As President & Founder of Anvil Media, Kent Lewis oversees strategic direction of the company, with a focus on sales and marketing. He speaks internationally, writes for industry publications like SmartBrief and has been an adjunct professor at Portland State University since 2000. Since transitioning his career into digital marketing in 1996, he’s founded or co-founded four agencies and 2 organizations. He’s been named a Top 40 Under 40, Marketer of the Year by AMA Oregon and a Top 100 Digital Marketing Influencer by BuzzSumo in 2019. Outside of work, Lewis enjoys consulting with startups and spending time with family.
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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.
Kent Lewis: I co-founded my first agency in 1999, and helped grow the self-funded organization to 35 employees and $3.5M in revenue in less than 2 years. I parted ways in late 2000, and immediately found my agency, Anvil Media. Before fully committing to growing the business with full-time employees, I co-founded an email marketing agency, email ROI (now known as Thesis) in 2002. After growing Anvil for 8 years, I saw a need for more affordable digital marketing and founded Formic Media in 2008. After growing the agency to $1M in revenue over 2 years, I decided to merge it with Anvil to simplify my life, For 20+ years, I’ve been an adjunct professor at Portland State University since 2000 and a SCORE instructor since 2014. In my 26 year career, I’ve found 2 agencies, co-founded 2 agencies and 2 trade organizations.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Kent Lewis: I believe the answer is yes. I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur, I kept getting fired for being me, so I decided to do my own thing. So I believe I was both made (nurtured) but had also some genetics (born) from entrepreneurial family members.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Kent Lewis: I’d say I’m a very driven, passionate problem-solver that happens to live in the digital realm but feel strongly that giving back to the community that helps create your success is essential for entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Kent Lewis: From day one, Anvil has been laser-focused on search engine marketing. My original skillset was PR and SEO, but I evolved to digital advertising as Google Ads gained prominence. Similarly, we expanded to include email and social media strategy more than a decade ago as platforms grew in popularity. More recently, we’ve added NFT marketing capabilities.
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?
Kent Lewis: I assumed nobody would want to work with me, especially initially. As such, my mindset was to educate prospective clients to build trust. My primary strategy was to leverage my PR background to speak, write and evangelize as a thought leader in our space. It has worked quite well and I recommend all entrepreneurs follow suit and take the lead or surround themselves with loyal, passionate experts that can take on that role.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Kent Lewis: Yes. My biggest mistake was hiring smart people and getting out of the way. I assumed they didn’t need my guidance and support and it was a costly mistake.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Kent Lewis: Inspect, do not expect (of others).
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Kent Lewis: Hire great people and get out of the way.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Kent Lewis: I don’t believe much has changed, other than to rethink purchasing a building for your business, post-COVID. Most employees prefer to work remotely, so the cost can be burdening.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Kent Lewis: I thought all entrepreneurs were the same: Type A go-getters (Dominant on DISC). That is not true and can be a deadly assumption when working with other entrepreneurs.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Kent Lewis: Understand your core purpose, develop Core Values (Mission and Vision for bonus points), and make key decisions based on those Core Values.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Kent Lewis: I’ve written extensively about my journey and lessons after 20+ years of entrepreneurship. I would highly recommend joining Entrepreneur Organization, reading Entrepreneur Magazine and listen to Entrepreneur focused podcasts.
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?
Kent Lewis: Bartender.
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?
Kent Lewis: Ryan Reynolds.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kent Lewis 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 Kent Lewis or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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