In this episode on the I AM CEO Podcast, Gresh talks about how he started his business, how he supports small businesses and entrepreneurship with Blue 16 Media and CEO Blog Nation(CBNation.co). He also talks about his CEO Hack, nuggets and his definition of a CEO.
Using CEO Hack – Otter.ai – Otter.ai is AI transcription software. It may not be 100% accurate but helps transcribe the episode.
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:27
Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. And this because this is the 100th episode, we’re gonna do something a little bit different. So I decided to bring back on the person that was in episode number one for the iamceo.co podcast, which is my mom, Kathy Harkless. So we’re gonna do something a little bit different, where I’m gonna give her the keys and let her ask the questions and put me on the hot seat, so to speak.
Cathy H Harkless 0:50
Amazing. First and foremost, thanks, Gresham, for giving me the opportunity to interview you. And I just love putting you on the hot seat.
Gresham Harkless 0:58
Thank you very much. So looking forward to it. So I’ll step back and I’ll just let you do your thing.
Cathy H Harkless 1:03
First of all, the first question is what inspires you
Gresham Harkless 1:06
what inspires me, you know, I’ve always been very passionate about entrepreneurship and what it means to kind of be a business owner, but I really just tried to kind of get very, very clear on like, who I am. And that took a lot of time, as far as me just figuring out what I’m good at what I’m not good at and try to kind of block out the noise. So what kind of inspires me is to just kind of hopefully do, what my calling is what I feel my gifts are and then hopefully be able to use those gifts to be able to get back and kind of help out, you know, humanity to probably a higher degree, but just from like a day to day basis, if I could do a little small things, I can help out other people inspire people, I feel like I’m doing my part. So I’m always just trying to, you know, do whatever I can to kind of make that happen.
Cathy H Harkless 1:47
Yeah. Can you give us a quick peek into your story and why you started your business?
Gresham Harkless 1:52
Yeah, probably just like every other like entrepreneur and business owner, this wasn’t like the first thing that I did as far as like the podcast or the digital marketing company, I think it probably goes back, you know, like, I usually always say, you know, my first venture capitalists were like you and my dad just because got the opportunity to do little things, whether it be you know, selling potato chips, or us going to like MJ design, so I can get beads and stuff to kind of sell those at the playground. But I mean, I think probably the first like entrepreneurial type thing I did that I fully like, was in charge of for probably probably a year or two was when my dad, you know, he went TDY. And I always say that was like free Skype time. So it free FaceTime free Zoom time, so he weren’t able to kind of do the recordings and have all the technology we have now. So he used to send those care packages with, you know, his his favorites, the honeybuns, the oatmeal, cookies, things like that. But I also started a newspaper. And to be honest, I don’t really remember and maybe you know, better than me exactly like what sparked that. But I know that I like to create content, I like to work on the computer. And I know that I wanted to do something to hopefully generate some revenue. So I started to sell subscriptions of this family newspaper that you were nice enough to have having have printed for me so that we can kind of distribute them to the family, I could sell subscriptions. But it was also a way that we can let my dad know who was you know, TDY and gone in another country, what was going on with the family. So I remember I just would try to create and put interesting things there of you know, family news. And then also I tried to put in sports things I remember I even looked at the Soap Opera Digest and things like that, and put stuff in there. So that was probably like what sparked everything. And then you know, fast forward, obviously, a lot of years later, you know, I was laid off and I was gonna get laid off again, not really happy and super, like frustrated because I felt like I quote unquote, did everything right. But it just didn’t seem like things were going my way. I’m not sure if that was a combination of it being an economic crisis, and just, you know, just getting out of school, but I took some chances. They didn’t necessarily go my way. I tore my Achilles tendon. And that led me to start the CEO blog nation where I was like interviewing entrepreneurs and business owners. And then I basically met somebody at a networking group after the first time I was laid off. And that’s where I kind of started the blue16 media the digital marketing. So a lot of it was not planned. His just me. I’m having sometimes difficult situations that happen, but just kind of trying to move forward and being true to myself. You know, as I talked about,
Cathy H Harkless 4:21
interesting, I remember a lot of comments about those newspapers that you provided. And I remember your subscription was pretty outstanding, considering that point in time, but interesting that that’s what made you start
Gresham Harkless 4:35
Yeah, and funnily enough, we still have some family members that still owe me some subscription revenue. They know who they are.
Cathy H Harkless 4:45
Interesting. So tell us about your business and what products and services that you provide.
Gresham Harkless 4:51
Yes, I have a digital marketing company called Blue16 media. So we do web design, SEO and a little bit of social media. And then I have a community kind of have niche blogs, I call it cbnation.co a lot of people will know and refer to it as CEO blog nation, which is where it’s kind of hosted. But basically at the heart of it, what I do is I try to kind of adopt this mentality of creating content for your target market. So this initially didn’t started out, like start out like this. But I knew when I started blue16 media, I wanted to basically have in create kind of like this media platform and this philosophy where people that were, you know, whether they’re creating a website, they’re doing SEO, they’re doing social media, or even like out and face to face networking, you the idea is that you create content for your target market and me kind of being and having no journalistic interest and having that, that desire to really create content, when I was doing, you know, CEO blog nation, just as a hobby, I started to really think like, okay, with glue 16, me if I really wanted to, like really expand this really rapidly and to reach a lot of people and connect with my target market, what’s the best way that I can do it, and what came to me was that what I would probably invest in the most, if I had, you know, if I didn’t have to worry about money and just kind of put our invest money into a certain venture, it was essentially CEO blog nation. So probably about two or three years ago, started merging the two brands together, and everything’s kind of powered by blue16 media, largely, because it’s that same philosophy, where I’m trying to connect with entrepreneurs and business owners, but also I’m creating resources and content, whether it be infographics, I do book reviews, I have podcasts, obviously, I’m going to start doing some more video interviews. But the idea is really just to kind of create content for that target market for the entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs so that they can be successful and efficient at what it is that they do.
Cathy H Harkless 6:40
Interesting, it’s really important to establish a target market and to know exactly what your target is, I think that helps all business owners. That’s what makes you and your organization unique.
Gresham Harkless 6:53
I think it kind of goes along that same mindset. And that same idea where, you know, we’re trying to help build a media company for you. And I know that, you know, when I say that a lot of people might get kind of caught off guard, like, you know, I’m not going to build a media company, like, why would I do that. But my philosophy is really not to do and be everywhere, it’s really to do kind of like a self inventory of who you are, if you’re going to be doing it. Or if you’re hiring a firm, or an agency that’s going to do that work for you figure out what they’re really best at and see, like you touched on if the target market that you’re trying to reach and connect with and hopefully will become clients and generate opportunities for you will be able to kind of resonate with that specific content, or they’re looking for specific keywords if we’re talking about SEO, but that is really to have that media company mindset where you’re creating your own Washington Post, you’re creating your own USA Today. But it’s specifically tailored to that avatar to your target market. So you’re creating content and you’re using those platforms in order to do that you’re not just you know, creating a Facebook page, because you hear it, you should do one, you’re not on Snapchat, because you’re here, you should be on Snapchat, you’re not doing SEO or Facebook ads, because it’s a buzzword, you’re doing it because you’re strategically looking at how you’re trying to connect with your target market, and then also to where they’re spending time and having like conversations and engaging with them deeply so that you’re top of mind when they’re thinking about your specific product and service. So I think the really big rally differentiator of you know, blue16 media and CEO blog nation is really that we you know, adopt that mindset, I specifically have, you know, invested well into, you know, building this media company. And the idea is really just to kind of, you know, do that for your company. And it doesn’t have to be a podcast and a YouTube chat on all those things. It could just be one of those kinds of things.
Cathy H Harkless 8:41
Okay, so tell me, what’s your one favorite resource, or life business hack that has helped you as a CEO?
Gresham Harkless 8:51
I’m gonna cheat a little bit even though I tell everybody the same one. I’m gonna give you two. Is that okay?
Cathy H Harkless 8:57
Gresham Harkless 8:58
All right. So um, my number one probably thing that probably change our business, probably more than anything is this platform called Basecamp. And it’s a project management tool. And the reason that I swear by Basecamp is just because it’s helped to organize everything that we’re doing. So whether we’re interacting with clients, you know, face to face, obviously, you know, might see local clients face to face, but we’re also doing things online through Basecamp. It allows everything that a client is working on to be in one set place. And the reason that that’s been such a game changer is because when I started my business, you know, I had contractors and people that I work with, so I have contractors or some that I’ve worked with from you know, five years ago, when I started the business on these contractors are working sometimes at different times at different hours. So to be able to go to one place and to access you know, the client’s logo on hand, things like that little small things like that takes so much of a burden off of me and it allows me to be a lot more efficient and me to focus on other things. Whereas before when I started my business, everything was in my email No. So if a contractor or a team member needed something, I would have to forward it to them. But now everything’s in base camp. And then you know, clients can interact and since they can just send emails, but it comes through Basecamp. It’s made it tremendously, you know, easier for me and be able to kind of run the business. And then the second thing, I think that absolutely was a huge time saver is my scheduling app, I use a scheduling app, there’s different ones out there, I use acuity, but to be able to just send a link and say, hey, you know, I know you’re busy as well to my pick, whatever time works for your schedule, you’ll get an invite, I’ll get an invite. And we can both you know, hop on a conference call or hop on Zoom, or whatever it is. And that automates all that back and forth, that initially used to have to do I mean, it’s been a huge time saver, and fleet game changer. And I can go on and on and on. I mean, I have a whole list of, you know, CEO hacks that, you know, I’ve compiled, and I’ll continue to kind of update but those are just probably to top of mind that have been my absolute favorite game changers
Cathy H Harkless 10:55
kind of reinforces something that you told me once of working smarter, not harder. I think those tools allow that to be done. Next question, what Golden Nugget Do you have that you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Gresham Harkless 11:09
Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing is that, you know, I kind of touched on this is that a, that you are a media company, so you want to be able to kind of create content and create information for your target market. So you want to drill down, like we talked about your avatar and figuring out how to create content for you know, that specific market, and that’s more on the digital marketing perspective, and even the marketing because you can have that kind of, you’re a media company mindset while you’re face to face networking as well. But the second thing I would say like especially when I started my business is very important to understand that sometimes you have to do a lot to do a little to do a lot again. And what I mean by that is that when I started my company, you know, I mentioned I got laid off, and I was gonna get laid off again. So I did a lot of things on this side while I was building up, blue16 media. And that was me doing a lot. And I kind of hit walls and was exhausted because I was doing so much. But I started to scale back. And my idea is always to scale back. But you know, as an entrepreneur, or business owner, you always want to have those multiple streams of revenue. So I scaled down to kind of focus and laser focus on something a little bit more in order to hopefully be able to create more. So that’s why I say you might have to do a lot to do a little to do a lot again, is because you kind of have to figure out like what your your peace, your thing that you can do better than anybody else. And then once you figure that out and you reach a certain level, then maybe you’re able to kind of scale out and do additional things.
Cathy H Harkless 12:27
And one more question, what does being a CEO mean to you?
Gresham Harkless 12:31
Yeah, for me, I think being a CEO is all about kind of charting the path of where you want to go. One of the reasons that I wanted to kind of, you know, look at and develop this podcast was because I felt like entrepreneurship, what it meant to be a business owner, what it meant to kind of be in business, whether you were a startup founder and just started, you know, 10 minutes ago, or you some of that been in business for 10 years, and you had, you know, five employees and had been running a really successful local business, I kind of felt like they had CEO kind of DNA or mindset was kind of an all those people. And I think, you know, going forward, you know, in the future, there’s definitely going to be, you know, more of a need for people to be and have those entrepreneurial skills or those quote, unquote, CEO skills. So for me, like on a superficial level, I mean, CEO to me is just kind of a title. But to me, it represents so much more where you are the person that’s in charge of your life, whether you be a solopreneur, whether you’re working for a company, whatever it is, you’re going to have to have those entrepreneurial type skills. So like, even if you’re looking for a job, you know, you want to basically build yourself as a brand. You’re using tools like LinkedIn to network with people. So you have to basically help you know, when you’re sitting in an interview to show people exactly how you can solve those problems that they have. So that you can get hired. Well, I’m doing the same thing when I’m talking to another business owner. And you’re doing the same thing, when you’re hoping to sell your widget or your product or your service or your T shirt, you’re trying to help show how you can solve those problems. So you want to have that CEO Problem Solver type of mindset. And that’s really what I was hoping to do with this podcast is give you know, different types of quote unquote CEOs the opportunity to talk about you know, who they are, what it is that they do, but then also get an idea into how their business owner how they do those, you know, day to day kind of activities to reach their goals. And still, in my eyes, they are very much Oh CEO, to me, that’s just the title. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a big huge fortune 500 company or you’re a solopreneur the bottom line is that if you’re helping, you know, make the world a better place, and you’re charging ahead and you to our CEO.
Cathy H Harkless 14:27
Um, one thing that I’ll share that I observed is that you’re driven and you’re driven to succeed. And that drive means a lot when you’re a CEO, and you’re leading by example that says a lot. Now, is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Gresham Harkless 14:43
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s basically it. I mean, like, I really touched on like, even like, CEO nugget is just that you know, you are a media company. So making sure that you create content for your target market is definitely important. Definitely. I have the opportunity to have you know, really great people on this podcast, so definitely Uh, you know, check back in and subscribe to check out the podcast and you can always catch me like literally everything I work on is on my personal website progreshion.com And that’s p r o g r e s h i o n .com. And that literally has links to all the different projects that I’m working on. But like I mentioned, you know, I have these podcasts, doing a lot of video interviews as well going into next year, and then also creating a course called The you are a media company course. So you could definitely check out information about that. But again, I appreciate you for for emceeing and being so nice to me, they see it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was gonna be.
Cathy H Harkless 15:36
Okay, well, again, thanks for the opportunity. Thanks for sharing. And again, it’s great to kind of peek into who you are and what you’re about and what you do.
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