Pure Visibility recently celebrated 17 years in business! Linda Girard co-founded Pure Visibility in 2005 with a mission to build an SEO company that puts results ahead of tactics, in a time when digital marketing was still relatively new.
Today, Pure Visibility is a thriving digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, digital advertising, website redesign SEO, and Google Analytics. We asked Linda about the history of the company, the challenges of being a woman entrepreneur, and how she has successfully grown her business.
In your own words, can you share Pure Visibility’s journey over the last 17 years?
It was long, very bumpy, and 100% worth every moment!
- 2005 – 2010: Startup to crossing the $1M mark
- 2010 – 2019: People, process, systems building
- 2020 – 2022: Pandemic reconfiguration and growth
What made you want to start your own business?
Taking control of my own destiny and wanting to share with others what I knew about what was in our future…Google. The power of a website…and the power of visibility to influence others to make educated decisions. And most importantly, creating something meaningful with amazing people. This was all intuition-driven. Of course, at the time I was a 33-year-old woman with a 2- year-old…what was I thinking?
Entrepreneurship is in my blood. My grandparents came over on a boat from Poland to avoid war when they were teenagers. They started a grocery store in Hamtramck and a few more businesses after that in the Detroit area. My brother was an entrepreneur in real estate and of course, I was next since I was too spirited and drawn to the unknown and excitement of what the possibilities would bring.
Can you talk about your experience starting a digital agency while the services were still in their infancy?
I spent a lot of time educating businesses to understand the opportunity. I was speaking anywhere they would have me…even at 9 months pregnant, I was sharing insights about Google Ads and SEO. Adapting to new technology in business is slow and tracking was not available back then; however, businesses who believed in the future of the internet became close friends and clients.
What were some of the initial challenges you came across?
In the beginning, the biggest challenge was figuring out what operating systems we needed as we grew. Understanding and building up our cash flow, finding answers to our financial questions and growth obstacles. Because it was a new industry not a lot of experts were available to hire. We had to train people and still today there is a huge gap between senior-level expertise and entry-level. You need to invest in growth but you don’t want a negative balance sheet. However, we did take a leap with a build-out and increased our space, our clientele, and our team. Just like all the books say to do.
Who were your mentors and guides that helped along the journey?
In the beginning, The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI SBTDC) with Charlie Penner, held our hands through the initial phases of growth. Then we were approached by many amazing consultants from Ann Arbor Spark and then Entrepreneurs Organization (EO Detroit Chapter), a peer-to-peer organization, appeared and I found my tribe of CEOs. I am still involved with this global organization 13 years later, meeting CEOs from all over the world and sharing mind-blowing experiences.
What do you love about running your own business?
The team, the clients, and the positive energy it creates in the world.
Ever since day one, we have hired incredibly intelligent teammates. Every single person that has been employed by Pure Visibility is in an amazing place today. I can say this because I am in touch with many and follow many more. I always knew we were a bridge for many to be successful and it makes my heart sing to see the great journeys and accomplishments. Every experience matters, we are all building blocks.
Working with clients who are kind, care about growth, and about the planet we live on. I am excited to say we work with engaged, collaborative teams that create products or services that are important to how we live today. When we hear about how our work has increased their growth, it energizes our team as we were able to do our part.
What obstacles did you/do you face as a female entrepreneur?
In the beginning, being the only woman at the board table. Make sure your voice was heard and taken seriously. Today, I am happy to say there are more women than ever at the board table. We still need to continue to educate and lift each other up but we have improved from 2005.
How do you motivate and build a strong team?
- Identify and focus on each individual team member’s strengths. Then use the strengths to support each other through challenges and growth opportunities. Knowing you have each other’s back…there really is no “I” in team.
- Always be ready to have important, healthy conversations. Conflict can conjure up growth opportunities and many learnings. As Brene Brown says, “be ready to rumble”.
- Create a transparent and positive environment for growth. If you can think it, you can do it. Let’s see the plan and then execute on it.
- People want to be a part of something larger than themselves, they want to provide a valuable contribution to the team. We recognize this with gratitude and respect. Words carry energy in their meaning and actions are louder than words. It’s important to me that everyone can feel connected and in sync with each other. We communicate with care and thoughtfulness and lift each other up when we need it.
What resources have you found to be the most useful?
For a peer-to-peer organization: Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, Ron McMillan
- Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
- To Sell is Human by Dan Pink
What do you wish you knew about running a business when you first started?
Racing ahead to the future is not as satisfying if you miss the entire journey along the way. Focusing on self-care while you are running on all cylinders is important.
What advice would you give to others as they follow their entrepreneurial journey?
Be fearless. Fear is the number one thing that will hold you back. Follow your intuition always. Connect with everyone, people are amazing and everyone wants to help you succeed. Give yourself space to think and don’t let your calendar run your life. There are 365 days in a year — how will each day move you closer to your goal? Embrace the hard moments and do things that bring you joy. Release things that don’t serve your purpose. Lead with your heart and passion. Gratitude and kindness rule.
About Linda Girard
As a young marketer in the late 1990s, Linda had a passion for the internet. Particularly, how a novel area of expertise called search engine optimization could level the playing field for small businesses. In the early 2000s, she took the plunge and started her first business as an SEO consultant, launching a career that would span two decades and cementing her status as a pioneer in the industry.
In 2005, Linda went on to co-found Pure Visibility, which at the time was one of fewer than a handful of SEO-focused agencies in the state. Over the years, Linda and Pure Visibility have been recognized with many industries awards, including 2007’s Best Small Business by Michigan’s SBDC, one of 2008’s Top 10 Michigan Business Women, by the National Women Business Owner’s Association, and Entrepreneur of Distinction by Corp! Magazine in 2010. Pure Visibility was also among the first agencies in the country to be certified by Google and later among the first awarded Premier Google Partner status in 2017.