Finally finding where he should be, Phil Laboon founded Eyeflow
Some people are just born mavericks. They are not destined to work for others or to fulfill other people’s dreams. Maybe it’s not destiny but just sheer determination. Such a person is Phil Laboon, founder and CEO of Eyeflow which he formed 10 years ago as a teenager. Eyeflow has morphed several times into the company that it is today – a search engine optimization firm. Entrepreneurship is never a straightforward path.
Start as a kid. Like many of those featured in this blog, Phil sold candy for a profit at around age six. In middle school he graduated to snack cakes. When the school shut him down, Phil formed a Frisbee team so that he could sell cakes for a cause. He did so well that he had to buy palettes of the cakes and store them in his parents’ garage.
During high school, Phil worked for a sign company and that’s what got him into internet marketing. He recounts, “I sold vinyl signs for cars and did great for the company. He made the signs and I did everything else. I got to keep 50% of what I sold. That amounted to a couple of hundred dollars a week. That was 1999, and I was generating leads online. So, I naturally learned how to optimize websites.”
Phil is smart and savvy, but school is not for him. He went to college for two weeks then went to tech school for a year-long Associates degree in video game design. He earned his tuition back the year after he graduated. But that wasn’t a business that would last. Neither were the next several. Sometimes it takes a few businesses and a few failures before you find the killer idea.
Eyeflow origins. While Eyeflow existed in one form or another since 2001, the company has only been focused on internet marketing for clients since 2007. Phil never intended to do a marketing firm, but he found that when he did online marketing for clients he found he was really good at it and he thought, “Why not do this for me?”
He never had and doesn’t have any formal plan, but Eyeflow has been earning revenues since inception. Although he has tried having sales people in the past, Phil does all the sales himself. He tells me, “Sales is just too important. I have to do it. That’s what we are all about – customers.”
Eyeflow today. Eyeflow provide services for local restaurants and plumbers on up to Fortune 100 companies and has revenues between $2 and $2.5M. The company has just one owner (Phil, who provides profit sharing to his employees and contractors), and no outside investment. And though the company has won multiple awards it takes a unique approach sometimes, like their two-minute YouTube Batman search engine video as a Tech50 finalist.
Challenges. In the past, Phil faced a challenge with his age, “If I was on the phone it was ok. Selling something that is intangible when you are 22 is tough. Back then, I was only closing 1 out of 10. Now I close seven to eight out of 10 because of age and experience.”
Phil considers his biggest challenge in general to be partnerships. He has had some very bad past experiences, including a five-year lawsuit against a former partner that he just won. As Phil warns, “The key is to figure out who to bring in? And when to do that? Trust is a big deal for me.”
Will Phil ever enter into a partnership again? Interesting, he just did. Ty Morse, founder and CEO of Songwhale (Ty and Songwhale will be profiled on New Venturist soon) and Phil have just formed a new venture. The partners are 50/50. “Ty and I have great rapport and trust,” Phil explains.
New venture. “We have something brand new and unique,” Phil tells me. Cloud City (of “Starwars” fame) automates the SEO process for small companies that can’t pay. The company provides the same type of service that Eyeflow provides for larger companies but more automated to lower the price to a point where almost anybody can afford it. “Instead of having a person analyze a site, we use Googlebot, and we educate the customer. It’s like a search engine spider,” Phil explains. “The bot goes into the site, analyzes it and reports back to the search engine. Ours analyzes and shows you what it finds in an easy to understand way.” Phil adds, “And early customers love it!” They call it Rank Mechanics.
Know thyself. Phil counsels first-time entrepreneurs to know what they are good at and what they are not good at. About himself he says, “I have always had trouble with big numbers. I try my best to wrap my head around them but it’s an uphill battle.” Phil relies on his mom as CFO.
“And I have big hit or miss ideas. They either flop or become multi-million dollar business in the first year,” he tells me. “So you have to get out there and do it,” Phil concludes.
I look forward to the next 10 years of growth for Phil.