Recently, I had the chance to sit down with founder and CEO of Leapfrog Promotions, Kelly Smith. If you’re local to San Antonio, TX, you’ve probably heard of Kelly. He’s a major player in the local promotional products industry and he dropped some pearls of wisdom about his company, his growth, and what he’s learned in business that has accelerated him onto the public stage he is on!
The beginning of LeapFrog Promotions
Kelly identified a major issue in businesses, lack of communication between departments. This inspired Kelly to leave his corporate job in 2003 to do something about it. He began consulting businesses on how to tie in their marketing to their front line, enabling their sales and marketing departments to communicate and tying all the pieces of an organization together to work more in sync. He taught top managers on how to lead better in the sales aspect, but then also taught the marketing department how to communicate better with their front line and then taught their frontline on how to cross promote their brand,their products and services.
I want to point out, Kelly solved the exact issue I see time and again with businesses. People have a tendency to lump stuff together but not make it work together. Sales and marketing go hand in hand, but business owners don't figure out how to actually tie the two together.
How a Consulting Firm morphed into a Marketing Firm
Consulting opened a niche for Kelly but by 2010 the travel was wearing him down and he noticed an uptrend of clients needing marketing services. It had become very common for Kelly to meet businesses that didn’t have the budget for consulting services but did have a budget to outsource their marketing. Which led into the ultimate service of marketing that LeapFrog dominates now, actually helping people find the right kind of private products for their business and then get them ordered.
Right, and sometimes we get pigeonholed into the promotional products industry, but we do a lot of things. We have a 30 year tenured graphic designer on staff. So we do everything from logo design for startups or rebrand for existing businesses. I want to update their logo, um, to printing marketing material and then helping them pair their brand with different promotional items that accentuate the brand.
Kelly’s Big Lessons that he learned Early on that enabled him to Grow & Dominate his Industry
“When I was consulting, I realized you can't do two things phenomenally. I was traveling, but I had clients locally here in Texas. The travel was kind of pulling me all over and I wasn't doing two things great. The one thing I would tell somebody that in the beginning when they're starting out to just focus, focus on one thing and run with it, don't keep going after each bright shining star because you'll set yourself back years.”
Right there people! It’s often repeated but also frequently ignored. You cannot be everything to everyone. It is impossible and you WILL get burnt out. You have to focus, do one thing really, really well.
Kelly went on to say, “We’ve actually dropped certain products and outsource them now. It just got a little bit out of hand for us and we had to remind ourselves, do what you do best, outsource the rest. That's my motto.”
Let’s agree, that’s a fantastic motto. By doing so, you create directional growth. Instead of you trying to grow three things by very small amounts, you can put all that growth into one thing and the result is much greater
Taking the Leap into Hiring & Outsourcing
“We wanted to keep it close because we didn't trust referring out to anybody. But in the past five to seven years, we've really focused on creating our circle of trust. And I think that's huge too. If you're starting a business or even if you're years into your business, if you don't have a core group of support, like the mastermind. You won't grow. The most growth we've seen is when we've had that core group with us. You can't do it alone. You just can't do it alone.”
Let’s be honest. That’s a humbling concept but you really can't do it alone.I've started to change up how I say that because a lot of people sit here, me included, and their response is “Just watch me”. I've learned it's not even a,"You can't do it alone." It's a ‘You must not’ if you want your own sanity and you want your business to grow past you. You must not do it alone because you will never create massive growth if you don't. That's how I've internalized it because people people would say that to me all the time and I'd be like, right, YOU can't do it alone but I can figure this one out on my own.
Kelly’s Pearls of Wisdom
“Focusing on one thing and getting really good at it and outsourcing the rest is my biggest piece of wisdom. Second, build your circle of trust early. I would have had my circle of trust a lot earlier if I could go back and do things differently. I was coming out of corporate America thinking I could do everything, but that's not such the case. I had 20 support staff helping me, but when I went out on my own I only had me. Circling yourself with the proper staff is paramount. My best tip for finding and hiring the right people is to go with your gut. Go with your gut. If you have one little hesitation, Don't do it.”
I love this tip. People get to the point where they get so overwhelmed and panicked when they get to the point of hiring that they’ll hire anyone. It’s important to slow down, be selective and thorough when hiring. If you hire just to fill a role it almost always backfires very quickly.
Well said, Kelly! I couldn't agree more!
Catch up with Kelly for help with your promotional product needs, or just to talk shop by visiting his website!