Anne Marie began her career in online advertising working on many big brands including P&G, Mercedes-Benz, TD Canada Trust, Molson, Nestle, and Manulife. She has proven results in both increasing sales and decreasing costs at all the companies she has worked for. In her most recent endeavor, she has co-founded a successful quality management software company, www.Isolocity.com.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I began my career in online marketing, paid search specifically. From the beginning, I always knew I wanted to own my own business one day, but I knew I needed experience first. I spent my career learning laterally, finding mentors who would teach me new skill sets in different fields. In my last client-side role, I brought it all together running the online sales channel which gave me the confidence to finally try it for myself.
What inspired you to start your business?
There were a couple of motivators when I first started in my career, it was just this feeling with no real basis. Then after working for other people, I found it was too hard to find a place where I could be truly empowered to make a difference in my own way. Most employers want you to go back to your desk and do your job, even if what you want to do is going to make you way more valuable to them. I was always trying to work a side hustle but my problem was always finding the right idea that matched my personality and skill sets.
My husband had always been consulting in the quality management space but one day we were chatting about how the big problem with his work was that his income was dependent on his physical presence. As we got talking we realized we could automate so much of what he did and not only that, our skill sets complemented each other completely.
Where is your business based?
Everywhere. We are Canadian and pay our taxes to the CRA, but we are international in our client base.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
We initially supported ourselves financially by maintaining our respective consulting. Being a software, we spent a long time on concept and when we finally took it to development, we had to build a business case to bring on investors. Then it was pavement pounding, literally and figuratively, and that hasn’t stopped since.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
For us, it’s been trade shows so far. I suspect that some of the partnerships we are currently working on are going to be a big tipping point but that remains to be seen. We tested a lot of different channels, including online marketing, but that’s only started to become a promising sales channel very recently.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenges have been baby 1 and baby 2. I had both since starting this business and staying on top of infant care while continuing to work put my sanity at the most risk of anything I’ve ever done. I would also say balancing the working relationship and personal relationship with my husband, we have had to create a lot of structure around each relationship in order to maintain them and are continually working on it.
If we’re talking strictly business, I think the responsibility of employing people poses the most challenges. I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge any responsible employer ‘overcomes’ but measurement is very important to us, we keep monthly reports on and for our employees so they can stay responsible for their own success. Being a mostly virtual business, I think we are currently lacking in promoting team spirit, we probably don’t get people together enough, but we are lucky to have friendly souls on our team that connect with each other.
How do you stay focused?
With two babies running my life? I don’t… But Google Sheets is my best friend, I employ a “Getting Things Done” philosophy and keep a running to-do list sorted by date and priority, so when I only get 15 minutes at my computer, I know exactly what I have to work on in that time.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
When we first started development, most other software in our space was cost prohibitive for small to medium businesses. We decided to build and price ours so the smallest business could use it and the biggest business would still find it useful. We have spent so much time on usability and functionality, we could easily compete with the pricey guys. Since we’ve launched, a couple other competitors have entered the market for smaller businesses and our pricing seems to be either competitive or cheaper.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Analytics drives our strategy, we watch the results for every tactic we test. We do more of what works, we do less of what doesn’t. It sounds simple, and in many ways it is, but there is all kinds of data you realize you need to be collecting once you start looking and so many different angles from which to look at it.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Don’t do it all yourself. Don’t get trapped by the idea that you want to build something and be able to claim you did it all yourself because that’s not a reality. Realize what you are not good at, find people who fill those gaps for you and make sure you treat them properly.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
App: I have been loving Zapier lately, especially for productivity and notifications.
Blog: I don’t read a lot of blogs, but I do love moz.com’s Top 10 email.
Book: So hard, can’t pick one… Getting Things Done and The 4 Hour Work Week probably inspired the biggest shifts in my thinking.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Excel and/or Google Sheets. It does EVERYTHING. Report models, organization, numerical tools and calculators… everything.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I’ve had a few really important role models and mentors but my dad is probably the most important one. I’m not just saying that because his family, he grew a company from scratch and sold it to one of Canada’s largest companies.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Six months is a long time to have planned for a newer business like ours but for myself, my youngest baby will be 10 months at the end of that time period so I expect the next six months will be slowly increasing the work side of my work/life balance and re-acquainting myself with our business priorities.
How can our readers connect with you?
The best way is via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annemarielorriman/