If there’s anyone who can claim they “wear many hats” at work, it’s the CEO. They’re the face of the company, head fundraiser and lead cheerleader, not to mention the one who bears the entire business on their shoulders. It can be difficult to find even an hour of free time, especially when you’re managing a business that comprises of over 200 websites at the age of 20.

Meet Ryan Deiss, the CEO and founder of DigitalMarketer, a marketing training and certification company, and founder at NativeCommerce.com, a web conglomerate that includes sites such as makeuptutorials.com, diyprojects.com and homemaderecipes.com. He kicked off his business when he set himself a goal to purchase an engagement ring for his college girlfriend (now wife with four kids) during the heyday of internet entrepreneurship. Along the way, he managed to build websites for all types of clients, even working with a lactation consultant that landed him a successful run selling baby food e-books. Besides being a romantic (and comedic) story, it’s a story of business success. In the past four years, Digital Marketer has experienced explosive growth, most recently supported by the Salesforce platform when building out a new sales team. This team would go on to generate $5 million in sales in just over 6 months.

His secret to managing a website empire? Three things.

One, he understands the bottom line.

Two, he invests time into what works for his strengths and his business.

Three, he commits to one hour of undisturbed time, every day.

The Bottom Line

Growing companies sometimes fall into a deadly trap of hyper-growth they can’t control or worse, growth followed by decline they can’t recover from. Both can stress small businesses, that otherwise have a loyal customer base and compelling product.

When asked the secret to recovering from common small business challenges, Deiss’s answer is simple.

“Never run out of money. You can face the worst product launch, but as long as you still have funds, your business can survive. Many companies think the solution is to round up more capital, but I suggest focusing on what pays the bills”

But it’s not only the mindset that counts, because most companies endeavor to be profitable. It’s also taking the time to put a price on everything. “Ask yourself, how much are we spending on headcount? What’s our cost of production? What are our administrative costs? Know how much you’re spending and keep your fixed costs as razor thin as possible,” says Deiss.

Invest Time in What Works

After spending a majority of his career building online businesses, I asked Deiss what led him to start DigitalMarketer, a professional certification and training company.

At this point in his career, clients and companies often invited him for consulting or speaking engagements, wanting help with building digital marketing skills in their teams. The result was an email list where he would share his digital marketing methods. This eventually grew into a whole company, devoted to sharing marketing techniques and processes and creating certifications for various categories ranging from email marketing to blog writing.

Interestingly, Deiss decided against the route taken by other experienced marketers, of starting a marketing agency or acting as a freelance consultant. Instead, he dedicated his time and resources to doing exactly what worked for the last 18 years: building scalable products such as virtual workshops and certifications that could be sold and distributed online.

The One Hour Rule

Finally, a tip for working parents, who can relate to a house where every day is an adventure. As Deiss tells it, “for four months straight my daughter had nightmares and would wake me up at 4:30 AM. That’s just part of being a parent, submitting to the chaos.”

With four kids, having a structure and a time-blocked schedule wasn’t a possibility. “Insisting on organization would only lead to disappointment” says Ryan. Instead, he dedicated one hour to zero disturbances, the only hour that was a truly blocked out in his day. That 60 minutes was dedicated to work that “better be high leverage, and better move the needle.” If that hour proved fruitful. On many days that one hour could turn into 2 or 3 hours, but the commitment was only to the first hour.

Sticking to one hour might not work for everyone, but the message can still be a learning lesson. For busy parents and busy professionals, at a certain point, controlling every minute of your waking hours will have to take the backburner. More realistic? Clearly marking undisturbed time in your week, and keeping flex room for the rest of hours where interruptions are expected.

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