and it was one of our biggest achievements. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Google only awards this recognition to the top 3% of agencies worldwide. Google Premier Partners must meet certain criteria in ad spend, in education, in results, and in reputation. Google Premier Partners get early access to beta features, as well as a dedicated support team at Google who can help optimize accounts and campaigns.
We started vlogging. (January/February)
Since we were traveling so much at the beginning of the year and wanted to expand our video capabilities, we started vlogging as a way to document our travles, connect with our audience, and have a little fun. Our vlogs were a hit (at least with our team) but when the virus hit, travel died and so did the vlog. RIP. TBD on whether we'll pick it up again in the new year!
We sold Kadlee. (February)
Some of you may know that Empirical360 owned a side business - Kadlee - that we bought for $70 grand and that turned out to be a total flop. (We now refer to it as “Sadlee”). Kadlee was a bridal robes business. We didn’t know much about the wedding industry, but we knew a lot about Ecommerce, so we went into the venture confident and excited. We soon realized our mistake. Because this product was a low-cost product, in order to achieve the profit margin we needed, we would have to direct all our attention and resources into growing that business only - not our own, and not our clients’. We didn’t have enough time to do that, so the business suffered, and we lost money on it. Ultimately, we were able to sell it for about what we paid for it, and we learned an extremely valuable lesson that we will never forget: you can’t do everything at once. Many opportunities are good, but you have to pick your best yes. In order to truly be successful, you have to pick a direction and stick with it.
We started working virtually. (March)
In late February or early March (it feels like 30 years ago), we first started hearing about COVID-19 and the inevitability of it coming to the U.S. Some people on our team were unconcerned, some were curious, and some were worried, but we didn’t really think anything of it until the end of the first week of March when one of our friend’s dad’s either tested positive or started showing symptoms (again, it’s all kind of a blur). We all immediately packed up our stuff and left the office, and started working from home (except Erik and Elliot, who continued to use the office). Amanda, our project manager, ensured that we never missed a beat during the transition. We set up our morning Scrum meetings via Zoom, and also added an end-of-day catchup call. All of our client meetings began happening on Zoom. We were already using Asana for task management before, and this transitioned seamlessly - Amanda made sure that everyone was communicating virtually as well as they were in person. It was definitely an adjustment, working from home, but nothing slipped through the cracks.
At this time, the future of every business was in question, but since our business model was online advertising, we trusted that we would be able to endure. As it turned out, the pandemic gave us many opportunities for growth, and we came out stronger than ever.
We decided we wanted to focus on lawyers above other industries. (April)
Partially due to the pandemic, and partially due to some ongoing issues and differences of management, we lost a few key client accounts during the first few months of the year. However, that actually gave us the time we needed to pursue the niche we really wanted to break into - the legal industry. We had only had a couple legal clients at that point, but we knew that we could get incredible results for lawyers if we were able to get more lawyers to test out our services. Erik and Elliot began putting a plan together for targeting, networking, and marketing for lawyers. This plan would be rolled out in the following months, but we did discuss it as a team and decided that this is the direction we wanted to go - while we weren’t giving up on any of our current clients who weren’t lawyers, we were going to dump all of our other available resources into pursuing new lawyer clients.
Our new office was finally “finished” (so ironic). (May)
If you followed us last year, you may remember that the thing many of us were most looking forward to in 2020 was moving into our new office, which was supposed to be finished at the end of 2019 (but construction just dragged). We had poured so much love (and money) into making this new space a beautiful, modern, clean, fun place to work and for clients to come for meetings. It was FINALLY move-in ready….. at the beginning of May. When we had all been working from home for two months and for the foreseeable future. Talk about irony and disappointment! However, it did serve as a home base for Erik, Elliot, and Ben for the rest of the year.
We implemented Traction. (May)
Early this year, we all read a book together called Traction, by Gino Wickman. This book introduces and explains the Entrepreneurial Operating System®, which is an organizational, goal-driven method that helps businesses strengthen six key components of their business and move past stagnancy. We implemented the EOS and the principles of the book in May. In February, we started brainstorming and listing our goals. We organized the system and customized it to our agency, then with a weekly Level 10 meeting got the whole team involved. Every week now, we meet to discuss short and long term goals, and to give a status report of issues and successes. This has helped us stay organized and stay focused! We owe much of our growth this year to the EOS (and would highly recommend the book and the system to other companies!)
We hired Luis. (June)
One thing we had been lacking for a while was a solid web developer/graphic designer. Ben, Erik, and Elliot all had website building knowledge and experience, but building websites is extremely time-consuming, and building beautiful websites requires even more time than we honestly had since we were managing all of the accounts. Enter Luis - web developer/graphic designer extraordinaire and the perfect addition to our motley crew. He was born and raised in Santa Clara, Cuba, and began doing digital design in 1998 in Havana. His career expanded to include influence in other countries like the Dominican Republic and Panama. In 2015, his family moved to the U.S. in order to give his son more opportunities. Luis loves books and sci-fi movies, is generally hilarious, and is so kind and hard-working always. He is also incredibly talented - the speed and ease with which he is able to create complete, custom, sleek websites is impressive. We’re so glad 2020 gave us Luis!
We deployed new websites. (August & September)
With a new web developer on our team as well as a new legal focus, our website was due for an upgrade. Luis designed us two really cool platforms - one for Empirical360, and one for Empirical360 Attorney Marketing (this is a microsite that is completely legal focused). Both websites have been performing well!
We decided to keep working virtually….maybe forever? TBD. (October)
There came a point in the fall when many companies were considering going back to in-person work. Florida has always been pretty lax on COVID restrictions, and had lifted certain mask mandates that were initially keeping us fully virtual. But we had a team discussion about it and realized a few key things. For one, most of our clients are now out of state. The pandemic allowed us to reach lawyers in California, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, and more. While we did have several local clients, it is unlikely that any of them would be coming in for in-person meetings anytime soon, as cases didn’t dip low enough for comfort at really any point. Zoom was working well. For another, we all enjoyed working from home….we found that each of us could actually be the same or more productive without coworker distractions and commute times. As 3 out of the 5 core team were moving (not out of state, but out of county), it also added much needed flexibility to this season. So we decided, at least for the foreseeable future, to continue working remotely. “But we just finished the beautiful new office!” was the initial reaction our friends had, and it’s a solid objection that we’re still wrestling with. However, we may be able to cut out the cost of paying for a physical space and pour that into our business. TBD on what we will decide, but at least for the beginning of 2021, Empirical is working from home!
We wrote a book. (published in December)
Towards the end of the year, enough of our plans were falling into place that we started taking action on some of the dreams we’d had for our company. One of those was writing and publishing our first book, Calculable: The Single Marketing Method That Lawyers Can Use To Project & Scale Firm Growth. We helped lawyers understand why their business model was primed for marketing and what marketing method was the best option for their goals! Written by Elliot and Erik, co-authored by Shea, with intellectual contributions and edits from Amanda and the cover art by Luis, the book was truly a team effort. We are proud of it and excited to see how it helps lawyers connect and grow. You can view the full description and purchase a copy on Amazon, although we will be doing a special offer in a few weeks via Facebook (so go follow us and watch for that!).
We started a Facebook group, & launched a new brand. (December)
A few other ideas/dreams we had also fell into place towards the end of the year. One of those was starting a Facebook group for lawyers. We wanted to create a space where lawyers could talk about marketing - share ideas, get inspired, have questions answered - and also where lawyers could consult us about our products and services. So far, we have 210 members and are adding new ones every day! It has already been accomplishing what we dreamt of, which is great.
We also launched our new thought leadership brand, not for lawyers, but for other marketers. Elliot and Erik are now the MarketingBrosⓇ - their intelligence, experience, and tenacity have given them the ability to help other marketers elevate their skills through trainings, webinars, courses, mentorships, and more. MarketingBros is a little bit more real and fun than our other brands because it’s us - we’re truthful, and a little cynical, and extremely passionate about doing marketing well. So far, our FB group has 60 members, and we’ve got merch in the works (though that’s not nearly as cool as our website and teaching offerings).
We met & exceeded all of our goals for the year. (December)
With the EOS that Traction gave us, we made goals - financial goals, lead goals, client goals, and more. We’re super stoked to say that we were able to reach all of them before Jan.1! Even in a pandemic, with all of the unknowns 2020 held and all of the obstacles that came our way… Empirical360 is still moving forward.
We asked each person on the team a few questions about this year. With the exception of a couple who were busy for the holidays and couldn’t get us their answers in time, here’s what we found:
If you had to sum up 2020 in one word, it would be _________?
What was something you learned this year?
Elliot: “How to implement Traction (the EOS)”
Erik: “Focus on less and you will do more.”
Amanda: “Adaptation, organization, and communication really are key to continued success.”
Luis: “You need to stop being afraid of the challenges and fight for your independence as a professional and entrepreneur.”
Shea: “This year taught me so much! A couple major things I learned...you have to be able to find purpose in your work to do it well, and casting vision makes all the difference when it comes to finding purpose. Also, getting the right people in the right places makes a big difference when it comes to team dynamic and success!”
One reason why you were grateful for 2020?
Elliot: “It helped us understand what we really want.”
Erik: “It forced our hand to grow our business the right way.”
Amanda: “I got to be involved in so many different projects this year….I was able to help edit a book that Erik, Elliot, and Shea wrote and Luis’s creative for the cover (WHAT?!...never in a million years did I think I would be a part of such a cool part of the content side of Empirical360), I got to come up with different ways to streamline our weekly calls with our clients, meet and develop great relationships with our clients while working from home, the list really goes on and on!”
Luis: “I’m blessed to have just survived so far!”
Shea: “Countless reasons. This year made me a more grateful person as a whole, but I think professionally, when it comes to watching our business grow in the midst of a time when so many businesses were closing their doors, I’m just grateful that we were able to not just survive, but thrive. I don’t know that I would have been as grateful for our growth if I hadn’t have had 2020 as a reason to count that as a huge blessing.”
Favorite Empirical moment from this year?
Elliot: “Pivoting our agency to lawyers and exceeding all of our goals.”
Erik: “There are too many! Getting 50+ lawyers as clients, implementing Traction, and publishing the book are probably my top 3.”
Amanda: “We have a Level 10 meeting each week where our entire team is on the call. Going over highs and lows of the week as well as making things more organized for our team and watching them completely CRUSH the goals each person has given themselves for their respected department has been my favorite thing this year.”
Luis: “Getting hired by Empirical360!”
Shea: “I’ve got two - this is going to sound silly, but at the beginning of the year we did this thing when we each had a new Zoom background for every call. It kept things fun and kept us laughing with each other even when the world was kind of falling apart - I loved all the moments like that where we managed to find the good in the crazy as a team. This team is SO special. The other was definitely finally finishing the book - it was such a labor of love from everyone, and it was awesome to see our dreams become reality! Can’t believe we’re actually published authors. It gives us street cred.”
What are you most excited about next year for our company?
Erik: “Working with more lawyers, and gaining some steam with MarketingBros!”
Amanda: “We have really been doing a lot to be more organized and trying to find different ways to get our clients more involved and excited to make their campaigns as successful as they can be. I am sure 2021 is going to have some awesome roll-outs. I feel so grateful to be in a company where we have so much fun and cheer each other on so, I am also unbelievably pumped to watch our team knock it out of the park again next year!”
Luis: “Being part of Empirical360 growth.”
Shea: “Now that we’ve really got a solid grip on our direction and organization, I’m excited for all of the possibilities of dreaming the year holds. More fun projects like the book and MarketingBros...maybe another book? Maybe more video courses? Sky’s the limit for us, and I don’t know exactly what’s next but I’m here for it!”
We honestly got a little bit emotional writing this - this year has been INSANE, and it’s been good and hard in equal measure. Looking back brings laughter, joy, and determination, but most of all gratitude. We love what we do, who we do it with, and who we do it for. We are so, so grateful for our team, for our clients for trusting us through the highs and lows and unknowns, and to you for keeping up with us! Cheers to the next! Wishing you a safe and happy New Year from the entire team at Empirical360.
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