How to Start Your Own Agency (With No Prior Experience)

Posted on: May 20, 2021 | Written by: Patrick Gilbert, AdVenture Media Group

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Isaac and Patrick are joined by Shannon Benedetto, a former personal trainer turned Founder & CEO of Caleigh Creative Digital Solutions; unable to continue working in personal training and with a husband too sick to work, Shannon took Isaac’s Udemy course and launched her own digital marketing agency. Shannon shares what kept her going throughout all of the hardship and offers advice to those looking to start their own digital advertising agency with little to no prior experience.

Full Episode Transcript:

Isaac Rudansky: Welcome, everybody to the How to Hide a Dead Body Podcast. I’m here with Danielle Immerman, Patrick Gilbert, and Shannon Benedetto. I’m not sure if I pronounce your last name correctly.

Shannon Benedetto: Almost.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. I’ll give you a chance to set the record straight, Shannon. Before we jump into the episode, I want to remind everybody to pick up your copy of Join or Die: Digital Advertising in the Age of Automation, written by our very own Patrick Gilbert. It’s available on Amazon in hardcover, and softcover, and Kindle. And if Patrick could ever figure out how to use a mic and styrofoam, we’ll have an audiobook.

We have a really special guest on the podcast today. I’ve been really excited to have  Shannon on. I’m not going to introduce Shannon because whatever I say is going to come out in conversation. I’m going to really kick it over to Shannon right away in the beginning and let Shannon introduce herself.

Tell us a little bit about your journey, who you are, personal training, and get us up to that point in your life. And then we’ll pause to regroup.

Shannon Benedetto: Okay. So getting us up to the personal training. Well, I started off being an administrative assistant. I did that for a long time for a fairly large cardiology group. Then I met my ex-husband, who was British; ended up moving to the UK. I gained probably 150 pounds and became an alcoholic.

So when I came back to the States, I ended up losing that and not drinking. I went into personal training. It definitely did not pay the bills by any stretch of the imagination; it was definitely a labor of love for me, kind of giving back to the people who helped me get my life on the right track.

Isaac Rudansky: Let me pause you there because I think there’s a lot here we can unpack in just a few comments. So give us a timeline. How long were you in the UK?

Shannon Benedetto: I was over there about five years.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. So it was during that period where you became an alcoholic and put on all that weight?

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah.

Isaac Rudansky: And then you came back to the US. Was that after you were divorced?

Shannon Benedetto: No, that was leading up to the divorce. So when I came back to the States, things were already getting screwed up. And that was for pretty bad reasons that I’m not going to go into in public. But that was something to get past as well.

So by the time I went into my divorce, I was a total disaster. I hit rock bottom and I knew something had to change. That’s when I really started working on myself, working on how I perceived things, how much I relied on myself as opposed to relying on others.

Isaac Rudansky: What was that rock bottom epiphany for you? A lot of people hit rock bottom and then they find out that there’s a further bottom and they stay there for a long time. You somehow pulled yourself out of rock bottom and it seems like you did it on your own to a large extent. Talk to us about that revelation.

Shannon Benedetto: My rock bottom was really ugly. Let’s put it that way. It was probably over the course of one weekend and I came out of that weekend a changed person. I was like, “I can’t live this way anymore.” I want to have kids. I want to be successful in whatever I’m doing. It was really hitting a point where I felt disconnected from myself.

I no longer recognized myself when I looked in the mirror. So when I quit drinking, I just stopped drinking. Like I’ve never been a person who goes to meetings. I know people who do. I don’t. I’ve just always been a person that you take the punches and you keep going.

Isaac Rudansky: Were you surprised by your own willpower to just quit drinking? Or you knew you had that in you?

Shannon Benedetto: Yes, I did. I just lost it for quite some time. When I was growing up, my parents got divorced when I was young. I pretty much raised my sister. So I had other things that happened before that point that kind of built up that resiliency in myself.

I just decided to stop using a crutch because that’s all that drinking was. It was a crutch and it was masking things. So I just really had to re-learn how to deal with problems because they’re inevitable.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. So you walked out of that weekend and you said, “I need to change and get my life in order.” What were the next steps? How did you organize this process in your mind? Was it organized or did you have clarity? Did you know it was weight loss? Did you know it was drinking? What was that process?

Shannon Benedetto: Well, at that point, I had already lost the weight. I had already passed my personal training exam. I was doing personal training. I realized that I had to swallow my pride. I had to go back home. I had to go live with my dad again. I just needed to start over.

I excluded all of the toxic people from my life, which is really hard to do when you do that and then you turn around, and nobody is there. Like everyone is toxic. So coming back from that was probably harder than anything else; having to cut everyone out and say, “No, I’m not about this.”

Isaac Rudansky: Two things there and just to clarify. So, by the time you had that weekend, you had already lost weight and had already gone through the personal fitness part of that journey. In your assessment did the weight loss, the physical fitness, and that accomplishment, do you think you would have come to the same realization with how bad things were and been able to cut people out of your life without that? Do you think it contributed in some way to your eventual revival?

Shannon Benedetto: Absolutely. The personal training gave me self-confidence that I never had before. So I was able to go stand up in front of a group of people and give a presentation on diabetes, which I’m not an expert on, but I could very comfortably do it. I could lead group classes. It really instilled a sense of, “Wow, you really can do anything that you put your mind to.”

That was a really big hurdle because I’ve had social anxiety my entire life. So realizing that I could tackle that and come out on top and be confident really showed me, “Okay, you’ve got this. You’re going to be okay.”

Isaac Rudansky: And I want to talk about toxic relationships because it’s something that I’ve struggled with myself over the years growing up, knowing that there are certain relationships in my life, certain friendships that are just bad for me. But it’s easy to say that, it’s easy for people to tell you, “Remove yourself from toxic relationships.”

People do not get how difficult it is because relationships are not all toxic. Overall, they’re toxic, but not every interaction has to be toxic. And it’s difficult to cut people out of your life that are not all bad. There’s a huge feeling of guilt. They need you, too. There’s the fear of loneliness.

So, talk about how difficult it is to really cut somebody out of your life? And then how do you actually do it? What are the actual steps you take to cut a toxic relationship off?

Shannon Benedetto: Well, for me personally, when I made the decision to no longer have these people in my life, it wasn’t just like I called them up and said, “Hey, look, we’re done.” I kind of went into that relationship thinking ahead.

I know this person is only coming to me when they need things because I’m the person that people go to like, “Hey, I need help.” I’m also the type of person who will put them ahead of myself. So the vast majority of my friends were just people who wanted to be there when it was convenient for them and didn’t care at all what was going on with me.

So I went in after I had that realization, really looking for that. And the people who continued to do it, after I had said, “Hey, I’ve been reaching out, haven’t been able to get through to you,” they kind of removed themselves. After I stopped giving that to them, there was nothing there left for them to stay for.

Isaac Rudansky: Wow, that’s fascinating. So, you created a relationship that people were able to parenthesize, latch onto you as a host, and drain the life out of you. And when you stopped giving that life, they were gone, right?

So it was almost like this could be a reciprocal relationship. And if you’re a nontoxic friend, then you’ll stick around for the right reasons. You’ll be there for me and there’ll be something more meaningful underlying the relationship. But that wasn’t the case with the people just dropped?

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah, like flies.

Isaac Rudansky: But that doesn’t solve all the problems because then you’re left alone. So what happened then?

Shannon Benedetto: Well, I learned how to rely on myself. I learned how to be comfortable with myself. I learned how to enjoy myself. The reality of it is we’re all born alone; we all die alone, no matter how many people are actually there around you. And I know, it’s so cliché to say that, but it’s the truth. So many people go through this life living for other people and they shouldn’t. Live your life for yourself.

Isaac Rudansky: But how do you balance that with the healthy need for companionship, the healthy need for friendship? Loneliness hurts. It’s true that we die and are born alone,  but it also hurts to live alone. So how do you balance that message?

Shannon Benedetto: That’s something that I think I’ll always be figuring out because it takes a long time to see people’s true colors, at least in my experience. So although I’ve gone through that and made those decisions, it hasn’t stopped me from creating new relationships. It hasn’t given me a fear of going into new relationships. If anything, it’s encouraged me to try to find new friends and network with other people because we’re all flawed.

Once you realize everyone is a flawed human, it kind of takes that fear of approaching people or saying, “Hey, we have a lot in common. Let’s go get coffee or something.” And I feel like a lot of people have a wall built up. We live in the northeast, so you can’t even walk down the street and say hi to somebody. It’s very odd, especially after living elsewhere for a while.

So I think, in this area especially, there’s a lot of unhealthy relationships and companionship happening. I don’t know. I feel like people have walled themselves into their own worlds and it’s hard for them to even see past that.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. So, Shannon, at this point, you went through this transformation and you got divorced. Then what happened?

Shannon Benedetto: Like I said, I went back home.

Isaac Rudansky: And how long ago was this, by the way? I’m losing a sense of the timeline.

Shannon Benedetto: Well, I got married when I was 25. I’m 37 now, so we’re talking about six years ago, somewhere along those lines. So I moved back in with my dad. I continued the same habits that I still had, which means I met my now-husband and hooked on to him because, like you brought up, it’s scary to be by yourself.

Fortunately, it was very good for a while. I had my daughter. And by that point, I wasn’t drinking at all. I wasn’t smoking anymore. I really was in a good place. And that’s what leads up to the car accident, my husband getting sick, and the series of unfortunate events that brought me to this whole realm.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. So walk us through whatever you’re comfortable walking us through, but walk us through as much as you can of those series of events that started disrupting the equilibrium that you finally found.

Shannon Benedetto: When I got into the accident, I can’t really talk too much about the accident itself, but basically, I was injured so badly I could no longer work. The people I worked for at the time, instead of giving me time off, giving me time to recover, gave me more hours, more clients. They wanted me to show more demonstrations and they knew I couldn’t do it.

They wanted me out but they didn’t want to let me go. They wanted me to quit. So I did. I walked out. At the time, I was also doing some influencer — I use that term very loosely — work on Instagram. And my husband’s job at the time said, “We need somebody to do our social media.” And I was like, “Okay, cool. Yeah, I’m all for that.”

So I go in and I talk to them. And they tell me everything that’s wrong and I’m like, “Yeah, I can do that. Not a problem.” And then I realized that Google Ads isn’t just slapping up a Facebook post.

That was when you entered my life because I was lost. And that’s how I found you on Udemy and started taking your courses and was actually able to get them some more results finally.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. Let’s pause and slow this down a little bit not because it has to do with me, but because I think it’s interesting to the people listening. But also because it has to do with me. So, you were given the responsibility. I love your attitude because I’m the same way.

I mean, I hope our clients aren’t listening, but we do the same thing today. Clients say, “Can you do this?” We say, “Absolutely.” I go to Patrick’s office and it’s like, “Absolutely not. We absolutely cannot do this.” So I say, “Let’s figure it out. Let’s read a book. Let’s take a course. Let’s find somebody. Let’s hire an expert.” It’s like, “Let’s get money in the door. Let’s get the work executed.”

So I love that attitude because it’s what you need. And that’s, to me, a defining characteristic of an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s like, “I’m just going to get it done.” It’s a trust in myself. It’s a belief in your ability to deliver.

So you were basically on the hook for delivering a Google Ads campaign. And you realize that it seems like a relatively complex software, from a strategic perspective, technically, and so on. So you went online to look for training.

A lot of people who want to create content want to hear from people like you. What did you actually do when you went on your computer to search for training? Did you look up blog posts? Did you go to Google? Did you go straight to Udemy? Did you find Udemy through some affiliate link?

Shannon Benedetto: To start off, the word campaign was never used. They have had no clue what the hell was going on. They didn’t understand how their social media affected their ads, affected their website. So they didn’t see a connection between anything. They were actually using a very big name in the local area. And how they didn’t tell this company like, “Look, this is how it works,” is beyond me.

So, I went back to them and I said, “Yeah, I can do the social media, but as far as the ads and the analytics, you’re going to have to give me some time.”

Patrick Gilbert: Shannon, sorry to cut in. You don’t have to say what company was directly, but what kind of company are we talking about? Is it e-commerce? Is it a service company?

Shannon Benedetto: We’re talking about a B2B digital marketing agency.

Patrick Gilbert: So lead generation is where they were falling in the marketing?

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah, their ads account set up beautifully, but whoever went in and actually created the campaigns in the ad groups and the keywords, I think they were smoking crack. They had a $500 a month budget, and there are 30,000 keywords. I was like, “This doesn’t make sense to even me.”

Back to Isaac’s question about what I did. I went online and I searched for who was the highest-rated in each area that I needed to learn about. So you happened to be pay-per-click. Neil Patel happened to be SEO. The content, I had sort of a background in already.

And the web development, which I never expected to get into, but somehow that’s fallen in my lap, too, thank God for my mom and my stepdad. They own their own web development company. They have been very generous in teaching me how to code basically, how to handle issues in the back end, and things like that.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. So, Shannon, you found my course on Google, started taking the course. And then talk to us about how you implemented some of these results in the campaigns. What are some of the strategies in the campaigns? What results were you seeing? How did you develop your relationship with the client?

Shannon Benedetto: Basically, I developed a relationship with them through being transparent. As I learned, they learned. So it was in tandem with each other.

Isaac Rudansky:  And you actually told the client that you were learning Google ads for the first time?

Shannon Benedetto: Oh, God, yeah.

Isaac Rudansky: Unbelievable.

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah, of course, because if I didn’t…

Isaac Rudansky: And they didn’t fire you?

Shannon Benedetto: No. Why would they? I’m awesome.

Isaac Rudansky: That’s true. Look, guys, whoever is listening; this is one of the most interesting things you’ll ever hear. Shannon told her client that she was learning Google for the first time transparently. And why would they fire her because she’s awesome, right? When you’re confident and you’re transparent, and you communicate to the client that I’m here to be a good partner for you, I’m here to do well by you, and that’s received by the client, you have the foundation of a good relationship.

Shannon Benedetto: Exactly. They were much happier with me not knowing anything about it but being willing to walk them through what was happening than having someone who knew everything, and then not explaining a thing. So when I had my first

Isaac Rudansky: How did the client define success in the account? What was the conversion? What would be successful?

Shannon Benedetto: We’re getting there with that. It’s been two years and we’re now just starting to put values against our conversions. So it’s been a long process of massaging the client and kind of getting them used to these new ideas. I’ve been telling them for over a year, “We don’t know how much we’re wasting, how much better we could be doing. It would really make a difference if we did this.” And now they’re finally listening to me.

So it took a solid two years of being with them for them to fully trust my opinion. But when I first started, I knew right off the bat, even right after starting the course that the first thing I really wanted to look at was the amount of keywords that they had. I knew that that was a problem. It had to have been. So that was the first thing I tackled was the 30,000 keywords.

Isaac Rudansky: So what was your process? How did you go about that restructuring?

Shannon Benedetto: Well, I looked at their historical data on the keywords, and basically, right off the bat, anything that didn’t perform well, I chopped up a window. And then I went through with a finer tooth comb with the stuff that did bring them in conversions or had a high click-through rate or something that their competitors were also bidding on.

And that’s how I finally got it down small enough where we were actually getting into auctions and seeing some more conversions. Then what I did, I went in, and I updated all the ad copy for them because that was pretty terrible. I made sure that their SEO was on point, as much as possible. Their website was bad. It’s bad again, but for different reasons.

So I did all that and the results ended up being great. In the first six months, I’d say we started seeing some positive things come in.

Patrick Gilbert: So aside from the technical like, “Here’s what you should do in this instance,” what are some of the larger marketing themes that you took away from that course that have stayed with you as the platform has changed over the years?

Shannon Benedetto: Are you talking about Udemy or ads?

Patrick Gilbert: Within Google ads. I think a lot of the original course content that you’d seen is older. Some of the things were filmed a couple of years ago, even match types have changed and settings have changed. But clearly, you’ve continued to find value in it. And you mentioned something a minute ago about how you were looking at certain auctions that the competitors are bidding on.

So that’s probably not something that’s directly like, “You should do this.” That’s more like you knew that that would be more of a strategic type of thinking. That’s more of a problem-solving type attitude to take, as opposed to, “Here’s how you plug in keywords. Here’s the buttons to push,” so on and so forth.

So, is there anything that you took away that you think is more evergreen, from the course content, that has helped you continue to optimize the campaigns in a way that’s moving in the right direction?

Shannon Benedetto: As far as optimizing them, I mean, Isaac goes into a great detail on how you should be setting things up as far as explaining how the ad groups fit into the campaign and the keywords fit into the ad groups. I think understanding that basic structure at first was kind of a big learning curve for me.

So the way that Isaac explains that and makes it easily digestible allowed for me to get in and do that problem-solving work faster. But I use your course kind of like a reference guide. So if I hit something that I’m not sure what to do with, I go and I reference your course.

And I have seen a lot of changes. A lot of them in the few short years I’ve been doing this. In fact, the recent changes, I’m still learning about that, to be fair, but more from a technical side of things only out of necessity.

Isaac Rudansky: So, Shannon, you were learning a new skill set and learning a brand new skill set which is foreign to you is intimidating to anybody. Did you have moments where you thought that you were going to fail or moments of fear? And if you did, how did you deal with that?

Shannon Benedetto: This question I actually saw in your notes, Danielle. So, thank you for sending that to me because this one I really thought on because imposter syndrome is a major thing, and it will very rapidly eat away at your self-confidence. And I did have a lot of that.

As far as failure goes, it depends on what you consider a failure. What I’ve really learned from everything that I’ve gone through in my life is that failures are your biggest learning opportunities. So if this were to fail, meaning that I can no longer do it, or the company has no money or whatever that may be, then this particular niche, I feel like there’s enough where I can branch out and pivot and start over.

So I’m not worried about failing. I’m worried about having a solid plan B, a solid plan C, plan D, so on and so forth.

Isaac Rudansky: So what was your plan B and plan C when you were taking on the Google Ads client?

Shannon Benedetto: Well, if I didn’t like pay per click, I’d focus on the technical stuff. Or if I didn’t like the technical stuff, I’d work on SEO. I figured as long as I got enough background underneath my belt, I could most likely get a job doing this somewhere in Philadelphia. So that would have been my plan B, to go work for someone else, with a company doing the same thing. I really didn’t think I was going to fail, though. Maybe the business, but me? No.

Isaac Rudansky: And I find that successful people have that sense of optimism where it’s not data-based. It’s not empirical. It’s not necessarily rational. It’s a feeling. It’s like a really strong feeling that I’m going to do well.

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah. And I think you have to have that, or at least a willingness to fail. You have to be willing to fail because that’s where you take your lessons from. I started this small little soap business. I was making body butters and stuff. And to say that that didn’t take off is an understatement.

But I learned a lot. I learned a lot about how marketing actually can go horrifically wrong. So I was able to take something away from what would otherwise be considered a failure. And now I have a new hobby so win-win.

Isaac Rudansky: Yeah. It’s cliché, but you really learn as much, if not more, probably more from things that don’t work out than the things that do work out because you’re forced to try to figure out why those things didn’t work out. You’re not really compelled to try to analyze the success too deeply to figure out why it was successful.

Shannon Benedetto: And that’s part of the reason I like this job, too, is because it involves problem-solving. And it involves using my brain, as opposed to entering numbers into QuickBooks for a payment, and really just doing the same thing over and over and over and becoming complacent with that.

Isaac Rudansky: What was your daily schedule like at this time?

Shannon Benedetto: I didn’t sleep for probably two years because I was working a full-time job, I have a three-year-old daughter. Well, she’s now three.

Isaac Rudansky: How old was she then?

Shannon Benedetto: A year and a half. So with that, my husband didn’t really want me working until she was asleep. So I was working from eight to two and then going into work the next morning and doing that. And then coming home and doing the same thing. And I recently resigned from my job. They got screwed over by the new girl. They brought me back in. So I’m still there three days a week.

Isaac Rudansky: Slow down. So it sounds like you resigned, but then they looped you back in somehow?

Shannon Benedetto: Yes. Well, they’re good people so I don’t mind. They knew why I was leaving. It was just becoming way too much.

Isaac Rudansky: Let’s slow down a little bit in the story. You were working a full-time job. And what was that job again?

Shannon Benedetto: I was an administrative assistant.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. And then from 8:00 pm to 2:00 am, you were working on Google Ads campaigns, essentially?

Shannon Benedetto: Yes.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay, so you’re getting very little sleep and learning. You must have been absolutely exhausted. You had a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, working a full-time job, which is already just craziness. And then events transpired in your life that ultimately led you to decide to resign from your full-time job as an administrative assistant. Walk us through that decision-making process. What happened?

Shannon Benedetto: Well, it just got to a point where I was making enough money from the business that it just didn’t make sense for me to keep struggling to sleep and to have time to do anything, really. And I got, again, to a breaking point where I was like, “Okay, I need to take care of myself. I’m not 22 anymore. My body can’t handle this.”

So it really became necessary for me to lead a healthy life, to start sleeping, eating, and things like that. So there’s definitely a sacrifice there. Obviously, not all people are going to have as big of a sacrifice, but I think anytime you’re thinking about going into business for yourself, you have to expect some level of that.

So that didn’t discourage me. But I had to give him my notice when I did, and he knew it was coming. He knew that I was doing this from the beginning. So it wasn’t like I blindsided them.

Isaac Rudansky: How long ago was this that you resigned?

Shannon Benedetto: Where are we now? We’re almost in April. This was only three months ago? Two months ago? Very recently.

Isaac Rudansky: Very recently. So you resigned and then you were able to fill up your daytime hours with your business?

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah, for that week that I wasn’t working for them.

Isaac Rudansky: So there’s only one week.

Shannon Benedetto: Yes.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay, so you had one week.

Shannon Benedetto: It was one week, but Mondays and Fridays, I don’t work there now. So I’m only working three-ish days.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. And something happened with your husband. What happened? And where did that play into this timeline?

Shannon Benedetto: Oh, I left him out of the story. So that was right after the car accident; leading up to it and then it got really bad afterward. And he was a Glaser, which is the union that puts in all the big glass. So a very physical job. And he got very ill. He was in so much pain, he could barely move out of the recliner.

So I had no help with hardly anything. And he kept being told it was Fibromyalgia. We ended up being able to get him into the integrative medicine doctor. Come to find out it was tick-borne illness and mold toxicity. So got him some IV therapy and he’s better now. But yeah, that was hard. And that was right when I started this.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay. So this was going on concurrently while you were getting ready to resign and be a full time…?

Shannon Benedetto: No, this happened concurrently with my car accident when I first got into digital marketing. When I first got into it, when I was studying, when I was really in the thick of it, that’s when he was sick.

Isaac Rudansky: Okay, got it. Wow. That’s the worst time for that to happen.

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah. But you know what, there’s never a good time for things. When is the good time? When is a good time to get married? When is a good time to have kids? It doesn’t exist.

 

Isaac Rudansky: I’m with you, Shannon, on that. Okay, so you had a week where you weren’t working as an administrative assistant. And then you got a call from your prior boss saying what?

Shannon Benedetto: Well, I was there, and just saw that the girl wasn’t showing up. And I was like, “Do you need me to come in a couple of days a week?” And he’s like, “Well, yeah. That would help.” Obviously, I’m going to help them out as much as I can.

So I still go a few days a week. And it’s not hard-set hours or anything. So that makes it a lot easier than working nine to five. But it’s hard when I have a big project for one of my clients, something like that. Like I’m waiting for a campaign to launch or the website is going to relaunch and I’m trying to fit that into a wonky schedule. That’s when it becomes hard.

Isaac Rudansky: This is a really inspiring story. It’s a treat to have you on the podcast and just to talk through these things. At this point in your journey, you’ve signed a couple of clients. Talk to us about the clients that you’ve signed. How many clients do you have? Who are these clients?

And now that you’re starting to expand slowly, and you’re juggling all these different tasks, and every client presents a whole new Pandora’s Box of stress and problems and issues, what are you experiencing? What have you been learning from this? But start off by telling us about the current state of business for you.

Shannon Benedetto: My first client is the client who brought me on to social media. I’ve been with them the longest, and they are a window film installation company, which is a surprisingly saturated market considering I had never heard of it, for homes and stuff. So, I do everything for them. And then I have my old boss, the one that I resigned from, I built his website. And I do his webmaster stuff and his analytics. He doesn’t do advertising.

And then my last client, my most recent, I actually got through my mom and my stepdad. They do his website and all that stuff and I guess he wasn’t happy with his marketing team. So they dumped it on them and they had no idea what was going on. So now I’m just getting into his accounts and trying to get him on the right path because he is a veterinary exam preparation company. And it’s him and one other company in the US that are battling with each other.

So I just started that but I have high hopes for what our results will be with him. So those are my three clients. Obviously, each one is very unique and brings its own bunch of unique issues along with it. But as I’ve grown, and as I’ve branched out, I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is to just remain really transparent with everybody.

I’m on really good terms with all of my clients. And I think that’s what I like the most about working with smaller businesses. They know me, they know my name. I’m not just somebody on the other end of a phone. And their wins are my wins and their losses are my losses. I don’t know if that would feel the same way with bigger companies.

My aspirations for the business, well, my goal is to bring somebody on by the end of summer. I would like to have somebody working with me. So I’m kind of perusing who’s available out there. I was going to get somebody to do the technical side of things, but honestly, I’m enjoying it. So I might want to learn more about that. So I think that probably what would be most beneficial for me would be bringing somebody on to handle the content because that takes me the longest. So that’s my goal.

Eventually, I just want to be self-sufficient. I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to live on an island and have a yacht. I want my daughter to grow up not having to worry about going to school in used jeans, or her ever having to worry about where her next meal is coming from. I want her to feel confident that she knows her mother is going to go out, take care of business, and make sure that she’s good. Always. That’s my goal. That’s always been the goal.

Isaac Rudansky: You’ve been through a range of incredible experiences. You’ve suffered through tragedy. You’ve suffered through like hell, and you’ve been there and back again, more than once.

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah, it’s a good trip. You should take it some time.

Isaac Rudansky: It sounds like a great trip. But everybody, to varying degrees, has their own journey to hell and back because life is tragic at some point or another. Life is filled with tragedy and I don’t know if you agree or not, but I think this idea of the point of life is to be happy is just foolish and superficial.

It makes no sense. It’s not what life’s about. It’s not what you get when you engage with life. You don’t get happiness; you get challenges. To the younger crowd, to the kids and to other people that are experiencing real tragedy and real challenges in their lives, just speaking from your heart, if they were coming to you looking at you in the eyes and asking you for help or for advice, or for inspiration, what would you tell them?

Shannon Benedetto: I think the best thing I could tell someone is always to remember that tomorrow’s going to be another day. Tomorrow’s another chance. Go to bed, sleep on it, think about it, or don’t think about it. Whatever is going to be beneficial to you to get you through that moment in time where you feel like everything is lost, give yourself some grace. Take some time.

Be okay with that because it will be okay. It’s true. Whenever a door closes, a window opens. Just remember, you’re not the first person. You’re not going to be the last person and dig deep and find that strength inside yourself because it’s there. It’s in every one of us. Absolutely.

Patrick Gilbert: You’re muted, Isaac.

Isaac Rudansky: I was just asking if that’s the advice and if that’s the mindset and the mental framework, the psychological orientation that has helped you get through some of your toughest or darkest moments.

Shannon Benedetto: That as well as remembering that there’s nothing we can’t attain. I tell my daughter all the time. I say, “We don’t say “Can’t”, we say I need some help,” because you can do it. People grow up with these own notions of themselves and their own limitations, but they’re only held to those limitations by themselves. I really think that your perception of things has a lot to do with the outcome you actually receive.

Isaac Rudansky: Amazing, and I would reciprocate those thoughts with just a thought of my own. As far as schedule and accomplishment, consistency, especially in your situation where you have a young daughter, you went through a period where your husband was not able to help, domestically or professionally, and you’re managing a full-time job and launching your own business. It’s very difficult to find the time and to find enough time consistently to make progress.

And what I found for myself, although I almost always fail at doing this consistently, but the few times where I’ve been able to stick to this type of plan, it’s been very helpful. And it speaks to what you were saying, Shannon, earlier about just going, “Tomorrow is another day,” and finding the time and believing in your own ability to achieve.

You develop a routine and you try to block out certain hours, just on a very practical level, that, “This is the time that I’m going to do work on this.” And there’ll be days where you don’t have it. Like you have no more gas left in your tank. And there’ll be days that you’re just depressed, and everything is dark, and broken.

But the best thing that you could do is you show up, go through the motions, even if it means staring at your computer screen, even if it means just staring at an average account, even if it means just picking up the client and just shooting the breeze. It’s like you’re just going through the motions, even at the most minimal basic level, and you protect that routine with an almost dogmatic cruelty. It’s like no one could bother me. And what it really speaks to is the idea of respecting yourself and treating yourself well. You spoke about that at the beginning of the call.

To me, my son needs me and my wife has a question. Patrick has a question, and an employee has a question. It’s like, “No, not during this hour.” It’s no one but me and what I want to work on, and this project, whatever it is. You almost have to shut out everything and anything else, which is difficult today, not only because we have Slack and we have text messages, and we have email, and we have WhatsApp, and we have Twitter. It’s just an onslaught of senseless communication. But also because there are toxic relationships still in our lives, and nothing’s perfect.

But I found that if you could carve out a routine. Personally, for me, it’s early in the morning when I have a pot of coffee, I have headphones, I have the same playlist, and the lights are off in my little downstairs office. And there are very few exceptions. Like maybe if my wife was pregnant and her water broke, it would be an exception. Maybe. She might be put in an Uber.

Shannon Benedetto: You don’t bother me with this pot of coffee unless your water breaks, woman!

Isaac Rudansky: There’s like a 50/50 chance she gets an Uber call for her to take her to the emergency room. But you really protect that small sliver of time as much as you can. And I think if those who are going through challenges and are trying to start a business or are trying to accomplish a task or hit a goal that they haven’t been able to hit in the past, you could almost trigger that attitude of like, “I’m going to treat myself like somebody worth treating well. And I’m going to give myself that space and, and there are very few things that I’m going to allow to be interruptions.”

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah, I agree. That’s important to do. Absolutely. You know how when we sleep and you kind of reconcile your thoughts from the day, especially in this field where you’re dealing with technology all the time. You really do have to give yourself that headspace. Otherwise, it’s hard to even think. Some days I get to the point where I’m like, “Okay, I need no screens. I need all the screens to go away.” But that just probably speaks to my age, pre-internet.

Isaac Rudansky: I think it’s true for everybody though. Listen, Shannon, you’ve been incredible. Your journey has been inspirational. Like I told you, when you first emailed me the video that you made, it was really touching. To me, I shared it with my entire family, my own parents, my siblings; I shared it with people at the office. I’m fortunate enough to get a lot of positive feedback from students.

I get plenty of negative feedback too, but what you sent was so heartfelt, and it was so raw and real that it really impacted me. And it not only made my day, but I still feel a sense of uplift from your graciousness. So I want to give you the floor for any closing thoughts, words of encouragement for our audience, and words of advice, inspiration; however you want to take us to the finish line here.

Shannon Benedetto: Okay. Well, thanks for that. I appreciate that. Like I said to Danielle, earlier in an email, I said even if one person hears my story and is able to pick themselves up and keep going, then my job’s done. If people take nothing else from this, take this: you’re stronger than you let yourself believe. You’re more intelligent than you let yourself believe. And you probably take other people’s opinions to heart too much.

So stop beating yourself up. Everything’s going to be okay. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and that’s all you can do. Keep bettering yourself. Keep striving for more, and you’ll get it.

Patrick Gilbert: I love that. Shannon, we had spoken beforehand about getting together at some point after this to do an audit and a group working session. So for anybody listening, you can stay tuned. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks or maybe a month or two out.

But we’re going to work with Shannon on auditing some of the work that she’s doing.

She’s going to have a working session with our team. And we’re going to try and make some fun content out of that. But really excited to see how we can potentially add some additional value into some of the work on your end.

Shannon Benedetto: See how badly I can screw up an ad still?

Isaac Rudansky: Yeah, that’ll be the title of our next episode.

Shannon Benedetto: Yeah, I’m just glad I didn’t have to tell anybody where I hide my dead bodies.

Isaac Rudansky: Well, it’ll be in the next episode. Stay tuned. You’ll never believe what she does… cliffhanger. Leave off every episode with a cliffhanger. Shannon, you’ve been incredible, transparent, honest. It’s been real. I appreciate it. And we look forward to continuing to develop this relationship and to what comes in the future.

Shannon Benedetto: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it. And thank you Danielle for all your help. Appreciate it. Have a good night, guys.

 

About the author:

AdVenture Media is one of New York's fastest-growing digital ad agencies, managing over $50 million in media spend. As educators, we're the only agency that has trained over one million students in Google Ads, landing page design, remarketing and Facebook Ads.  

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