Meet Andrew Woods – a problem solver and a builder to the core; applying strategic thinking and visual polish to a variety of web and marketing solutions. As CEO and Director of Web Services at Duckpin, he is skilled in a wide range of web and marketing tools and technologies and always digging into “what’s next” to fuel his need to build.
Outside of work, he spends time with his family, hike, backpack, sail, travel, and find all sorts of non-digital things to design, build, fix, or improve.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Andrew Woods: My name is Andrew Woods and I’m CEO at Duckpin – a web, marketing and advertising agency in Baltimore, MD. I have a background in visual communication and design, having worked previously at design agencies that specialized in consumer product packaging. Despite spending my early career as a designer and art director, I had a strong personal passion and interest in leveraging technology to solve problems.
In 2013, I co-founded Duckpin with 2 of my colleagues, Chad Birenbaum and Cara Bonadio. We set out to merge our design and technology skills to offer a full suite of marketing services to regional businesses. I’m thrilled to say that now, 8 years later, we’ve grown to 15 people and have worked with a wide range of companies from regional service providers to global household name brands.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Andrew Woods: I am confident entrepreneurs are made. Some might say I was born with the itch to solve problems and to be honest, I do feel the need to “tinker” as if it were instinctual.
But, looking back, I will say that this instinct is a product of my childhood. Growing up, my dad would fix anything and everything. From car repairs to home improvements, if it needed to be done – he did it. Experiencing that gave me the curiosity to build and improve, and it gave me a hands-on work ethic that I take to work each day now.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Andrew Woods: “Never satisfied”. On the surface, this may sound like a negative attribute, but I’ve found it to be the one that drives us forward. I tend to get bored if there isn’t a big goal with the next steps. I hate the idea of complacency. Of course, I celebrate growth and wins, but I always feel the need to push things further.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Andrew Woods: When we started, we stuck to what we knew, which was mostly design services. We did a lot of branding and packaging. I honed my skills as a web developer and we rolled custom web development services into the mix. Immediately following that, digital marketing and advertising services became a natural progression for us. Customers were asking how they could activate their brands online to gain visibility. Today, we do a whole lot and we’re always looking to be a strategic partner, no matter the tactic. Right now it’s a lot of branding, web development, SEO, paid media management, photography/videography, and social media management. But we dabble in all sorts of other things to stay fresh and motivated.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Andrew Woods: Assume that no matter how great your service, no matter how amazing your product, no buyer wants to talk to you about it. Sounds harsh, but the fact is that people are busy with their own individual lives and they simply won’t be as excited about your offer as you are to offer it. Enter with this rough expectation, then be excited and proud every single time you break this barrier.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Andrew Woods: I wouldn’t say I’ve paid dearly for any assumption or mistake, but there have been some hard lessons learned along the way. For example, early on we would come up with ideas that we felt would benefit our customers and jump right into executing them with excitement only to find some of these ideas fall flat. Looking back, I would have preferred to spend more time validating these ideas with customers prior to jumping into them. A quick phone call or lunch with some valuable customers would have helped steer the effort in the right direction.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Andrew Woods: I would tell myself not to be intimidated by going for big projects and accounts. When we started, I had convinced myself that those opportunities would not be available to a small, new business – that I had to work my way up the ladder rung by rung. Luckily, we broke through to large regional accounts quickly just by way of doing great work. But if I could go back, I’d let myself know to go right for it.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Andrew Woods: I can’t say I ever received poor advice. Plenty of unsolicited advice, but even that brings some nuggets of wisdom.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Andrew Woods: COVID has changed opinions surrounding in-office vs. remote work. There’s more nuance to the conversation than the intentionally polarizing social media algorithms will lead you to believe. I’d say to any new entrepreneur to pick one or the other and only hire people who are 100% seeking that working arrangement. Save yourself the headache!
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Andrew Woods: While I’m sure there are outliers, most business owners including myself put in a ton of effort, take on a lot of stress, and face a lot of challenges. That’s not to say it isn’t worth it, but I’d be cautious to believe in some “be your own boss, set your own rules, do things your way” fairy tale. In most cases, it’s going to take a lot of effort to achieve the results you are seeking.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Andrew Woods: It’s important to be curious, resourceful, and driven by a personal vision.
I want to sail around the world with my family, and when I return, I want to live a quiet, simple, financially independent life in harmony with the environment. I show up to work every day with that vision and use my curiosity and resourcefulness to push towards that.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Andrew Woods: In my opinion, the challenge ahead is market saturation. I’m unaware of any financially lucrative industry that isn’t exploding with new businesses every single day. I’m a big fan of business books (I use audible at lunch) for the purpose of mindset and motivation, but I’ll be honest – they all say the same things in different ways. Do your thing, take some risks, fail, have some fun.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Andrew Woods: I’d build koi ponds!
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Andrew Woods: I couldn’t advocate for defacing (or in this case, facing?) a natural mountain range, but if I were to throw someone out there of personal significance it would be Richard Branson. His “screw it, let’s do it” mantra resonates with me, I appreciate his contributions to environmental protection and applaud his efforts to make ethical business decisions at scale.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Andrew Woods for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Andrew Woods or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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