Starting a 6-Figure Agency after Being Laid Off

Gresham Harkless

May 28, 2020

Gresham Harkless and his two businesses help hundreds of companies with their digital marketing needs. Read how he discovered and doubled down on the value he offers to clients.

Hi Gresham! Can you give us a short intro to who you are and what are you currently working on?

I manage 2 things--Blue 16 Media and CBNation

My day to day work on Monday mornings include team meetings and podcast interviews of entrepreneurs and business owners in the afternoon. Tuesday through Thursday, I have meetings and Friday is mostly podcast day. 

I have a team of 8 and we work remotely so the biggest role I play is lead generation, relationship building and coaching/management of team members.

Blue 16 Media is a six figure business. We perform various digital marketing services ranging from web design, SEO and even web hosting for a couple hundred clients across the United States. 

“The biggest aspect is to get your hands dirty and do the work. That’s how I learned.” 

The solution we are providing is visibility. We are helping connect people that are looking for our clients products and services with their sites or platforms.

Why did you start Blue 16 Media?

I always knew that I wanted to start a business but wasn’t sure exactly what kind of business. I freelanced a little but it was really getting laid off that provided the real spark for me to start Blue 16 Media. Luckily, a few weeks after I was laid off I was able to interview and get another position. However, this position and the company wasn’t stable and I knew that I would most likely get laid off again.  

I don’t want to say that I didn’t have a choice but that I didn’t want to feel that feeling again. 

I wasn’t sure of what business I wanted to start. But other business owners introduced me to a networking group, and I learned that the skills and services I had were of value and I could start a business around them.

How have you grown Blue 16 Media?

At the core, I’ve done a lot of relationship building and networking, but I think the next level growth has been from CBNation

CBNation has helped me to grow as a business person because I’ve been able to interview and connect with entrepreneurs and business owners on a regular basis through blogs, podcasts and videos. So I’ve experienced indirect growth. Direct growth and opportunity is because it’s been an opportunity for me to build and grow relationships and also generate leads and opportunities for digital marketing services.   

Part of the marketing philosophy for Blue 16 Media is building your own media company or creating content for your target market and we applied that to Blue 16 Media itself. Because we work with entrepreneurs and business owners, the focus has been to create content like podcasts, video and blogs to help our target market. That content, which is on CBNation, leads them to Blue 16 Media.

What are the tools of your trade?

I love these. I call them CEO Hacks on my podcast. 

Literal tools include scheduling software like Acuity and project management tools like Basecamp. On a personal level, I would also say habits like meditating and working out. 

Soft tools are things persistence, perseverance, grit, determination. 

What have been the most helpful or influential resources you’ve learned from?

It’s hard to pick one. Gary Vaynerchuk is a great influence. I often reference Eric Ries and The Lean Startup. Oprah Winfrey and Sir Richard Branson and Mark Cuban. I’m a big reader of biographies but also watch content on YouTube from any innovators or people that think differently.  

“I freelanced a little but it was really getting laid off that provided the real spark for me to start Blue 16 Media.”

I’ve learned a lot from my blog and podcast as well as I get to interview awesome entrepreneurs and business owners and also receive books.

What advice do you have for someone looking to break into tech or start their own business? Or, what advice would you give yourself when you were getting started?

Just do it. 

The biggest aspect is to get your hands dirty and do the work. That’s how I learned. 

Anytime you are in an industry that is or influenced by technology and is constantly changing, you should realize that you can learn a lot from books, courses, etc. but it will be the hands on skills and experience that might be the best teacher. 

It will allow you to expect and navigate the changes. No matter how hard you work, “it will be hard” is the psychological advice I would give myself. Also, the biggest thing you can learn and understand is that the most successful people failed--a lot. Get used to it and reprogram your mind to realize that. 

Was there anyone in particular you want to shout out who helped your career along? An individual, or community?

Without a doubt my first Networking Group--BNI and one of the members Mike Moss. 

It was there that I gained the confidence that I could even start a business. It wasn’t realistic before that. 

I would be crazy if I didn’t thank my parents because even though we didn’t always agree on my path, they were there and that means a lot--when I took risks and sometimes it panned out and even when it didn’t.

Where can we go to learn more about you and your work?

Image credits: Jeanine Finch, Finch Photography. 

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