Co-founder at C Squared Social. Caleb Crail shares insights
Caleb Crail Linkedin
Co-founder at C Squared Social
– Tell a bit about your company.
C: We are an advertising agency based in Carlsbad, California. We’ve been around since 2012 with a focus on helping businesses achieve their objectives through targeted social advertising. We are working in a number of industries and work with customers throughout the U.S., Canada and throughout the world. I am excited to be here today and to be doing the podcast. So thanks so much for having me.
– Did you have the aim of starting this business when you were a student?
C: The vision of C Squared Social didn’t come about while I was in school. But from a young age I was interested in starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur. A lot of young kids dream of becoming an astronaut, firefighter or doctor. For me it was becoming an entrepreneur, that’s what excited me. The idea of C Squared Social came after I finished highschool. My brother Cassidy and I envisioned going into business together and disrupting the advertising space. I was about 17 at the time and after a year of refinement, Cassidy and I launched C Squared. While I was in school I knew I wanted to start a business, but the idea of C Squared really came after high school.
– The advertisement market is full of competitors. How do you make C Squared Social unique?
C: That is a good point. I mean the marketing space is competitive and I can say it’s pretty crowded right now. But I think that in any industry that is competitive you just have to focus on the quality of the product and customer experience. I think with those two things you can really have a competitive advantage and for us we can always say that we can deliver a customer experiences unmatched and we have a product to back that up. I think that is the key to success in any space, especially if it is crowded. You just need to focus on the product.
– Is California a place full of opportunities in your sphere or is it hard to improve your business there?
C: Cassidy and I started the business in Boise, Idaho and ended up moving down to California shortly after. I think a lot of businesses go to California because there are a lot of tech companies, marketing companies, and a lot of great colleges. So when it comes to recruiting, which is a problem for a lot of businesses, there is a lot of great talent here. So I think it does help to be in California. You also can’t beat the weather here.
– Have you ever used some investments?
C: We haven’t. We’ve run off of cash flow since we started the business. I think that’s a bit unique. I think a lot of startups nowadays raise VC money and that’s just a route that, well, we haven’t gone down. I think there are pros and cons to both. I think while raising VC money, you lose some control of the business, but you can grow faster. For us it’s a slower growth, but we hold more control and can be more agile, which I think has helped us out.
– Tell me about the biggest problems at the very beginning. What was the hardest for you?
C: I think for any starting company, it’s money. It’s always the number one thing that you’re going after. For us, it was trying to find a business model that was not capital intensive to start. So, I think money is always a challenge for a lot of start ups. Another challenge, regardless of size, is finding talented people. You know, you’re only as good as your team and finding good people. So I think it’s the money side and finding good talent.
– How do you improve marketing? Who is responsible for it?
C: Digital advertising it’s a fast-moving space. It’s constantly evolving, constantly changing. We have a really great team here in house that is constantly looking at trends, looking at what’s changing, trying to find new ways to improve the product. So really it’s an ongoing thing. Daily, we’re trying to look at what the new trends are, best creative to be using, best technology to be developing. We’re constantly looking to evolve.
– Your revenue in 2018 was 2.3 Million. What are the aims of 2020?
C: We are forecasting about $10 million in revenue for 2020. We’ve been able to grow 100% each year for the last three years and we’re on pace for doing that again in 2019. So if we continue the trends and keep the growth moving forward we’re on track.
– Which books could you recommend for those, who start their business?
C: There are three books I would recommend reading when getting into business. Lee Iacocca’s autobiography. It’s a very inspiring book about how he turned things around with Chrysler, about problem solving and challenges in business. The second one I’ve read recently is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. That’s a very good book about economics and capitalizing on timing of an industry. And the third one is “Never split the difference” by Chris Voss. I really liked that book. It talks about the sales psychology and how to get consumers to buy and how to think like them. So I think those are three good books that cover different topics and are very helpful.
– Is there a moment/event, that changed your life and business for the best?
C: There are few moments I can think back on that put our business on a better trajectory. One that stands out to me was early on at C Squared. I remember we had a client that was pretty substantial in size for us at the time and had been around for a while. I think we got a bit complacent and thought that clients always stick around. We flew out to meet with them and they ended up scaling back their business with us significantly. I think that was a big eye opener for us.
That was a very tough day, but I think it was a great learning lesson. It made us understand the importance of not having one account that could break you and really focusing on growing the business in other areas. From that day we tried to put the pedal to the metal for growth and diversifying our portfolio. That was a dark day but a great learning lesson that catapulted us to the next level and made us put a focus on growth.
– Few words for young entrepreneurs. What is a must-have? And what they shouldn’t do?
C: I think perseverance is a big thing in entrepreneurship. There are a lot of ups and downs in starting a company and I think it’s just about trying to weather the storms. You need to move the business forward and not letting the ups and downs get to you. If you asked me for advice on what not to do, I would say that today in the era of celebritizing rich CEOs and mega companies, you can easily go into business for the wrong reasons and with unrealistic expectations. Go into business because you’re passionate about what you are doing. Go into it because you love it.
Focus on your team, the product, your customers and the money part will solve itself. So I’d say go into business for the right reasons and to be realistic. Don’t let other businesses distract you from what you think you should be. You don’t need to be the next Uber or Facebook to be successful as an entrepreneur.
– How to make a revenue of over 10 million in 2020?
C: I wish I had the key to success. But I think that having a solid product is always very important. You know, a lot of industries are very competitive nowadays. So I think you should have a really solid product that consumers want. That will really speak for itself. It takes a lot of hard work and again, perseverance of sticking with it and focusing on bettering the company each and every day. The revenue growth is the byproduct.