If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a company is fantastic but doesn’t show up in a Google search, is it really a company?
Long gone are the days of someone picking up a telephone book to find a business with which to hire. Instead, people increasingly rely on internet search engines to find information about businesses. This is why search engine optimization (SEO) has become more important than ever for the small business owner.
Recognizing this as an opportunity, Will Reynolds left his big-name firm in 2002 to launch his own SEO firm, the Philadelphia-based SEER Interactive. But Reynolds wasn’t the only one who saw this opportunity—with the growth of the Internet came the growth of SEO competitors.
What differentiated SEER Interactive, however, was Reynolds’ ability to build personal relationships with other business owners. At his old firm, Reynolds had managed national accounts like Barnes & Noble and Mercedes; he knew that he if could provide the same level of customer service for local businesses, his new venture would thrive. He began by knocking door-to-door, connecting with businesses like the local hair salons. With just a small number of clients at the outset, he focused on exemplary service and product delivery. By 2005, business had taken off and SEER Interactive began to expand, with Reynolds hiring his first employees.
Unlike many of his competitors, Reynolds stumbled into entrepreneurship. He was never particularly interested in making large amounts of money; instead, he decided to launch SEER Interactive after his old employer refused to let him take some time off for his much-beloved volunteer work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Reynolds knew that becoming his own boss would give him a more flexible schedule, allowing him to volunteer at his leisure.
This mentality—one that was not laser-focused on generating revenue—helped Reynolds to focus on his client base. As the SEO industry continued to shift, including a new focus on cell phone and internet search engine marketing (SEM), Reynolds was able to adapt. His reputation for customer service and relationship management has helped SEER Interactive to flourish; the company now has clients from industries such as e-commerce, insurance and pharmaceuticals. The focus on serving small, local businesses well has helped SEER Interactive land a much larger and more diverse customer base. In an otherwise very fragmented and competitive industry, excellent customer service is what continues to set SEER Interactive apart from the rest.
It’s no wonder, then, that SEER Interactive has been named to the Inner City 100 twice, a list of the nation’s fastest-growing inner city businesses. In 2012, SEER had a five year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50%; in 2013 it had a CAGR of 36%.
And despite becoming a leader in the SEO industry, Reynolds has not forgotten why he got into the business to begin with—he encourages all of his employees to participate in volunteer work of their choice.
Like SEER Interactive, are you a fast-growing leader in your industry? Apply now to ICIC and FORTUNE’s 2014 Inner City 100 list, where we will honor America’s icons of industry growth.