In a world increasingly filled with large corporations, we feel there is a lot to be said for the value you find in working with a family business. ViziSites is the brainchild of Jesse & Rebecca Davis, who founded the company in the spring of 2013. Ever since then, they have been growing a team of people who are motivated by a passion to make small businesses more successful online.
Where did this idea come from? How do they keep driving the business forward and setting the bar for veterinary internet marketing while keeping a happy family life? As someone who has watched it grow from nearly it’s inception, I thought there would be lots of fun tidbits of information and wisdom that our readers would appreciate in the ViziSites story.
So, I sat down with Rebecca and Jesse to have a candid conversation about where ViziSites started, where it is now, and where they want to go.
Taking a Risk
In the spring of 2013, Jesse had spent the last 6 years working for one of the internet marketing industry leaders, helping to build the team. He had launched 2 brands for 2 different companies and through that process, realized there were key elements missing from the market that could be filled using the skill sets he had acquired, and a little bit of risk.
His wife, Rebecca, wasn’t quite as convinced at first. “Oh my… I was a little worried to be honest. He is the risk taker, I am very conservative and calculated so I was not the type to just jump into things and leave a good paying job to start a company that I wasn’t sure would pan out. But that’s when trust comes in. He had the experience and I knew he had the ability to do it and make it work. I was just worried about how we were going to pay our bills in the meantime. I trusted him implicitly and it worked out!”
What was your mission when you started ViziSites?
[Jesse] “The standard corporate answer is that I knew the market was oversold and under delivered. There was a hole that needed to be filled, and we knew that our idea would blossom and ViziSites would take off. The more interesting answer, is that my wife and I created ViziSites to free the constraints of the corporate scene that was both taking up our time and offering us limited financial freedom. It was our time.”
Is that mission the same today, 5 years later?
[Rebecca] “Our mission hasn’t changed. The reason we started this was because we noticed a real need for high quality websites to be priced more affordably. High end websites can cost 5 or 10 thousand and that deters business owners from investing in one. Affordability without compromising quality – that’s been our mission from the beginning.”
What are your favorite things about working in this industry?
Jesse has worked in internet marketing for over 10 years, starting with a company called VetMatrix. The experiences he had building a team there, and in other positions since provided valuable perspectives on both personal and professional development. In both aspects of the business – helping the team and helping clients, Jesse found that he loves “helping people reach their goals! Even with the task of building ViziSites, I still look forward to the day to day interactions with our staff. I believe that this core belief of wanting to help people permeates my life. We have been fortunate to build a team that truly wants to help small business owners achieve their goals. Our team understands the peaks and valleys that entrepreneurs are faced with on a daily basis. Sharing this vision with our clients and then executing on a successful marketing campaign builds lifelong partnerships and ultimately friendships.”
What many might perceive as daunting in this industry is actually what a lot of people who work in internet marketing thrive off of. In the office, we often say that we are a team of extreme perfectionists and obsessive researchers. Funny enough, this is just the thing that makes Rebecca love the job. “My favorite thing about this industry is it’s never boring because the internet is constantly evolving. Right when you think you’ve learned it all and you’ve nailed Google’s requirements, something changes, so it keeps it exciting. We pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve so our research and learning is never-ending. I love that part of the business, it keeps us on our toes.”
What is your favorite thing about working with your clients?
Jesse often uses a phrase with the team: “stay in your lane” – we are not trying to be renaissance men, rather a team of elite specialists who excel in their individual fields. By doing this, we can each take pride in our piece of the puzzle. Our clients notice this, too, and Rebecca loves that about them. “Our clients trust us completely and do whatever we recommend. They know we are the experts and they don’t fight that. There is truly an appreciation for what we do and they want our help, so we end up establishing such a solid relationship with most of our clients that they end up feeling like an extension of our family.”
To what do you attribute your success so far?
Jesse attributes the success of ViziSites to 5 main things: family, gratitude, a student mentality, consistency, and competition. He had so many good things to say about this that we put them up in a separate post – “5 Keys to Success in Business“!
Rebecca appreciates the well known Ryunosuke Satoro quote “‘individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean’, I can say from personal experience that that is the truth. No one member of our team can succeed in this business by themselves. It takes a focused group of people with individual strengths and talents and when combined together it equals something so powerful that success is inevitable. Also I should add that if it weren’t for my risk taking husband, Jesse, we wouldn’t be here talking today!”
What has it been like working together during this time? Do you have any advice for other families or married couples going into business together?
Rebecca and Jesse both have learned that as a business owner, it’s easy for work to take over your life and become something you eat, breath and sleep. “We often talk about the business 24/7, and with that said, it’s really important to make time for date nights and quality bonding away from work – with each other and with the family…it’s quite the balancing act. My advice to other couples is to remember not to live to work, but work to live. Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. We are on our 6th year working together and we haven’t killed each other yet so we must be doing something right!”
Jesse seconded that, “Rebecca and I have been married for almost twenty years! If we can do that, we can do anything!”
Tell us about your kids – what do they think of the business? Do they want to be involved?
Rebecca started us off, “oh gosh, it’s so funny…Our 15 year old said that he wants to eventually be our CFO. He has always been a math whiz. So he tries to sell us on the fact that we need to move him into this position because he’s going to ‘improve our bottom line’. Our 6 year old, the youngest and only girl strongly believes she is going to take over the company one day. She says ‘I’m going to be everybody’s boss!’ – she’s a high achiever so I don’t doubt that she can be a success.”
Many might assume that starting off a family business in their home would have been detrimental to the family dynamic. On the contrary, kick-starting the business out of their home proved to be a great learning opportunity for the kids. It also provided a chance for Rebecca and Jesse to show them what it took to make a dream come true. Jesse explains, “it started off as a dream, we formulated an idea, and that idea was really incubated inside our home. Our entire family was a part of the growth of ViziSites… the kids saw our hardships and everything. This influenced each of our kids in a different way – they have thought about how they might use their skills in the business at a later date, and it’s really exciting for us to see our kids show interest and excitement in the family business.”
How do you think your personal interests and priorities have played a role in your business decisions, if any?
[Jesse] “Our faith as a family has led to a strong foundation as it relates to ethics, morals and integrity. It permeates our lives as a family and has been a natural extension in our business. We feel our clients benefit because of that. Our entire 6 person family is also involved in various sports. We practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, and are just generally an active family. We’ve gained strong will power, a healthy sense of competition and character through practicing martial arts together.”
When it’s time to take a break from work, what do you do as a family?
I have to say I loved the excitement from both of them in answering this question. You can really see the appreciation they have for a work:life balance. As part of the team, I really appreciate the emphasis they place on this for the entire company. “It depends on the season! In the summer we’re at the beach or the pool and working out. During winter we’re on the mountains snowboarding – even our 6 year old loves snowboarding, too! In the spring or fall we go camping or take road trips. Oh! I have to tell you about one of my favorite memories! One summer it was our goal to hit a different beach every weekend, we couldn’t repeat beaches. It was a way to discover new amazing spots in San Diego that we never knew about and add variety. The kids loved it!”
You can truly see the effect this has on the entire family. Jesse added, “if we have any free time at all, we spend it with our family. We aren’t out partying leaving the kids… Rebecca and I spend every bit of time that we have off with the kids, and that has brought us closer together.”
“It’s kept our family tight.”
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting their own business – what would it be?
Rebecca and Jesse’s individual styles of running a business resonate in the bits of wisdom they shared in our closing question. Jesse is without fail the risk-taking entrepreneur always ready to push the limits. “I believe the entrepreneur is one that takes calculated risks. There is a saying that has always resonated with me, which is, ‘fail forward fast’. I wish everyone success in their endeavors!”
On the flip side, Rebecca finds benefit in techniques that have stood the test of time. “Find a mentor who has done it before you and done it well. Whoever that person is will be able to guide you through hard decisions on the journey. We have mentors who are now on our board of directors and they have been invaluable.”
The balance of their personalities has really proven to be the yin & yang for this business – we are all truly looking forward to the things to come in ViziSites’ near future!