The Plunge: Omar Akhtar

On deciding to build now, finding the small wins, believing in yourself

Omar Akhtar, Founder and Principal Analyst, Benchmarker



Notable past titles include
Associate Partner, Research Director, Industry Analyst, Editor-in-Chief, Senior Writer, Lead Vocalist and Guitarist, Radio Show Host and of course...Intern

How long I’ve been solo
I've been solo for 6 months, although the company officially went live a month ago

Where I can be found
LinkedIn, Website, Email 

Why did you decide to go into business for yourself?

There were a lot of contributing factors, but a big reason was I wanted to live my life a certain way. I'm a father to three young kids and I wanted to work mostly from home, make my own schedule and see the direct impact of my work. I knew I had a lot to offer in terms of my expertise, and I felt like betting on myself would be the best way to fulfill my potential. Finally, I was terrified of regret. I didn't want to go into my 50s regretting the chance to build something successful for myself, and that's been a huge motivator.

What do you do and how do you differentiate yourself?

I run a research and advisory business that provides digital marketing benchmarks data to B2B companies. It allows businesses to compare their marketing performance to other companies of the same size, revenue and industry and chart a path to improvement. I also conduct custom research for clients who have a specific need such as thought leadership or a hypothesis they need to prove.

Clients from my consulting days had always asked for this data and I couldn't find a credible source for it, so it seemed like an underserved space that I could capitalize on at a price point that would make it a no-brainer for most marketing executives.

I differentiate myself by being small, smart and generous. Because I'm small, I can afford to move fast, customize deliverables and offer more competitive prices than larger research firms. I offer insights freely, connecting clients with people I know who would be helpful, or dropping them a note giving them a piece of research that is insightful, even if it isn't my own.

What do you miss about corporate life?

Honestly, perhaps it's a little early but I don't miss much. I suppose I miss the practical stuff like 401K, medical benefits and a steady paycheck, but I was never a fan of going into the office, I wasn't a huge socializer at work events and found it hard to be creative in an office setting. I've found a good community of fellow entrepreneurs and freelancers who I can exchange trench stories with, and I enjoy speaking with clients and prospects to get my social fix. But ask me again in another 6 months!

What do you love about entrepreneurial/consulting life?

The day-to-day wins are smaller, but they feel a lot bigger. Got 10 likes on a LinkedIn post? A prospect replied to an email? Somebody filled out a contact form? These are small things at a company, but feel huge for a solopreneuer like me because I can see the direct outcome of the effort I put in. The day I made my first dollar seemed unbelievable to me. Of course people create and sell products and services all the time. But to actually see yourself able to do it? No better feeling in the world.

What’s your best piece of advice?

Have a bias to action. Make the website. Write the email. Post on LinkedIn. Most people don't become entrepreneurs because inaction is easier. It's easy to put off something because it's not done perfectly, or the timing doesn't feel right. 90% of entrepreneurship is doing things, and figuring it out as you go. I have to tell myself this everyday. Action is the only thing that keeps my anxiety at bay.

Give me three takeaways

  1. Processes beat motivation every time. The hardest thing for me is to figure out what I'm going to prioritize on at any given time. Should I do content marketing? Research analysis? Client outreach? Expenses? If I have a process or schedule set in stone, I'm much more likely to not think, and just do.

  2. People love to be helpful to people starting businesses. Don't be afraid to ask for their feedback and make them feel like a part of your journey.

  3. If you write regularly on LinkedIn, most of it feels like you're just yelling into a void. But likes and comments aren't the measure of success. If you post enough, it creates a network effect, and someone will see something you wrote and put a butterfly effect in motion that could be a huge win for your business.

Anything else you want to add?

Whether you're already self-employed or thinking about it, invest in generosity, and enjoy it. Introduce people to one another, let them know if they did or wrote something impactful and don't burn bridges even if you're tempted to! Karma in the business world is especially real :)