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“When we got that first sale and I saw the money in my hand is when I realized that I could be an entrepreneur despite what anybody else told me.”

PDR Web Solutions is a website design and online marketing company located in Baltimore, Maryland. They work with their clients as strategic partners to generate leads and improve their online presence.

Jonathan Passley founded PDR Web Solutions when he was just 22. After five years of service, the company has helped more than 100 business owners from various industries take their business online and was listed in the Top 50 Minority-owned Businesses in the Baltimore area by the Baltimore Business Journal in 2011 and 2012.

MO: Where does your passion for website design and online marketing come from?

Jonathan: I’ve always liked building websites from scratch – it’s amazing how strings of code control website’s structure, look and function. And the resulting design has a power to affect consumers: entice them to stay and read, scare away and even instill trust or distrust in your brand. A successful website to me is one that can accurately reflect the business’ brand but effectively generate qualified leads. My passion for online marketing came from interest in marketing in general. I like the challenge of finding the best ways to implement traditional marketing strategies online. However, the best part about online marketing is that it has leveled the business playground, so to speak. Both large corporations and small businesses have equal opportunities, access to the same tools and can achieve similar success with online marketing – something I know from experience.

MO: You launched PDR when you were just 22. What did you learn from starting your own business that you couldn’t have learned at school?

Jonathan: Everything. Unfortunately, school focuses on teaching students how to be good employees, not how to run your own business. While getting a degree in business administration, I’ve learned how marketing works, but not how to market my own small business. Most case studies discussed in class talk about large corporations, but every business has to start small, so these “real life examples” are not particularly useful. I had to learn from experience how to find and hire responsible employees, how to establish company culture and (an important one) how to budget for taxes.

MO: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?

Jonathan: I would say so. In high school, I would buy candy in bulk quantities and sell the individual pieces of candy at a profit. I got this idea from seeing how much candy my classmates would purchase from various organizations at fund raising events. In my early years of college, I started a “car dealership” with my childhood best friend. One day we went to a car auction and noticed how cheap the cars were being sold for. Again I saw opportunity. I maxed out my credit card to purchase the first car. We drove it home, fixed it and sold it at a profit. When we got that first sale and I saw the money in my hand is when I realized that I could be an entrepreneur despite what anybody else told me. We did the same for the next several cars. I guess this makes PDR Web Solutions my third venture… But even when I was working 9 to 5 jobs I’ve always known I wasn’t realizing my full potential. That nudging feeling that I could be doing something better is gone now, because I AM doing something better – helping other business owners reach their potential customers.

MO: What advice would you give to a business contemplating redesigning their website?

Jonathan: I wish business owners did seek advice before starting a website redesign project. Finding a good web designer is only a part of the success; there are other important aspects many people forget about. For example, always write down your goals for your new website. Don’t redesign just because it’s time – redesign to improve branding, get more leads or build trust. Communicating your goals to your web designer is essential as well, as they will determine your site’s look and functionality. When you are interviewing your future web designer, ask them about their process, experience and qualifications, but also note which questions they ask you. A web designer who is not interested in your business or your audience won’t build a website that delivers.

Additionally, it helps if you assign a person or a team to manage the project on your end and ensure timely completion. From my experience, a project often comes to halt when a client takes too long to review, approve, provide content, images or other feedback. This could all be avoided if you have an employee dedicated to working with the web designer.

And, finally, never overlook the marketing aspect. Just because you build or redesign a website, visitors won’t come. You need to drive them to your site with a combination of online and offline marketing strategies.

MO: What are some of the most common website related reasons that businesses lose their leads?

Jonathan: This can be as simple as not displaying your contact information where visitors can easily find it. Potential customers don’t want to look through your entire website just to find your phone number. When you use an online submission form, make sure it works and check it regularly. It’s possible you are not getting any leads because there is a problem with the form submission.

Another common reason businesses lose leads is a confusing website that is difficult to navigate. When visitors click around and can’t find what they need, it can cause frustration and cause them to leave. Your business’ website must have a well-organized navigation structure and clear calls to action to guide visitors.

I often give clients an analogy comparing their website to their storefront. Just like people judge your business by its storefront, they do the same when they land on your website. If your site doesn’t reflect your brand, convey trust, explain what you do and how you can help then don’t expect leads to roll in from your website.

MO: You’ve managed to gain some pretty impressive traction since first launching – how do you plan to keep the momentum going?

Jonathan: That’s a very good question. I plan on sticking to our value proposition – working with our clients as strategic partners to accomplish their goals and have their best interest at heart at all times. PDR in PDR Web Solutions stands for Passion, Determination and Resilience. These are our founding principles, as well as criteria for choosing new team members. I am always on a lookout for professionals who are passionate about what they do and determined to succeed. Growing our team to offer better, faster and more diverse and customized services will definitely be a big part of keeping the momentum going. I like to aim high when it comes to business goals. Past success is important and should be acknowledged, but all of us at PDR know to keep in sight the ultimate target – becoming the #1 web design company in the world. It might sound ambitious coming from a small Baltimore web design business, but if you aim, might as well aim high!


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