Billion Success is a website that focuses on interviews with entrepreneurs who like to share their wisdom and stories with others to help guide them along their journey. Below is the interview conducted with the news site and myself.
Born to be an entrepreneur Richart Ruddie is a digital marketing expert who owns over a dozen businesses in his portfolio and is up to take on any fun challenge every business day.
A true entrepreneur and innovator in the ORM space Richart Ruddie discusses a little bit of everything with BillionSuccess.com:
- Please tell us a little bit about your business – what is (your company here) all about? Brandefenders is one of those company names that you have a pretty good idea exactly what the company does just from the name. At a domain conference that was one of the biggest pieces of advice on a domain that can tell your visitors exactly what it is you do. We help defend brands and replace fake news attacks with good positive content for our clientele.
- Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company? Like most other businesses things are not planned and they accidently fall into place. I learned my digital marketing skills initially while waiting to get on a trading desk at a boutique hedge fund in Boca Raton, Florida. While paying my dues entailed working on a startup for free I was willing to do it and it ended up paying enormous dividends by investing in learning a new skill that I was able to take and develop different services in the digital space. I never planned to get into reputation management or data privacy removal work but things tend to fall into place if you give yourself opportunities and are willing to take risks. Without risk you lose the biggest potential intrinsically and extrinsically.
- What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur, and why?
1. Perseverance. As I blogged about one of my idols Jim Simmons who is the most successful mathematician of all time. He was unsuccessful at first and could have called it quits but luckily didn’t. Those who are willing to work hard and not give up are the stories you hear about that make you smile and I cringe when I hear thte would’ve could’ve should’ve excuses.
2. Patience. Being an entrepreneur is the gift that keeps on giving but you have to be patient.
3. Be willing to adopt and change to new environments but never go too far with one trend. Great things are always evolving and you need to be willing to change if needed but you can never risk the entire mission on a change that may not happen. For example Kodak should’ve been aggressively investing in digital but they shouldn’t have put 100% of their focus into it until their legacy business was fully diluted. Whatever happened to Fuji Film by the way? I used to see them advertising all over Yankee stadium.
- What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company? Slow and steady continues to win the race. As more and more referrals come through the door and we have a strong presence of leads that opt into our network of reputation management sites daily we strive to keep a focus on delivering quality solutions paired with excellent customer service. Unfortunately that’s not super scalable like other SaaS companies but we can proudly continue to grow double digits each year thanks to help from additional services we’ve added and direct removals where we or one of our vendors negotiates directly with a webmaster to remove false content online as nobody should have to live with content they don’t approve of on the internet especially if it’s not true or is posted with the sole intention of cyber bullying.
- How have the pandemic and Lockdown affected you or your new business? (Here you can share some stories or lessons learned operating during pandemic lockdown) Lockdowns as we’ve seen were not the best thing to do but like many things in life you don’t always have perfect information to tell you whats ahead. Luckily our team was setup to already work decentrally if needed and we continued to push on with all of our work and only saw a small bit of attrition the first 45 days but then things picked right back up as more people were searching for things online they realized they better clean up whats being said about them or for many of the other niches that we service they got the memo that they need to promote their good press and let the naysayers be pushed down to the wayside.
- How do you separate yourself from your competitors? Like Jeff Bezos when building up Amazon our focus has always been to obsessively ensure that our clients goals and expectations are met and they are happy with what we can do for them. Other companies treat their customers just as another number where as with us we give them a white glove service and let them bother us any time day or night. While it’s been counterproductive to family time it’s been good for referrals and showing our true character that were an honest hard working people just like they are and can empathize with them over their issues. When you have a friend you can confide in it’s easier to say I want to work with you versus xyz reputation company.
- What were the top three mistakes you made starting your business, and what did you learn from them? (Most Important to readers) 1. Early on one of our first clients was a big silicon valley venture capitalist. Knowing what I know now I should’ve put more of an emphasis on building out a complimentary SaaS platform back then and leveraging our relationship to get funded and grow into a multi-billion dollar platform. The more money I can make the more money I can give away to great causes and save lives. So lesson number 1 is take advantage of the relationships with the people you’ve helped and earned their trust.
- Not hiring more staff in the early days. I’ve traveled the world and worked remotely from China to California. We’ve had numerous freelancers and a small team but we could’ve scaled a bit more and taken the business to a higher magnitude had we brought in full stack developers and built out a SaaS platform early on.
- I’ve leveraged the cash flow here to start other great projects but would have re-invested more capital in product development. We have great offerings but being heavy on technology that would be hard to replicate would really have increased our overall valuation.
- Tell us a little bit about your marketing process, what has been the most successful form of marketing for you? (Second Most Important to readers). The most successful is the word of mouth clients. Every week we have new leads who say I’ve seen what you did for this person or my friend, lawyer, PR company, SEO agency, you name it complimented your work and now I have this problem and I’m looking for an expert like you to solve it. The second is creative search content. Whether it’s creating content about a recent news story and giving our take on the subject matter or ranking for obscure websites that we can delete content from with our direct relationships it’s all about being creative and thinking about how a user queries a search term and how to craft content that may appear for that.
- What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? In 2016 I was being extorted by an ambulance chasing attorney who made false claims but it was important to protect my clients first and foremost and ensure that the company I started continued on as a viable entity and showed that we stand by our clients through thick and thin. While it was annoying to have to pay off the ambulance chaser attorney to make him go away our business grew exponentially because they saw that Richart Ruddie has character and ethics above and beyond what any other company owner in my space would have done for them. When you show your clients that you are vested in their success they appreciate that and not only do they stick by you but they also refer you their friends and that’s exactly what happened. Those who don’t kill you truly do make you stronger.
- What was your first business idea and what did you do with it? I’ve prided myself in always being creative and innovative. My mother brought me to an InventHelp location outside of Owings Mills, Maryland when I was a kid to discuss the idea of a wireless charging device. Decades later we have charging pads but it was intruiging to see how the early stage development of ideas come together. I’ve done everything from create sports betting brands to looking into play to win arcade games. There was a video game called Stacker that was growing in popularity and I wanted to purchase the arcade game and place it in different malls. Problem is I didn’t have the capital at the time so went on to run a parking company in Florida which ultimately led me to where I am today. My children when they have ideas and need some startup capital I’ll be ecstatic to take on those journeys with them.
- What are you learning now? Why is that important? Data privacy is the new gold. While the early 2010’s we saw the growth in big data now were seeing the huge growth in how we process that data and what we do with it. As more states and governments enact privacy protections it’s important to know how data is being handled. An exit from the online public relations business and into the ever growing world of privacy while still pursuing other entrepreneurial passions would be ideal.
- If you started your business again, what things would you do differently? (if you wouldn’t do anything different, why not) Hindsight is 20/20 and if you play the butterfly effect too much you’ll drive yourself insane with would’ve, could’ve. Should’ve’s. The only thing is I would’ve bought all ETH when it came out and all BTC in 2009 and sold it all in Q1 2022 and then started a foundation to donate to change the world for the better in orders of magnitude.
- What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company? (other than your own. Please insert links – Do explain why you’re recommending them) I’m a big fan of Serpwoo.com which a friend of mine developed and I helped consult with feedback at the earliest of stages. It’s a search engine ranking placement tracker to see where your target keywords for clients are rising or falling. Spreedly is a charging and CRM tool that’s become very helpful and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the team at their headquarters in Raleigh North Carolina right next to where Google is located, and I’m a big fan of Google’s suite of products from spreadsheets, to docs, to presentations.
- What’s a productivity tip you swear by? There’s method to the madness and everybody has their own way of getting things done. You don’t need strict conformity as long as you produce. If somebody doesn’t come around in the early stages however it’s best to cut bait as bad habits are hard to change and it’s hard to unteach laziness.
- Can you recommend one book, one podcast, and one online course for entrepreneurs? (other than your own. Please insert links – Do explain why you’re recommending them) I’ve become a big fan of the All In Podcast with Jason Calcanis, David Sachs, Friedberg, and Chamath which gives a great perspective on what’s happened in the world that week with advice from seasoned Venture Capitalists, tech experts, and they conversate in a manner that makes you feel like you can chime in.
- If you only had $1000 dollars to start a new business, knowing everything you know now, how would you spend it? (Third Most Important to readers – Assume you have a laptop and unlimited wifi) A re-seller of tech services doing white label services and software would be the way to start. There’s a lot of great stacks out there that don’t have great marketing teams and sales people. I’d get permission to be a re-seller, create a website, setup a small targeted ad campaign, and pick up the phone and start calling prospects to start generating revenue. From there you can build and build. When I started out in the structured settlement industry we essentially had affiliate partners and were excellent marketers that outgrew our partners. I would aim to do the same if I was down to my last $1,000.
- What helps you stay driven and motivated to keep going in your business? When you do what you love it’s not work. It’s true for entrepreneurs and as long as you continue to face challenges, problems, and can find unique ways to resolve them it keeps things fun and exciting.
What is your favorite quote? Almost every day there’s great quotes that I’m spreading on twitter. Today that quote is from Abraham Lincoln: “Focus on Common Humanity, Not Small Group Identities”
- What valuable advice would you give new entrepreneurs starting out? (Your chance to convince the reader to take action now) Don’t ever be afraid to take chances and think that the time isn’t now. There is never the best time it’s you who makes the time right and you who says the time is not now. Choosing later delays the inevitable.
- Who should we interview next and why? Jason Calcanis from This week in Startups.
- What is your definition of success? Happiness & Freedom. I was staying at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C. last year and the Cleveland Cavaliers had their entire basketball team staying there. As they got off the bus the manager was directing the players on where to walk in a single file line, they all had to be masked up, and they all had to dress in an appropriate and approved manner. As I strolled around not being required to wear a mask, wearing whatever I want, and walking my dog in whichever direction he chose to walk, I realized that as an entrepreneur you have more freedom than some of the highest paid athletes in sport leagues who are wildly successful but still have a large set of rules they need to follow if they want to get paid. That to me is just one of many ways I can measure my success.
- How do you personally overcome fear? I try not to stress because it’s not healthy and I strive to live a very health-conscious lifestyle. Things are never as bad as it seem when you take a step back and work through problems calm, cool, and collected.
- How can readers get in touch with you? (No Bullet points URLs, please answer like you were talking to someone. only share info you want people to use. no phone numbers) If you’re intrigued by my thought patterns and would like to connect then show me a creative way to connect and drop a line. I’m always looking at new ventures and have invested in numerous businesses over the last decade.