The transition from employee to CEO is typically engineered out of mental necessity, protection of the ego; whether it’s being disrespected, unappreciated, underpaid, the gamut of reasons is extensive and certainly valid in the eyes of the employee, turned would-be CEO. What if you loved your current role, and never had plans on leaving? This was the mindset Dan Anton embodied when he, serendipitously was confronted with a decision to become a small business owner.
Dan Anton joined the military because of the September 11, 2001 attacks on The World Trade Centers. He ascended to the rank of Major, where on his second tour, was injured in combat by an IED, medically retiring. As an Army officer over a 10 year career, Dan foresaw his future as a battlefield General. Rather than become a desk soldier he reluctantly left his love and passion of leading men in combat, to rediscover purpose and life in his next phase, entrepreneurship.
Ability and opportunity are intricately linked, akin to price and value. By recalling the success he had as a teenager selling video games online, and college student selling video game guides, Dan rekindled his original passion, video games, when setting out to create a massive social network for gamers. The passion project would ultimately fail, teaching Dan one of the most important lessons to owning and operating a business, passion is key, but solving complex problems is the crux of any quality product or service.
Gamers didn’t need a central meeting place, and so the problem wasn’t lucrative or practical; meanwhile businesses were struggling to get their businesses found online and effectively spend their marketing budgets. As a testament to his objective leadership, Dan reluctantly pivoted to service those seeking SEO (search engine optimization) and online marketing help for their business websites.
In the Weeds. An Effective Leader Understands All Roles
The fantasy of delegating all responsibilities and collecting a paycheck is enticing, and completely misleading in the business world. One of the major lessons learned during CharacterPlanet, was never delegate a task you don’t wholeheartedly understand, or can easily fix yourself, or through new hires. This is how black boxes of knowledge are created, conceding power to employees, resulting in unaccountability. Dan Anton made it his tantamount duty understand all facets of his business: advanced coding, front end design, customer support, SEO, paid traffic, sales funnels, photoshop.
Only once Dan Anton prioritized mastery of all skillsets was he able to competently delegate day to day operations. Now if code was redundant, sloppy, or hackable he would step in, correct the issue or hire new help. If landing pages were not converting he would tweak them, or hire new graphic designers and copywriters. Each phase was painstakingly micro-managed until the subordinates earned Dan’s trust, and a true cohesive team was formed under the leadership and clear vision set out by the commander. Whether he was leading men into battle from the front, or servicing business owners, field generals are always better equipped and respected, juxtaposed counterparts, those who lazily abdicate and shirk responsibility.
More Reps, More Results
Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a controversial figure. Looking passed the steroids and infidelity, the man has a strong work ethic, where he poignantly articulates the importance of mastery by repetition, in his book Total Recall. Dan Anton was able to see opportunities in the SEO and online marketing space not by mere observation, but by doing; actively testing, tweaking and embracing customer feedback, good or bad. Success breeds more success, as confidence, opportunity, and ability forge a business owner, an inseparable gestalt, whose sum is much greater than the parts of a CEO.
Want to get better at firing an AR-15? Fire thousands of rounds at the gun range. Communicate more effectively, practice communicating a vision to subordinates using visual cues, anecdotes, or other useful strategums. Create useful SEO and marketing software, understand the pain points and systematically solve them completely.
Dan’s first major SEO software success was BacklinksIndexer, ironically emancipating a human based robotic task through complete automation The repetitive, drone-like task of creating content, blog syndication, social media posting, and other activities were enslaving webmasters and business owners, attempting to index their webpages and backlinks in Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines.
Years later, a newer, complex problem would arise, natural, organic traffic and its interactions with a website. Industry leaders in the search industry such as Rand Fishkin would run case studies to prove search results were affected by user engagement. Half solutions existed, such as fake robot traffic, but the holy grail was leveraging real human traffic, and interacting with a website. It was easy to fake traffic stats, but time spent consuming content on a website was not fakeable. Dan saw a huge opportunity and began a large-scale R&D project, amassing users all over the country who were willing to browse websites for compensation, either in credits earned or money.
Exhaustive private testing led to consistent, scalable, on-demand real traffic. A mobile application inclusively added anyone with a mobile device and internet connection into the community. CrowdSearch was one of the largest single day product launches in JVzoo, becoming product of the day, and honors of top 10 product of 2015.
Basic Humanity Supersedes Cleverness
Thousands of daily search engine promotion tasks were now automated through Dan Anton’s SEO software, but the obfuscated, underlying truth remained, a human being was on the other end of the computer. The help desk and phone calls were beginning to showcase a pattern; people needed guidance and a complete solution to their marketing campaigns, not simply one facet.
Seeing the demand rise, Dan created his Atlanta Search Engine Marketing Company. While the millions of dollars in development, testing and fine-tuning software would be the focus of the business, humans still do business with humans. The decision to perform 1 on 1 consultations was not taken lightly, as it represented an unscalable commodity – time. Dan, Matt Anton, or another partner in the agency would personally analyze someone’s business, guiding them in the right direction. Selling based on consultation and mutual benefit, not empty promises or lofty goals. Love and humanity are often the missing piece to the cold science of marketing. Through client-listening and a holistic approach to marketing, the agency quickly grew to dominate the Atlanta, Georgia area, garnering requests nationally and internationally to manage Fortune 500 clients.
From confirmed kills in Iraq to confirmed client growth, not all transitions are as unconventional as Dan Anton’s. The tenant principles: owning a vision, solving complex problems, devoting oneself to every facet of an industry, and making customers themselves a passion, birthed his private sector business, creating a million dollar company as a byproduct of services and value rendered.