Here is the abridged version of how Oneupweb came to be, but more than that—it’s the story of my friend Jeff and how his advice and guidance helped save my business.
Mentor Advice: Focus On the Thing You Do Best — by Lisa Wehr
A couple of days ago, several of my “Oneupwebbers” and I were meeting in the conference room related to client work and the topic of mentors and people who helped us throughout our lives and careers came up. It certainly caused me to stop and reflect a bit. I think it may be a side effect of having reached 50. Whatever.
Believe me, this is not my swan song. Looking back though, it’s time to recognize a few of these important folks—at least in print. Not just to say thank you, but also to urge my friends and colleagues to do the same, when you feel the time is right.
I’ll cover others in upcoming blog posts but this one has to be the first one.
Jeff Dearth – Desilva + Phillips
Jeff is an investment banker and deal broker. He’s a handsome man, smart, well connected and well versed in the digital landscape. In the early days he owned a dot com himself, which gave him a lot of street cred.
Back around 1998, the internet was just a newborn. A few us—myself included— saw the potential business opportunity here, and before the dot com craze hit, I had built a small but successful web design business in Alaska. At that same time, the entrepreneurial side of me had conceived and launched several web sites of my own which I felt could be successful. Fast forward a bit— enter the dot com hay day.
Danny Sullivan introduced me to Jeff. At the time, I was seeking someone to help me sell one of my budding web properties. I contacted Jeff to work on brokering a deal for one that was generating nice revenue. That deal eventually fell apart through no fault of Jeff, who worked diligently throughout the process. What did come about from that experience was a friendship that has lasted until this day. And while I would have no way of knowing it then, Jeff’s influence a few years later would be hugely responsible for the existence of Oneupweb.
In 2000, I was prepared to move from Alaska. My goal: start an incubator company with the numerous web properties I had built. I lined up a small group of angel investors in Michigan, packed up and headed south to the Great Lakes state. En route, the ugly dot com bubble had burst. It’s all about timing. By the time I reached Michigan, my investors had backed out and all I had left were a few bucks, expensive office space and a couple of employees.
I owned the name Oneupweb and had become an expert in search engine optimization (SEO) in the years prior. So I started from scratch, and Oneupweb was born. But—it wasn’t my focus. I still operated my other web properties which, at the time I didn’t realize, were diluting my efforts overall. I was spread too thin to do any one thing well.
Re-enter Jeff. Jeff and a number of retired businessmen met with me in my office one day to consult. All of my mini businesses were floundering and I had little cash flow. (There were even a few times when my parents had to help me make payroll.) The one piece of advice Jeff gave me that day–which resonated with me then and still does today— is simple, and it ultimately saved my career:
“Stop working on all of these businesses. Focus on the one thing you do best.” At the time, that was SEO.
The rest is history. I followed Jeff’s advice and stopped trying to herd cats. I centered my efforts on Oneupweb.
Those were tough days, and I’ve had many more since that time, but I firmly believe that you become stronger after you’ve stared down adversity a time or two.
There are many other people who have helped me succeed along the way, but (aside from my family), Jeff was the first one who spoke to me from the heart, gave me solid advice and contributed to our success as a company.
You’re a good man and friend.