His SaaS Business Was Bringing in $40k a Month When He Decided to Sell. Here’s Why.

His SaaS Business Was Bringing in $40k a Month When He Decided to Sell. Here’s Why.

SureSwift Capital acquired MySiteAuditor, an SEO lead generation SaaS business, back in June of 2016. Company co-founder, Marvin Russell, sat down with us recently to share the story of how he grew MySiteAuditor from a tool for his own digital agency to a fully-scaled platform with a global customer base, why he ultimately sold the business, and what he’s up to these days. Marvin is an inspiring entrepreneur, and we’re proud to have him as part of the SureSwift Capital team, acting as a Growth Advisor for other companies in our portfolio.

An Interview with SaaS entrepreneur, and MySiteAuditor Co-Founder, Marvin Russell

What was the #1 reason that you decided to start your own business? Were you doing it as a side project, or was it your full time gig?

A few short months after graduating college I was making what I considered to be a mind-blowing amount of money at my first corporate job, at CareerBuilder. I was pulling in about $3,000 every two weeks and my rent was only $450 per month. I had no student loans, no car payment, and very few other bills. In the eyes of a recent college grad, I was rich.

But I wasn’t happy.

I woke up at 5:30am, sat in Chicago traffic for an hour, dealt with confusing office politics all day, went to the gym, and got home at around 8pm. Every night I remember laying in my bed knowing that this wasn’t sustainable for another 40 years.

My job consumed my life and I soon realized that the money was not worth my freedom. One Saturday afternoon, while sitting in a room with friends, a friend of a friend mentioned a new company he started. He was building websites for local businesses. After talking for a few minutes, he pulled out his business card. He had obviously made it himself, but I was still blown away. This guy wasn’t smarter than me. I knew how to make websites. I made a few in college for fun.

I could do this!

The next week I opened the phone book and started calling any business that didn’t have a website address listed. Keep in mind, this was 2003. Within minutes I landed my first meeting and my first customer. Fast forward a few years. I had 30 employees in a 10,000 square foot office on Michigan Avenue, providing digital marketing services for some of the biggest brands in the world, and CareerBuilder was one of my customers! Eventually my agency was so successful, it became a target for acquisition, and it was successfully acquired in 2014. The timing was perfect because I had already begun working on a little side project called MySiteAuditor, and that was beginning to take off.

What is MySiteAuditor?

MySiteAuditor is a lead generation tool for SEO service providers and digital marketing agencies. It was a tool born out of necessity. During my days running an agency, I wanted a better way to capture leads on our website. So I built a tool that instantly audited your website in exchange for your contact information. It worked so well, I gave it a name, built a website for it, and sold it to digital marketing agencies all over the world. While most contact forms converted just 2% of visitors, MySiteAuditor converted up to 30%.

When you were deciding on the tools that you were going to use to run MySiteAuditor, how did you pick those? Was it totally through personal research, groups of peers, cost based, a bit of all the above? We’d love to hear more about this.

That was all research. I didn’t have a successful SaaS mentor so I Googled everything. You have to filter through a bunch of crap to find the best answers, but it’s all out there. That was a few years ago though. Today there’s an online community or group for everything. You can ask your peers which tools work best for each situation. With so much competition and noise online, I highly suggest finding a community or group of your peers. And if you can’t find one, create one on free platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Reddit.

How did you know it was time to make your first hire? What role were you looking to fill, and where did you go to find that person?

Because I wasn’t very technical, I knew that I needed to partner with a developer. Early versions of MySiteAuditor were built quickly overseas, but I was starting to get real, paid monthly customers, and I needed to find someone who knew how to scale up the operations.

I ended up reaching out to the developer, Brock, who built the membership platform that MySiteAuditor was using to handle all of its billing, because I knew he would understand some of the issues we were facing. After initially doing some consulting on scaling up the platform to handle the spike in growth, Brock ultimately joined as a partner in the business and architected the next several generations of the platform.

Once you had money coming in and you knew this product just might work, what was your goal? Was it hitting a certain Monthly Recurring Revenue number, was it selling the business? Tell us a little about what your plans were once you saw that MySiteAuditor could generate real revenue.

Every entrepreneur dreams of the magical $83,333.33 MRR figure. If you can hit that, your company is doing 1 million per year. That was my dream early on at my agency, which we eventually hit.

But MySiteAuditor was different. I didn’t really have any overhead. No employees. No offices. No desks. No computers. No anything. Just Brock and I. At these margins, we could generate a lot of profit without hitting 1 million in revenue.

Once we hit about $40k in MRR, my new goal was to relax, breathe more, and enjoy life. I told my wife to quit her job for a couple years so she could work on her dream, writing a book. We would rent houses in different states for a month at a time to see what it was like to live there and work out of coffee shops.

I always wanted to live in Florida, so we tried that for a month. We rented a cozy little spot in Delray Beach, about an hour north of Miami. We also tried Nashville, Tennessee, which I loved. The moderate weather combined with amazing food, coffee, and culture was perfect. We’ve been back several times since, and it’s on the top of my list of places we may move to.

It was great. I was free.

At what point did you know it was time to sell MySiteAuditor?

I was ready to try something new. I love MySiteAuditor, but it was in good hands, and I was ready to move on, if the price was right. So once we hit that $40k MRR number and our growth rate was around 12%, we decided to test the water and see what offers we’d get. We were hot. No overhead, cash pouring in, and a fantastic growth rate. Before I knew it, we had multiple offers.

Tell us a bit about the process of selling your business. What were you looking for in the selling process? How did you know who to trust?

I really care about MySiteAuditor and our customers. I couldn’t hand it over to just anyone. I wanted a humble company who listened and respected our vision and our customers. And, to be honest, we weren’t selling unless the offer was seven figures. We wanted that number on our resumes. In all, it was easier to sell than I thought. It wasn’t much different that buying or selling a home.

Now that your business has been acquired by SureSwift Capital, what were/are you hoping for with the future of MySiteAuditor?

My main goal was for SureSwift Capital to take care of my customers, which meant listening and taking care of the product. Overall, SureSwift Capital was 100% the right choice. I could not have picked a better buyer and we had many options. They respected my customers because they were humble, they listened, and they were open to our input and advice down the road.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m splitting time between a new startup and actually working with SureSwift Capital. A year or so after SureSwift acquired MySiteAuditor, I came on-board to share my experience and knowledge to help grow MySiteAuditor as well as other properties at SureSwift Capital.

My new startup is Checkli. As an entrepreneur with severe ADHD, checklists were always my way of organizing the chaos in my mind. Checkli is the simplest way to make and share checklists online. At of the end of 2018, we were just shy of 1 million checklists made and shared on our platform. We just introduced a paid version that we’re really excited for in 2019.

Advice for SaaS entrepreneurs from Marvin Russell, founder of MySiteAuditor who has sold two businesses.

Advice for entrepreneurs from Marvin Russell, co-founder of MySiteAuditor.

Why go back to work for SureSwift, vs. retiring, consulting, or just focusing on your entrepreneurial projects?

Retiring was never an option. If I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t retire. Doing nothing is literally a death sentence. Your brain and body wither away if they’re not used. I’ll hopefully work until the day I die. The goal is to work on something I love.

If I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t retire. I’ll hopefully work until the day I die. The goal is to work on something I love. – Marvin Russell Click to Tweet.

I decided to work at SureSwift again because many of the freedoms I was seeking as an entrepreneur are offered at SSC. For example, they fully support my remote lifestyle, which means I can still move from city to city, and I can still wake up and work when I want. In addition, I continuously get to work with new entrepreneurs on new projects, as a Growth Advisor.


Co-Founder and CEO of SureSwift Capital. We acquire and operate successful technology companies.

Kevin is the Co-founder and CEO of SureSwift Capital. His passion for personal relationships and driving business results are at the heart of SureSwift’s impressive growth to date. Find Kevin on: Twitter | LinkedIn

Why We’re All in on Remote Work

Why We’re All in on Remote Work

and What It’s Like to Run a Fully Remote Company, by our CEO

People are always shocked when I tell them that SureSwift Capital is a completely remote workplace with 75 people working across 14 timezones. That means we have no office, no set working hours, and no location requirements. Everyone always has a lot of questions about how we got here and how the whole remote work thing… works. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about, so I’m dedicating this post to answering the questions I get asked most.


How the heck did you get here?  

Well, when you acquire other people’s’ businesses, the smart thing to do is to bring on the teams that helped create their success. So, as we’ve acquired 31 businesses over the last three and a half years that’s meant bringing on a lot of people, wherever they happen to be.  

Isn’t it hard to build an office culture without an office?

It’s true that a Friday happy hour would be pretty hard to pull off (not to mention cost prohibitive since we’d have to fly everyone in!). But we still manage to have fun and get to know one another on calls and online.

You can still create company culture in a remote workplace. At SureSwift, ours is built by getting to know each other on calls and online.
You can still create company culture in a remote workplace. Ours is built by getting to know each other on calls and online.

In my previous jobs, I found that a lot of time spent in an office can be wasted time. Endless numbers of meetings with large groups of people take up a huge amount of time in most traditional companies, and when you add in water-cooler chats about fantasy sports or the latest celebrity gossip, your whole work day can easily disappear before you actually get anything done.

We use Slack to have those social moments instead, and the thing I love about it is that it’s very easy for people to opt in or out. If I have a crazy week meeting with potential investors and business founders, I can be totally focused on that. If I’m having a more mellow day, I can hop on and join in on our “Photo Friday” thread and let people know what’s been going on in my life and catch up.   

Slack = socializing for the remote office. We use it to message each other about work projects too, but our general channel is where everyone can head when they need a quick break or just want to share what’s been going on in their lives.
Slack = socializing for the remote office. We use it to message each other about work projects too, but our general channel is where everyone can head when they need a quick break or just want to share what’s been going on in their lives.

How do you know people are doing what they’re supposed to?  

I know it’s a bad habit to answer a question with a question, but how do you know the person in the cubicle next to you is actually working and doing what they’re supposed to? The true answer is that you don’t. You just have to trust that good people are going to take care of their business, whether you’re sitting near them or not.

Kevin McArdle, CEO of SureSwift Capital on leading a remote, distributed team.

Of course we have systems in place to track progress against goals. All well-run companies do that.

Our take on individual and team productivity is that systems are necessary, proximity isn’t — we don’t all have to be in the same building to be effective.

Click to Tweet.

In fact, I look at a lot of people who spend 30-60 minutes a day commuting (the American commute has gotten longer every year since 2010, by the way) and feel sorry for all the time that takes away from doing something more valuable — whether it’s working, exercising, spending time with friends and family, whatever. I know a lot of people say, “that’s when I listen to podcasts, it’s not wasted time.” But wouldn’t you rather listen to podcasts from a hammock than from your car in gridlock?

Not commuting is one of our team’s favorite parts of working remotely. It’s adds up to about 30 minutes a day, or 150 hours a year, that we can all use to do something else we actually enjoy.
Not commuting is one of our team’s favorite parts of working remotely. It’s adds up to about 30 minutes a day, or 150 hours a year, that we can all use to do something else we actually enjoy.

Okay…so tell me about the systems that make a remote company work. 

The technology stack that powers SureSwift and our portfolio companies deserves its own dedicated post, but some of the apps and tools we use to keep things running are:

  • Slack for in-the-moment communication on projects and socializing
  • Trello for project management and task tracking
  • Google Docs/Sheets for project collaboration
  • Databox for tracking trends
  • Proprietary “Deep Dive” documents to make sure we’re making progress against our 30-60 day goals
  • Uberconference for calls
  • Gusto for payroll
  • HelpScout for customer service

Ultimately all of this technology is just a tool that makes our work processes easier, but without the right people to do the work, we wouldn’t get far. So let’s get back to our great people and how we find them.

How do you hire for a remote company?

As I mentioned briefly above, our model of acquiring businesses has ended up being one tremendous way to find amazing people. We buy “bootstrapped” businesses — meaning that the founder/seller has built the business from the ground up with their own money and runs it on the profits generated from customers.

When the profits of a business are what pay your mortgage and feed your family, you are very selective about the people you bring on to work with you. You only bring people on when a position is truly necessary and will benefit the business, you vet them very closely before hiring, and you only keep them around if they’re pulling their weight. So when we buy a successful business that’s being run by a founder and 2-4 contractors, we assume those people are really good at what they do and important to the running of the business. It makes a lot of sense for us to keep them on and make room for them on our team, no matter where they happen to live.

In addition to hiring people via the sale of the company they worked for (which sometimes even includes the founder), we’ve also hired a lot of people directly.

So when we have the choice, why don’t we hire in Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I’m located and where SureSwift is “based”? The answer to that one is super simple — we follow talent. I love MSP, and if I can hire an amazing person who lives here, that’s wonderful. But (to paraphrase the late Steve Jobs), no matter how big your city is, most of the talented people in the world are outside of it.

Let’s say I want to hire a Ruby on Rails developer (which we may be doing this winter, so be sure to check out our current job openings). There are probably hundreds of Ruby developers in my city, but the employment rate here is very high right now, so the most talented ones are already going to be gainfully employed and harder to attract. The good news is that there are hundreds of thousands of Ruby developers around the world. So why wouldn’t we want to look for the best talent in the biggest pool — i.e. everywhere?

The next developer we hire could be from anywhere — that gives us a huge pool of talent to choose from.
The next developer we hire could be from anywhere — that gives us a huge pool of talent to choose from.

Is remote work really better?

If you’ve read this far, you already know that I’m a big champion of remote work. If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are 4 more reasons it’s been the right choice for SureSwift.

Diversity

In addition to having a bigger pool of candidates than a traditional company with employees who are required to work on site at the company’s office, another benefit of the remote office is that diversity can be wired in. There’s a lot of discussion here in the U.S. about the value of diversity in the workforce  and it’s something I personally believe makes a team and a company smarter and stronger.

Remember our 75 people in 14 different time zones? They grew up with different backgrounds, goals, ideals, and beliefs. And we didn’t need a ‘diversity and inclusion’ hiring program to find them because we weren’t limited by a single location and its existing demographics.

Around-the-clock Customer Support

Another remote work win for us is that around-the-clock support for our customers is attainable without having to ask people to work odd hours. A customer issue in Boston at 2:00 am isn’t a problem when it’s 3:00 pm in Malaysia.

A Worldwide Network

The best source for finding new hires is often the people who already work for us. With a team that’s spread across the globe, we have a worldwide network who’ve become evangelists for our company and can help us recruit.

No Office Overhead

Renting or owning office space is a huge business cost, and one that we don’t have to incur, which means we can put those dollars to other uses that have more value for our business. As a small-ish, but growing company, it also means we’re not held back by outgrowing a space. If we needed to double our team, we could do it without worrying about where to put those extra desks, or having to move to a new space.

I recognize that some people like their offices, and this style of work isn’t for everybody. But me and SureSwift? We’re all in. So if you like to (or need to) drop your kids off at school at 9am? Cool. Want to hit a yoga class at 1pm? Awesome. Always been more productive after 3pm? Great.

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, hit our Careers page to see our current job openings and tell us why you’d be an awesome coworker.  


Co-Founder and CEO of SureSwift Capital. We acquire and operate successful technology companies.

Kevin is the Co-founder and CEO of SureSwift Capital. His passion for personal relationships and driving business results are at the heart of SureSwift’s impressive growth to date.

Find Kevin on:
Twitter | LinkedIn