Benji Rabhan, founder and CEO of MorrisCore, has helped others improve their online presence and make money with their websites since he was 13 years old. Benji is an expert in conversion rate optimization, automation, web design, PPC, and online marketing. In November 2011, he was honored at the White House as an Empact100 recipient. Benji’s first book, “Failure is Obsolete,” will be released in January. He can be contacted @benjirabhan.
MO: How did your journey as an entrepreneur begin? Tell readers your story.
Benji: My journey as an entrepreneur began when I was 11 years old. I was intrigued by the Internet and the fact that you could create websites on it. This was, of course, when the Internet was very new! I wanted to learn how to make websites and create my own company, called Silver Wizard Incorporated, which was a web development and tech firm. The company didn’t actually exist, but I liked to pretend it did. While everyone else was playing games, I was playing pretend entrepreneur.
Soon, that pretend entrepreneurship turned into my first freelance opportunity, which was to create a website for a client at age 13. I had just finished building my first computer from scratch, and I was approached by a friend of the family who had seen my work and decided to hire me to create a full ecommerce website with a Flash intro, which was very popular at the time. I was able to create that from scratch; it was fully functional and did pretty well. That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial experience.
MO: Morris Core focuses on businesses and their website conversions, optimization and automation. Why are these components so important in today’s technology-driven economy?
Benji: Today, it’s important to stay ahead of the game. The companies that survive, the less than 10% of small businesses that actually grow, becoming real companies that don’t fail, are the ones that are really motivated and have a solid foundation for growth. Today, the best way to get leads or to make sales, in most cases, is to advertise online, through Google and other online media. Even if you’re advertising offline, having a really powerful website that converts well is extremely important.
In terms of conversion and automation, the idea of creating a small business is easy – but creating a small business that can grow is another concept. Marketing automation allows you to take a business and grow it exponentially. A good example of that is one of my software companies. It has one employee; it was built for relatively low investment and bootstrapped. That one employee pretty much runs the entire company because the sales, marketing, billing, and accounting are completely automated. This allows it to be a pretty high-profit company, with an extremely low time investment. The ideas and principles of marketing and automation are the same for every type of business. You can automate everything, with the exception of the human element. That’s how you grow. And that’s how you grow fast.
MO: What is the most important aspect of a website if its owner doesn’t have the funds to create the ideal platform for his business?
Benji: If you only have one thing you can do to your website but don’t really have the money to create a perfect site, that one thing will be different for every company. But the question you want to ask yourself is, “What is the goal of my website? Am I looking to get leads? Am I looking to make sales? Am I seeking credibility for my current business?” Once you define that goal, the most important thing is creating the website around that goal, as opposed to just creating a website to create a website.
The most important element I see these days is the ability to focus on some sort of call-to-action. Give your customers the ability to easily find your phone number or your contact information, or better yet, collect their information with a web form and provide them with something in exchange for that information. This will allow you to follow up with those customers, so you can hopefully do business.
MO: How can business owners differentiate themselves now that the norm is to sell products and bring in leads online?
Benji: The best way for business owners to differentiate themselves online is to really come up with a good business strategy for their websites. Create an offer that’s somewhat better than your competitors’. Think outside the box, and design something in the structure of your site and your offering to customers that the industry doesn’t already have. If you could be the source for that one thing, they’ll use you for other things as well.
Every industry has its own way. The big thing to keep in mind is that just because there are other players out there, that doesn’t mean you can’t also take a piece of the pie. The winner will always be the person who realizes he can grow his business through modern technology, staying on the cutting edge. Automating more is how you differentiate yourself. You can do more and handle more; therefore, your cost per acquisition or your ad costs will go down, and you can afford to do more than your competitors can.
MO: You wrote a book called “Failure is Obsolete.” Where did the idea for this book come from, and what do you hope it will do for readers?
Benji: The idea came about because I’m fortunate to have had a lot of experience in the entrepreneurial field, with many different businesses over the years. Many people’s businesses fail, and the ways they fail and why they fail surprise me. The failures I’ve had with my businesses have always led to good lessons. What I’ve noticed, over time, is that I reversed the successes and the failures of others. I started to see a pattern.
The inquisitive, “engineering” part of my mind wanted to figure out how to prevent failure in the future and minimize risk as much as possible. I started to analyze why people accidentally succeed and why people accidentally fail. I took the accidental successes and really turned those into formulas to be used on purpose. I did the same thing with the failures, removing failure altogether. I use this strategy and have been very fortunate to rarely fail. It’s something I feel everyone should know; I’m very happy to have the opportunity to share it with as many people as possible.
MO: What are you most excited about for Morris Core and your portfolio companies in the next few months?
Benji: “Failure is Obsolete” comes out in January, and that’s exciting. The feedback we’ve received has been very positive, and I’m hoping I’ll get to hear some success stories. I’m in the process of writing my second book, which will hopefully come out by next July. I’m looking forward to gaining some quiet time to sit down and write.
We’re also in the process of launching some cool software under our Automation Core brand, coming out in late December. It’s the first software we’ve made that the majority of the population will be able to absorb and use. In the past, we focused more on plugins and niche products, so this will help more people; our team is very excited about that.
We have some great promotions coming up for Click Core to work with smaller businesses, since most of our clients in the Click Core brand are larger, Fortune 500-sized companies. We are really looking forward to taking on some projects at over 50% off normal prices to give back to the small business world. It’s fun since small businesses can move much faster than big companies.
For Conversion Core, we’re opening up slots, starting in January, to take on three new clients for the conversion consulting side of the business. I’m excited that we’ve surpassed 25 team members and have hired some great people in the last couple months. I’ve started to shape the team in a direction that really feels good. This will be a long-lasting, fun culture, even though we’re 100% virtual.
MO: Congratulations on your one-year anniversary with your wife. How has this new chapter changed the way you operate your business?
Benji: Thank you! Doing business is, in a way, a means to an end to help people. I enjoy what I do and use my skills for good. Money is always the side effect, as well as a measurement for how much of an impact we’re having on people. That’s my philosophy on business.
Because family is extremely important and I love my wife very much, she has represented a huge change in my life in terms of having a stable support system. She’s very well-grounded and passionate about what she does in the nonprofit space; it’s opened my eyes to the fact that I can help the world. That’s very exciting for me.
More than that, it’s changed the way I operate my business. I see my employees as extended family, and I treat them that way. Before we got married, I decided the next business I was going to launch, which ended up being Morris Core, would become a stable working environment for me and my team. I wanted everyone to feel comfortable, have a good time, grow, and be able to support each other. I wanted to provide a flexible work schedule; a large part of that was because I was preparing to create a family with my wife, and I wanted to also create a family with my team and let them create their own families at home.
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