We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Steve Cooper, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hitched, a service and lifestyle online magazine for married couples. Cooper was inspired to start a publication about marriage while still in college (majoring in journalism) and single (though college is where he met his future wife). After working as a print and online journalist, Cooper decided to combine his love of journalism and his passion to help promote healthy and happy marriages and launched Hitched.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Steve Cooper: My mom was a nurse and my dad was a firefighter, so public service was definitely top of mind. As a kid I thought about being a police officer (of course, that was only after my first choice of professional football player). In the end, my career choice still serves the public, just in a different way.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Cooper: The short version is that when I went away to college I found myself meeting a lot of people who came from divorced families. I started researching the social and economic impacts of divorce and began to wonder why the divorce rate was so high and what can be done about it.
I was getting my degree in journalism and so naturally I thought about the resources that were available for enthusiasts for just about everything from cars and home design, to parenting and weddings. However, I noticed a void in magazines that provided an ongoing resource to help couples stay happily married. It was then that I knew I could make a real impact on people’s lives and I have dedicated myself to helping people thrive in their marriages ever since.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Cooper: There have been a lot of pivotal moments, but I’d probably say the biggest moment came when we decided to launch our website and scrap the plans to produce a print magazine. The decision to launch the website was spurned by your encouragement. I can still remember the moment you told me I had to launch the site and introduce Hitched to the world.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Cooper: One of my college professors told me, “Always start at the top.” I have used this advice throughout my career, whether it’s working with other companies or simply seeking an interview. Over and over I have reached for the top of the ladder and have found good success in this top-down approach.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Cooper: Embrace change. We’re living in an exciting time where the Internet has disrupted just about everything–particularly, but obviously not limited, to my industry. Rather than pine for how things used to be, become a pioneer and work to figure out how to move forward with the new reality. The sooner we all embrace the change that is upon us, the quicker we’ll find solutions to our problems. In this capacity, I make it a point to stay informed and constantly learn.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?
Cooper: I believe 2014 is the year small businesses will really begin to fall behind if they are without a mobile-optimized presence. Google has predicted that before the end of the year mobile search queries will reach 50 percent. Google is constantly tweaking their algorithms to serve up better results for their users, and I’d expect that mobile optimization will weigh heavier as the 50 percent threshold is passed. If you’re a small business and your website isn’t already optimized for mobile consumption, drop everything you’re doing right now and start working on it.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Cooper: It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug really influenced my approach to design and user engagement. The more we’re able to do on the Web with all of our fancy tools, the easier it is to complicate the user experience, [and that’s counterproductive].
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Cooper: A quote that I heard often during my sports career—I’m not sure who said it first–is one I carry with me every day. I love this quote because it’s simple, enlightening, freeing, inspiring and profoundly impactful in just three words: “Embrace the grind.”
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