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How To Measure Business Success

How do you track your progress?

In growing the business, there are a lot of ways to track your milestones. It could be your monthly recurring revenue. So that’s definitely one of the things that I track, how much revenue do we have every month coming in. Since we’re a service business and our contracts are at least a year and we’re paid every month by our clients, so if our monthly recurring revenue is growing, that is one of the best ways to measure if we’re growing as a company.

Another way to measure if you’re growing as a company or a business, is your people. Are you growing in the number of people you have in your team? So it used to be just one person working in SEO Hacker. That’s me. And then, I would hire freelancers during that time. Because I couldn’t afford an office, I couldn’t afford full-time people,I couldn’t afford utilities during that time, so I don’t hire freelance people. I would do the work a hundred percent and then it became too heavy for me. I couldn’t do all the work anymore because the client base was growing. You know, it was being blessed. It was growing. I suddenly decided maybe it’s time to get my first office. My first office, it wasn’t big. It was actually super smaller. The rent is P10,000 a month for that space, but it was good cozy office. You know, I still remember it and I was able to hire my first people because of that office.

We operated there for a while. We grew as a team. I had to rent out my next office, which is a bigger office. Actually it’s one house. It’s a residential house and that’s where we worked for a time again. And then we grew and grew again. Kept on hiring people because the work became more, we’re getting more clients, more inquiries, and we had to move to another residential office, which is bigger. This is way bigger.

And it took a number of years where, when we stayed there and then finally we move to where we are now. The third floor of the building that we’re renting out along Aguirre in BF Parañaque. But yeah, we moved there 2017. So it was actually seven years of work before we were able to get through our first commercial office in a building. Everything that we were renting out was residential.

Humble beginnings, because I didn’t have venture capital. My parents didn’t back me up. They didn’t give me money to start the business or grow it. So it was all, “Oh, we made profits then we invest, made profits, reinvest, made profits, reinvest, save, save, save”. And we’re able to finally renovate and rent out the commercial office. And then, we rented out the second floor as well. So we’re renting out two floors of the office. That’s because we’ve grown to 50 people and that’s a lot of people already.

It’s beyond my wildest dreams. I thought I would have like 10 people, 12 people, and I’d be happy with that. And I was happy with that. It’s just that we have a lot more work that’s given to us by God, you know, and we have to do it. So we have to get more people. So definitely a growing team, that’s another way to track progress. There are more ways to track it, like your voice or market share, but that’s tougher to track. It’s easier for you to track if your monthly recurring revenue is growing, or your annual recurring revenue is growing and if your team is growing. Those are two things that you can use to track your progress.

Second question from Patrick is, how do you minimize costs in running a business during this pandemic?

Well, you have to look at where you can. Because you can’t minimize costs everywhere. So how we did it for SEO Hacker is, we talked with everyone. First thing we did was, ExeCom volunteered, and that includes me, to have a salary cut. We didn’t take a salary at all for a couple of months. So that already got the cost for us by a good amount. And then, the people in the team also, we ran it skeletal, and then we have people who are working as volunteers.

So when we say volunteers, it doesn’t mean they’re not paid. They’re paid, but they work only up to a certain amount of hours. When you’re skeletal, you have to work a minimum X amount of hours. So one is ‘up to’, the other one is ‘minimum’. That’s the difference between skeletal and volunteer. We just chose to call it volunteer because we have nothing really another word to call it with. But that’s how we did it.

Also, we did not operate in the office. We all work from home. That cut utility costs by some. And then I had to negotiate with my landlord as well, who’s kind enough to forgive us for the rent. We’re renting the second and third floor, so if he forgives us for the third floor and fourth floor studio rent, we were only paying the second floor. That forgiveness in the rent saved us with amounts as well.

You definitely save where you can, especially during a pandemic. The early parts, the difficult thing is not a lot of clients were paying, people were holding onto their cash. And it makes sense because we’re uncertain about the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen. So a lot of our clients, we understand them when they’re not paying. Now, there are clients who up to today, haven’t paid us since April. That’s almost 8 months. Now, that’s different, that’s too much because the economy is slowly getting back and them not paying us for eight months, that’s not right anymore.

But during the early times of the pandemic, that’s okay. And it’s fine if the clients haven’t paid and we don’t work, but unfortunately they expect us to work because it’s only their website that’s working well right now and SEO Hacker is the one handling the entire site and the SEO. So they expect us to work, but they’re not paying us ever since April. So there are clients like that. It’s not just one client. There are a couple of, more than a handful of clients like that so we have to renegotiate those things.

Now, that’s why saving costs where you can is very important. Those are actual things that we did. We reorganized the team in terms of manpower and operations. We also set an example as the leaders, the ExeCom, that we took salary cuts, and then we save on utility and rent. We also cut all of our ads during that time because I run ads perpetually. So we’ve cut ads not just for SEO Hacker, I cut ads for all of my clients because I want to save them money. Because during that time there was panic, that’s why there is panic buying because people were panicking and they’re cash strapped. They didn’t know what to do. They were uncertain. So I stopped all of the ads, our ads, our clients’ ads, I stopped it all, so as to save money, not to bleed and we didn’t build them for it. Now, I wasn’t bleeding ads money as well and we continued it only sometime in June or July, I think.

The good thing about SEO is you’re always there. You’re always visible on the first page of Google. So we were still getting a trickle number of inquiries, not as much as we got pre-pandemic, but we were still getting some even if I don’t have ads running.

Question from Patrick. How do you manage your time? If you do calendar blocking, can you share a system you use in managing time?

Definitely calendar, Google Calendar, one of the best software out there in my opinion. Google Calendar.

Managing time? You can’t really manage time because time is always ticking. So you can only manage your energy and your priority. What do you give your priority and energy to? That’s what you have to decide in that block of time. And how you do that? You book it. You book yourself for those tasks. You book yourself for those meetings through calendars. Calendar’s a fantastic way to make sure that you’re doing the right thing at the right time.

Also, a to-do app or list would help. You can put it in pen and paper, if you want. I used Todoist. I’m not an affiliate, not voting for them for you, but personally, it’s just what I use. I used Todoist, that’s my to-do app. I integrated it with Trello, Zapier, and Slack. So whenever I check stuff off in my to-do list, I get more points in my team. So we have a point system wherein we track everyone’s score every day, who’s doing more, who’s doing more. It’s just gamifying work, you know. It’s just more fun for us that way. So whenever I achieve or accomplish stuff in my to-do list, I get more points.

I like finishing stuff. That’s it. Just prioritize, know your priority. If it’s urgent, it doesn’t mean it’s important. You have to identify what are the important things that you really should be doing, because we all have a limited amount of time. Eight hours or less for work. Eight hours or less for work. If you work very long time, 16 hours, hopefully you don’t need to do that long. You only need to do that in a short amount of time because you’re starting things up. I don’t recommend burning the midnight oil and working 12 to 16 hours. Really, I don’t. It’s not sustainable long term. But if you’re a startup, that’s okay. But if you’re not, definitely don’t do it.

So today, I worked like eight hours or less because we’ve scaled up already. SEO Hacker is 10 years old. I’m definitely doing something wrong if I still work 12 to 16 hours a day. Now, there are days, rare days, where I do work long. But that’s because there’s a critical issue or concern or something’s burning in the business, then I have to work long hours. But that is a rare occasion. And I hope this episode helped you out and I’ll see you again, next week.

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