In this week’s “From the Ground Up” interview, we sit down with Andew Ruditser from MAXBURST, an UpCity Certified Premium partner and one of the top digital marketing agencies in the United States. Below we discuss how MAXBURST grew out of Andrew’s past ventures, how they approach finding and hiring great talent to scale their team, and more!
Q: Tell me about MAXBURST. What’s the driving force behind what you do?
A: I started the company back in 2007, but had a strong IT-technology background from previous endeavors. In my mid-twenties, I started a company that fixed broken websites, set up email servers, and took on various managed IT services jobs. I grew that to a decent size, but it just wasn’t the quality of life I was looking for: I was on-call 24-7, and it was impossible to scale. Ultimately, I just lost interest.
Eventually, I sold it off piece by piece to a few different IT companies in New York, Brooklyn, and Long Island, which gave me the seed money I needed to start MAXBURST. While I was building the IT services company, I was asked a lot for web development, but never thought of offering it as a service.
I was really into web development, and I’ve always been a visual person, but I don’t have the skills to actually create: I’m not very artistic. I met my business partner, Donny Escolastico, we started this company together, and we’ve been growing it ever since. It’s been a really great ride.
Q: That’s a pretty unique way to come into the agency world! So what’s been your biggest challenge in growing your business thus far?
A: When you’re trying to grow a digital agency, you have to hire very talented people. You need designers, developers, copywriters; to attract all these people, you need competitive salaries and benefits packages, you need a great culture, and you need to get your name out there. In the beginning, developing your brand to the point where those talented people want to work for you can be tough, and building it to the point where bigger companies can confidently choose your team for their next project is even harder.
Q: So you’d say hiring not only great people, but people that will be able to grow with your company has been your biggest challenge? What’s been your approach to finding that type of talent?
A: Absolutely. It really depends on what type of person we’re looking for, the type of skill set we need at that moment. If I’m looking for a designer, their portfolio is very important to me. I want to see what they know, what they can do, the types of projects they’ve gone after; once I feel comfortable with their skills, then I look at their character. Do I think they’ll fit into our company? Will they work well with the team members we already have onboard?
We invest a lot of time and money into our employees, especially in the beginning as we’re getting their development ramped up and easing them into heavier projects. We want to make sure we select the right people from day one so that we don’t make a bad investment.
Q: Do you find it difficult to consistently find “interesting” clients?
A: It’s difficult, it really is. We have to pick our clients carefully; we want good partnerships and interesting partners, but interesting means different things to different people. Some people look for a big name, a big company; other people look for complex challenges to solve.
When we go into the pitch process, we have to think about these things, while also keeping in mind our capacity and our team’s abilities. We ask ourselves, “Who on my team is going to work on this? How are we going to deliver? Will we have to bring in outside vendors? Will our team work well with this client?”
It’s not just about finding interesting clients but finding the right interesting clients. There are many times when we pass on projects because it’s just not the right fit for our team.
Q: You’ve mentioned the word “project” a few times. It may just be coincidental word-choice, but I’d like to focus a bit on that note. Many of our partners have mentioned that as the gig economy has taken over, the whole idea of retainer-based agency relationships has fallen by the wayside. Everything is very project-based and short-term these days. Would you say you’re seeing the same thing during the conversations you have with potential clients?
A: Things are definitely more project-based, for sure. Even the big companies that we talk to now and then want to know what we value a particular project at, whether it’s based on their request for project (RFP), based on their requirements, or some scope of work that we’ve assessed together. That’s especially the case for a lot of our web design work.
With our marketing work, on the other hand, we still have a lot of conversations about retainer-based partnerships. These come about after we’re done with a particular project more than anything, so a lot of our project work leads to a retainer.
For example, we might build a website for a client and then they’ll come to us and say they want to rank organically. That’s going to be a retainer-based agreement since it’s going to take at least six months to a year to really achieve results.
Q: So we’ve talked about finding talent and choosing the right projects, but how do you actually find those projects? How do you generate those “interesting” leads?
A: For us, it’s really been about being visible on search engines, to be honest with you. We get a lot of referrals as well (we’ve been in business for nearly thirteen years, so we’ve made a lot of connections), but our biggest focus is constantly marketing ourselves.
We need to show off our own work, optimize our website, and really perfect our SEO. Because of that, we get a lot of people who will call in and say, “We found you online and checked out some of your work. We liked what you did for this company and were hoping you’d work with us.”
Q: Social proof and testimonials have worked out well for you then?
A: It definitely helps from a credibility standpoint. People look at those things very carefully. They look at your website, they look at where you’re listed, they look at who you’re associated with. It’s all part of the greater picture. That’s why we focus so heavily on getting reviews.
I’d say we really started paying attention to reviews heavily within the past three to five years. Prior to that, most of our review growth was organic, but as we started to become more visible and new markets started to open up for us, we instantly realized the value.
Q: Has UpCity played a big role in your review generation strategy thus far, and how do you see your partnership with UpCity growing in the future?
A: It’s been really positive. We get a lot of people that mention that they found us through UpCity. It’s not just a listing, not just a static page with the same agencies constantly showing up. You’re unbiased and that goes a long way.
We’ve been with UpCity for a long time and I’ve always felt that, as my company scales and grows, you guys will grow alongside me. I’m really glad to be a part of it.
Andrew Ruditser, Founder and Lead Technology Coordinator of MAXBURST, Inc., graduated with a degree in Computer Engineering & Information Technology from Rochester Institute of Technology and went on to Co-Found MAXBURST in 2007.
Ruditser has been building lucrative internet companies for over 10 years and, in addition to his flagship companies; he also founded MAXPlaces, a B2B Internet Marketing firm. He combines his love of technology and his talent for sales to create websites that are not only visually stimulating but focus on usability and ROI.
His organizational skills and passion for his staff and clients contribute to the on-going success of MAXBURST. Ruditser fully recognizes the importance of being a full-service, state-of-the-art digital web marketing firm and is committed to staying on top of the very latest design trends and technologies.
In addition to guest posting on UpCity, Andrew has appeared on Fox Business News, Newsday and Long Island Business News as an Internet development expert. He has also been honored as Long Island’s 40 under 40 outstanding Young Business Professionals