“Don’t Be Afraid To Charge What You’re Worth” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder

I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon Howard; the founder of All My Web Needs. What started as a one-man operation when he was 21 has evolved into a team of over 15 people. Instead of just offering design, programming, and maintenance for websites Brandon has expanded the company into a full fledged digital marketing agency offering a suite of services to businesses of all sizes.

Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?

I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit. I started my first successful venture (a video production company) when I was 12 years old, but squandered all of the money I made on things 12 year olds like. Since then I’ve tried various other businesses. Some have been successful and some not. In the case of AMWN I was managing a business with about 25 employees and I had tried working with several web designers over a lengthy period. For some reason they were always really unreliable and flighty.

After a couple of years trying to get a website from someone I eventually gave up and decided to figure it out myself. I’ve always been a computer person, so I looked at the source code of some websites and reverse engineered how it worked. I managed to build a website for the company I was managing, and some other business owners asked me to build theirs. As I continued to refine that skill I also didn’t really know where the responsibilities of a web designer began and ended, so whenever people would ask questions I’d always go out and find the answer. Eventually I was able to answer questions about website design, custom programming, hosting, search engine marketing, social media, etc. I realized I was onto something, so I started All My Web Needs.

I worked alone for a long time and built my portfolio at night after my day job would end. My boss was also kind enough to let me work on projects while I was at work as long as my regular duties came first. As a result, I not only built a wide range of skills in this industry, but I also became extremely efficient with implementation. Then as time passed I started bringing in other team members to specialize in different areas. Now we have a solid team of experts that focus on their specific areas and I’m able to advise clients on all levels of the process to help make everything as efficient and cost effective as possible.

Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The biggest thing that makes us stand out is our ability to deliver high quality websites & online marketing campaigns at lower prices than our competition. We aren’t the cheapest, but the results we deliver are on par with some of the highest end providers in the country at a fraction of the cost.

Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Yes, we always have different projects going on. Just looking at the board next to my desk right now I’ve got website projects for a major beer festival, a fencing club, a manufacturer of medical supplies, a non-profit, a couple of schools, an app development company, a warehousing & logistics company, and many more. I could go on with the list but don’t want to drone off. We don’t have a specific niche we focus on, so we always have interesting projects coming through.

Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

I don’t have a specific book or story to reference here. I enjoy reading science fiction quite a bit, but can’t really connect any books with anything related to being a founder.

Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1 — Be real with people. If you provide a quality product/service just be honest with people. They’ll appreciate you being honest with them about the benefits and shortcomings of what you’re providing. Just make sure you also lay out the benefits and shortcomings of the competing products/services.

2 — Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can joke around with people. Humor is a great selling tool.

3 — Business is personal. Anyone that says “it’s not personal, it’s just business” doesn’t know business.

4 — Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. When I started out I was self taught, so my honestly the websites I built weren’t great. The problem was that I became so used to those types of customers and their price points I couldn’t improve my service offerings until I increased my pricing.

5 — Take the time to know your numbers. A surprising number of small business owners don’t know how much they’re bringing in or what they’re spending. Some are even uncomfortable with discussing it because they don’t want to seem greedy. You can’t build a scalable business that way. You absolutely have to know your numbers so you can continually improve your infrastructure and process.

Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

Marcus Lemonis. I’ve learned quite a bit from his show and I’ve taken small nuggets he’s dropped over time to refine my own way of thinking and my own business. I’d love to sit down and talk with him about business for an hour or so over lunch. I’m always looking to learn and improve and I feel like I’d learn a lot from him.

— Published on June 27, 2018