Solid Web Services

May 1, 2024 - 10 min read
Jamie Foster, owner of Solid Web Service, discusses the unique approach of his digital agency and the importance of having a reliable team like Elite. Working with Elite has helped Solid Web Service experience significant growth and allows Jamie to focus on business development and client relationships.

Matt: Hey everybody, thank you for taking time to watch this video, and today, we're very very fortunate to have the very very eminent Jamie Foster with us live on the call. Jamie is the owner of a digital agency called Solid Web Service, and Jamie and I have been working together for over four years now, so he is the perfect person to come in and share a little bit of insight, wisdom, and knowledge with us.

So Jamie, thank you for getting on the call, and thank you for sharing some insights.

Jamie: Of course, thanks for having me.

Matt: So just for the benefit of anybody watching, perhaps you could just start by telling everybody a little bit about Solid Web and what it is you guys do?

Jamie: Sure, I think our company is a little different than a traditional agency, and I really don't use that term very often. My background is in technical sales and account management. Through that process, my brain is just tuned to find the problems that the prospective clients have, determine if we should solve the problem for them first, and then once we identify the path to success for that client and agree with that client how we'll measure success, only then do we work together.

The wonderful thing about my approach is I attract clients who have no budget and have had horrible experiences with agencies, so it's a great position for me because then I can see what the problem was that wasn't being fixed, and then as a client says, "Here's what I want our website to do," I realize immediately that I don't have the skill or the time to develop the skill to make the themes do what I needed to do.

I reached out and worked with several other people and just didn't have a good vibe, or the people that did have a good vibe with didn't have time to work with us, and a lot of people quite honestly said I don't know if you've got the skills for me to attach my wagon to you, and the rest was right, as far as programming goes, I know my limitations.

As you're well aware, to be successful in this field, you don't have to be a jack of all trades, and like they say, an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client. It's the same here, but for me to be comfortable with the process, I needed to have my hands in everything. I needed to know the very basics of how things worked, so if I had a change in personnel, I could go in and fix things. I'm a bit of a control freak, so that's how we met, and early on you said, "I'm trying a new thing, and if you'll be patient with me, I think we're going to work well together," and that has definitely happened.

Matt: Just kind of going back to that early time then because you said that you tried out a few different things, what did you try and what were the limitations with them?

Jamie: So I have a good friend who is a very talented programmer, and we would work well together. He had a full-time day job, so my work always got pushed off on the back burner, always ran over deadlines, and strained our friendship. To be honest - and you know I'm just getting off the ground so I couldn't hire someone to come in full-time and really shouldn't have done that, I'm glad I didn't. I'm glad we learned the way we did.

So I went through several different programmers, several different developers and really learned the difference between those two. It's extremely unusual for someone to be a good programmer and a good developer. Oftentimes they're okay at both, but it's a brain-wiring thing, so you need a team around you that is going to be there for you, and that has been my experience with Elite. That you have someone - and we don't always work with the same person, you'll look at the challenges that I'm facing, and that you'll assign a team member who has the skill set to fix that, and I don't have to worry.

Oftentimes we get a project set up, I go to bed, I get up the next morning, and I have a note that it's done. My anxiety levels just dropped exponentially because I had a good team around, and I still do.

Matt: In your position and with your kind of aspirations for the business, what does it mean to you to know that you've always had the Elite team to be able to rely on?

Jamie: I sleep at night. Anyone who has started their own business understands the massive amounts of anxiety that will just ascend upon you at the least expected moment.

As far as knowing that I've got the Elite team backing me up, what that does for me is it allows me to be who I am rather than becoming a fractured bunch of half-wits running around trying to take care of things. I don't need that kind of help; I can do that all on my own, so to that point, I'm able to see things that are going on. I may jump into a task and fix it myself just because I'm curious, or I want to see what's going on, or I know I can take care of that.

More times than not, I'll create a task with the team, I get a quick response, and we talk and we clarify what's going on, and that's so important because I've had contractors and employees before who would just say, "Well, this is what you said you wanted," and that's infuriating to me. I try to tell everyone, "Look, I don't know what I'm doing; that's why I hired you to do this so that you can help me understand this and move forward," and again, it makes our relationship better when we're honest on those types of terms.

There are plenty of people out there that I simply don't want to work with because someone whose advice I take regularly said, "Only take on clients that you respect because you're going to have to argue with them." In our world, we have to have an exchange back and forth if we're going to create an exceptional product, and that happens. I get pushback from the Elite team, and I respect that. I love it, that's exactly what I want because I know they're listening and I know that they're trying to not just shut me up, but they're trying to solve the problems.

I'm doing the same thing with my clients, and I don't pretend that I'm doing all of this work. I tell my clients that I work with a team who are fantastic at what they do, and we've got some wonderful opportunities with time zones where we can go to bed with an issue that we're trying to deal with. When I wake up in the morning, it's solved, or I have a better understanding of it. I can start my day confidently when I have the Elite team at my back.

So then, what do I do with my day? Well now, I'm going and looking for clients, and I'm talking to my existing clients about other things that we could be doing, not trying to figure out how to change a background color for 45 minutes, my time is much more valuable doing what I'm best at, and that's solving business problems for my clients

Matt: Since you mentioned time zones, I just want you to pick up on that a little bit. Obviously,  the way things are going for you works very well, but some people might be concerned that working with a team whose hours predominantly don't line up with their own could be a problem. Have you seen any problems with regards to communication or any urgent needs that you felt haven't gone addressed?

Jamie: It's a good question. I can't think of one example; the only thing is I'll get a response, and then I'll do the math in my head and realize this person's answering my question at 9:00 PM their time, and I'll feel a little guilty sometimes,  but no, you know I haven't had a problem interacting with any of the team members because it feels you have it balanced so that someone is always awake at the switch.

Matt: Yep, that's exactly what we tried to do, so it's reassuring to hear that it is working for you in that way, and if I could just kind of speak to the more - I suppose, tangible impact that it's had on your business, what would you say that just working with the team has done for you in terms of growth?

Jamie: So I'll talk about growth in a second, but the thing that was most interesting was trying to wrap my head around the value of partnering with Elite and how much should I be paying. Am I paying too much, am I paying enough, or are the contractors that I'm working with being exploited again? I'm in my 50's, so I've seen a lot of things come down the pike, and what I saw a lot of were very talented people being treated very poorly and being exploited.

When we first talked, I told you that was one of my concerns, that I did not want to partner with someone who was exploiting talented people. I've seen that it made me sick to my stomach, and I just wouldn't do it, and we had a very frank conversation and it made my respect for you grow exponentially, and four years later, that's just continued to be the case. You told the truth on day one, and you've fulfilled the promises that you made, so who can complain about that?

As far as growth goes, doing everything myself, growing very slowly, we experienced probably a 10% to 15% growth the first few years, and then when I started working with Elite, my concern was, "Well, there goes my growth. I have this new expense, and now I'm just going to flatline." Of course, that didn't happen, and we started seeing 15% annual growth. And then in 2023, we grew by 40%, which is massive, and that happened because I was able to take on larger clients who would require a larger team. Day-in, day-out, month after month, we set up our challenges, we solve those challenges, the client pays their bill, and they're happy.

Matt: That's incredible; that's fantastic to hear, and really really incredible growth over the last year. So I suppose a good way to wrap up then would be, what does this year hold for you? What does the next 12 months look like for Solid Web?

Jamie: Well, I'm still an anxious control freak, that hasn't changed, but I'm able to to really be my best self, which is I can be a sales consultant... I can be a business consultant for my clients, many of whom are a bit younger than I am, and we have a very strong relationship there.

What I'm looking to do in 2024 and moving forward is to find more clients like the ones I have now. Before I worked with Elite, I knew I would hit a peak and I wouldn't be able to move past that, and then when you can't scale, what happens eventually is you burn out and you fail. So for anyone starting a company, I would encourage them, of course, to talk to you about what their pain points are and how you can solve that for them, but I would encourage them to start your business to run without you, because then, you'll create a business that you can sell and go do something else.

I'm still very happy we haven't hit our full potential here, but if I do everything myself, then when I want to do something else, I can't. If I die, of course, I will, but other people have to worry about that. But you know, when the end comes, what happens to my clients? They're not going to be in good hands at that point, so that kind of thinking, for me, is important, and then knowing that my team is there, I can scale.

If you need to bring on more team members to help us and your other clients, you're able to do that; I've seen you do that successfully, so I want to continue to fine-tune our services. We're to add on some new Services, we're going to look at some new challenges that are coming down with Google. We do more together than just building websites, I'm able to say, "hey, what do you think is going to happen with this," and then I've got great minds giving me feedback and helping me make decisions (so don't raise my rates because I rely on you, you can raise them a little bit.)

Matt: Oh, really? Okay, we'll maybe have a sidebar conversation then, but no seriously, that's great, and I'm just getting excited about the next year and your growth just listening to you, so I really enjoyed the journey that we've been on together so far, and I'm even more excited about the future ahead, so thank you so much for taking the time to just go through this with me and just share your thoughts and your insight. It's been really great hearing that, and really positive, and I'm really excited for the future.

Jamie: Absolutely, Matt. Thanks so much, as always. I appreciate your help, and I rely on you immensely.


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