Persistence vs Perseverence

What 5 years of looking in the rear-view mirror of a rapidly growing digital marketing agency taught me.

It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself for difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it is then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs.”— Seneca.

I dreaded going into work. The environment was so toxic that you could feel the tension in the air. Business was great but the powers that be decided to turn the tables on me by re-writing my role. Work just wasn’t fun anymore. The last straw came when my boss told me to “never start a business” because I’d be a “terrible manager” and because “fax machines were expensive”.

“You’ve got to be shitting me”, I thought. So I quit. The decision wasn’t hard.

I felt relieved. Then I felt sick. What should I do next? Was I going to fall on my face and become a victim of my own self-fulfilling prophecy?

Screw that.

I decided to give it a go. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d work on building a business for 6 months and if I failed, I could have easily gone back to getting a job.


Fast-forward 5 years into my journey, I’m proud to be at the helm of one of Canada’s fastest growing digital marketing agencies. There’s a lot of learning left to acquire and many more mountains to climb, but I’m at peace knowing that my journey is going along the right path.

PS: Happy 5th Birthday Powered by Search!

I’ve never been the type to give up at anything, perhaps to a fault. The last 5 years have taught me that no matter how good or bad things are, having perspective, patience, and viewing the world on an even-keel are virtues that lead to positive outcomes.

There’s a thin line separating those who persist versus those who persevere.

Persistence is a skill whereas perseverance is a virtue. Sticking to your guns and doing the same thing over and over again without learning from your mistakes is a recipe of disaster, nay, insanity.

We learn by making mistakes. I’ve made more than my fair share. Hitting road block after roadblock, pummelling into the proverbial brick walls that hinder progress, the difference between persistence versus perseverance started becoming clearer.

If I had to have a conversation with myself 5 years ago on October 5th, 2009, here’s what I would have said to myself:

1. Strive to be amongst the top 5% in the world at one thing. Find your niche and own it.

I’ve been a digital marketer since early 2006. In a sea of opinions within the #SEO industry, I picked a niche no one was talking about — Enterprise Local Search. While all the other Local SEO’s were talking about optimizing single-location businesses, I chose to focus on strategies to rank 10, 100, or 1000+ locations.

Do you work in an industry that isn’t nascent or growing? Saturation is a blessing. The obstacle is the way. Find a way to be at the top of your industry by identifying pain-points and figuring out creative ways to solve them. How do you do that? Ask your boss, your co-workers, and your clients how you could make their work and life easier, better, and more meaningful.

2. You can Out-compete your Competition by Out-Caring Them.

We still regularly compete with corporate giants in the digital marketing industry who have more resources, budget, and sales-people than I do. 2 out of 3 times when it comes down to it, we win. Not because we’re cheaper or have more brand klout, but because we out-care the competition.

3. Punch Above Your Weight Class.

3 days after I incorporated my company, I was asked to speak to an audience of 1000 people on how to generate leads using social media.

I was worried. I didn’t have a deck, and the biggest audience I’d addressed at the time may have been about 100 people. This was 10x the size. Visualizing that many people in their underwear would have been a visceral overload (and not in a good way).

In hindsight I’m glad I was up to the challenge. That speaking gig lead to our first enterprise client (still working with us 5 years later). Someone at the event who represented a professional speaker’s agency approached me after and booked me for another speaking opportunity. Two weeks later, their competition booked me into other speaking opportunities as well.

Sometimes you just have to bite off more than you can chew to know how much you can really achieve.

4. It will be Hard. Startup Life Can Suck.

Stress and depression are real facts about building a company one brick at a time. I’ve struggled with bouts of depression and weeks where stress is through the roof. It’s not pretty, but it is worth it.

On a layover at Atlanta airport after a client pitch. That day was 18 hours long. The deal took 5 months to close after, but it was well worth it!

There are days where it is Entrepreneurshit. Suck it up and continue shipping. It will get better but if it doesn’t get help.

So how do you deal? Take your pick: Surround yourself with common-minded peers, meditate, and maintain a journal to count your successes to balance your failures.

5. You Can’t Scale Giving a Shit.

Like most first time CEO’s, I’ve been challenged to grow from a Maker to a Manager. We’ve scaled quite a bit and then some, starting as an army of one and now pushing 50+ bright, passionate, and curious marketers.

Training our team of 6–7 back in 2012.

Revenues grew from a few hundred thousand dollars to mid-single digit millions in the same time period.

Initially, I wanted a company of no more than 10 people. Then it was 15, then 22. Our merger changed that and before I knew it we had over 50 amazing team members and over 200 clients.

There was only one-reason we grew the way we did…without a sales team, without recruiters, and without funding — We all gave a shit about our team, our clients, and our community.

6. Money isn’t Everything. Be a Good Steward of your Industry.

There are hundreds of different ways to get bigger, faster, with less work, and by cutting corners. But what is your legacy? Do your peers respect you or loathe you? Or worse…they don’t even know who you are, or what you stand for.

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want. — Zig Ziglar

We spoke at local accelerators, started our own meet-up, organized our own conference, planned agency foosball tournaments, and I even taught SEO at a college.

Inboundcon 2013. Our 1st ever annual conference.

We spoke for free, arranged meet-ups for free, and broke even on our annual conference.

Why? Because it was the right thing to do. And because it was a lot of fun doing it.


Perseverance is persistence applied towards positive outcomes. The last 5 years have been fun, not so fun, and everything in-between. But without a doubt, it was worth it and as long as it continues being that way, I’m in this for the long-haul.

The next 5 years will bring different learnings, new challenges, and I will be a different version of “me” by then. No matter what’s around the pike, I’m looking forward to living in the present, and giving those who played a pivotal role in the journey thus far my very best.

comments

4 Comments

  1. I loved the idea of out-caring the competition. Potential clients always know if you have their best interests in mind and the one who is looking out the most will always win. Thanks for a great article!

  2. Dev,

    Loved how you shared your story. Running a business is definitely a rollercoaster of ups and downs, it’s great hearing from others that made it through the initial wall.

    I am definitely adding “Punch Above My Weight Class” to this month’s actions.

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Persistence vs Perseverence

by Dev Basu time to read: 5 min