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Navigating the Digital Landscape: A Conversation with Ronald Osborne

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Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Navigating the Digital Landscape: A Conversation with Ronald Osborne

Our interview with Ronald Osborne, the founder of Osborne Digital Marketing and Ronald Osborne Business Coaching, brought us closer to understanding his life, business journey, and experiences transitioning between different cultures.

Osborne has found success in multiple ventures in different countries, including Australia, the US, and the UAE, so it was interesting to get his insights on starting a business in different cultural environments and how personal experience impacts professional growth.

Join us in diving into the world of building trust, adapting to new environments, and the lessons learned from failures.

The Genesis of the Business

SBS – Can you share the story behind your business idea and how it evolved?

Ronald – So what happened with me? Essentially, I started in telecommunications in the military. I started in that field because I was a little troublemaker at school. I left school early, went out, and started doing some carpentry and hands-on work. Then, I ended up finding my way into the military. My father and my uncle were both in the military. My cousins, too. We have so many family members in the military, so, of course, I was dragged into it. I thought it was really cool. Then I joined, and it turned out I was quite good at telecommunications equipment. So I went from there.

I got trained on telecommunications equipment in the Army, which was a $9500 bump up in pay. That was very, very nice, so I took that extra job. There were only two or three positions at that time, and I landed one of the positions, which was fantastic. So, I progressed through there. Then, unfortunately, when we were preparing to go overseas, I got injured, and the military gave me two options — “You can be discharged now, and we’ll help you transition with your life, or you can become a pay clerk.” And I was like, “Nah, I’m out.” So I left.

From there, I started a telecommunications company. I started contracting with the biggest telecom companies in Australia. It grew from my first two employees — my younger brother and a guy I served with in the Army. And then all of a sudden, like a year and a half later, it had gone from that to having 27 employees. We were doing really big projects in the telecom infrastructure in Australia. From there, it just went bananas.

I started building websites in the Army because I wasn’t 100% sure. As soon as I was injured, I was like, “What? What am I going to do? Where am I going to go?” That’s when I started to try and see what I could do, and building websites interested me, so I started building websites. But the problem was I was making ridiculous amounts of money with a telecom company. We were doing millions every year, and the websites I was making brought around 2 to 5 grand a month. It was pennies to me at the time. It was a hustle. 

Overcoming Adversity

SBS – What made you switch and transition to that digital area? 

Ronald – The one knack I would say I’m really good at with business is seeing when trends are coming to an end. I could see that the telecom infrastructure was going to slow down because our internet in Australia was horrendous. What happened is I could see it was coming to an end. Everything was slowing down. I was like, “Okay, I’ve got about three years left in this. Where do I go?”

That was when I started setting up, building, and thinking about different things, and that was the transition. I started building something in the background, like upping my knowledge again, and then I transitioned, So I was like, “All right, well, I’m done now. I finished with the telecom.” We slowed it down, and then I moved overseas. For the final year of the company, I was like, “All right, I’ll let this run by itself in Australia, and I’ll head off overseas and start doing something new.” So that’s exactly what I did.

SBS – Can you explain how you shifted from that failure and disappointment to doing something new? And, since you mentioned that you saw that telecommunication companies will eventually start to slow down, why do you believe it is important?

Ronald – Look, I’ll be completely honest: If you’re not ready for failure, you should not be in business. It’s wrought with failure. There’s a failure at every corner, and it’s going to happen. And honestly, if it’s something new that you’re going into and you don’t understand it, you’re going to fail so many times, and that’s just the truth. I think if someone’s not comfortable with a failure in business, being an entrepreneur probably isn’t the right path. I think that, when it comes to failure, it’s very important that you prepare yourself for that and not weigh yourself down too much. It’s a failure, and you have to have some belief in the bottom of your soul that you will make it through.

You might see yourself doing something like I did. I was like, “I’m going to do infantry, then I’m going to follow in my father’s and my uncle’s footsteps, and I’m going to go special forces. That is exactly what I’m going to do in my life. I’m going to do that until I’m 40 years old and my knees give out.” That was my plan. That didn’t happen. I had to adjust, and I thought, “Well, I’ve always been a guy that loves working with his hands.”

I was never a tech head. I was not a gamer or anything like that. When I was younger, I’d always be out playing sports. I love playing golf, love playing tennis, love playing cricket, love playing rugby, footy (AFL). I loved it. I never was on a computer, so adjusting was a big shift. But I still had to find something that interested me. As an example, when it comes to telecom, I was very good at telecommunications, but I didn’t love it. I always knew that telecommunications was the stepping stone. I saw the immense wealth I could make myself from getting into that industry and enjoying that ride up, but I knew it would be something I could use to step into something I like doing, like what I’m doing now.

I think that’s what people need to be able to adjust. They need to be able to be like, “Well, what I’m doing now sucks. But my longer-term vision is to be doing this, and this is how I’m going to get there.” I think you should be okay with doing something you might not love, but you love an aspect of it.

I was thinking about the longer term because I knew that building websites and doing digital marketing while making a few grand a month was nothing to me. As an example, in the SEO business, coaching, and all of that, everything that I learned in the game of making millions comes with unique problems that I’ve been able to apply to everything else that I’ve done. You’ll learn skills from different areas, and I think the best advice is — Don’t be afraid of just adjusting and seeing how something goes. 

Establishing a Strong Online Presence for Small Businesses

SBS – As a digital marketing expert, what are your top three tips for small businesses that want to establish a strong online presence?

Ronald – The main thing would definitely be to get online. If you’re an organization and you don’t have a website and a Google Business profile, even if you run an e-commerce store, that’s madness because, at the end of the day, 80% of people will look for online reviews before using your business. I think it’s very important that you’re online. I work with a lot of friends of mine. They have small companies with three or four employees, so it’s pretty small, and many don’t even have websites. They’re like, “Why? How do you win work, Ronnie, off Instagram?” And I’m like, “Brother, you’ve got to have a website. You’ve got to have something that builds some trust.”

Navigating Google’s Algorithm Changes and Diversifying Channels

SBS – So, you believe that even small companies should at least have local SEO like Google Reviews?

Ronald – Indeed, local SEO is the next step. That depends on what type of industry you’re in. If you’re a brick-and-mortar store, local SEO is the best thing you can do, whether you’re a plumber, a roofer, or anything. Even if you’re a local shop, for example, a boutique store selling unique women’s clothes, local SEO can help. It won’t help as much as if, let’s just say, you are an affiliate-type seller. You’ll probably still need SEO to rank well in Google, but it won’t be the be-all and end-all.

The final thing would be to make sure that you have an omnichannel system set up so you don’t just focus on one area of trying to win people. This is the biggest thing I’ve learned with playing around with Google — Google can come along and destroy everything you’ve done in 24 hours when it clicks the Update button. 

It’s very important that you have a backup, that you perhaps have a YouTube channel, and you’ve been pushing a lot of YouTube videos. That’s what I’ve been doing. YouTube’s been a fantastic way of actually bringing in new people because, as an example, in the business coaching and the SEO world, there are a lot of nefarious people who like to show a lot of things, “Look at how pretty this is, look at how easy this is, this is what I did. You can do it too,” but they can’t show it. On YouTube, you’re actually able to eliminate a lot of that noise. I get to sit there and be like, “Look at what I’ve done. This is how I’ve gone through and done it.” It’s super easy for people to sit there and say, “Oh, that’s authentic.” compared to “I can write anything online right now.”

Common Mistakes in Business Ownership

SBS – From your experience in coaching, what are some common mistakes that small business owners make, and how to avoid them?

Ronald – The biggest mistake is that many people don’t do their market research. That’s really where it impacts a lot of people. Many will go into business believing their idea is fantastic, and that’s where a lot of people get undone. Unfortunately, the groups of individuals we surround ourselves with are all biased, and we tend to hang out with people we like, connect with, and have similar interests. A guy who loves watching drag car racing is not going to hang out with someone who enjoys playing video games. Well, sometimes they may, but they’re a bit different personalities.

Generally, I find that many people will maybe ask their small friend group and family group and say, “Hey, I’ve got this business idea. What do you think?” Everyone will be like, “This is fantastic.” They get overwhelmed by the hype, and, unfortunately, they just jump into something they haven’t performed any market research on whatsoever. A lot of the time, those businesses will fail.

That’s where I work with a lot of people. A lot of people will be struggling. They would have invested ten to maybe even $50,000 or $100,000. I’ve worked with people who have invested a few hundred thousand dollars, and they’ve got nothing, absolutely nothing. That’s when they found me. And again, here’s a similar situation. People invested maybe $40,000 into a business. It was a local business, an HVAC company. It didn’t even have a website. And I said, “Brother, it’s the main way we can win work.” He’s like, “Well, I have a lot of referrals.” And I’m like, “Dude, we’re not getting enough referrals to keep you busy, though.” 

SBS – Which small things do you propose they can do as beginners to research the market? 

Ronald – There are a lot of free tools. One of the best free tools is Google, honestly. Grab your idea and start to put it into an area. So let’s just say you’re thinking of making a bakery, and you’re like, “I’m going to make unique cakes. That’s going to be what I start doing.” The first thing to do would be to really think about the area that you’re in. If you’re going to make unique cakes, what will the consumer buying said cakes be like? If you’re in an outback little town very far away from a lot of other locations, the likelihood that you’ll find success only making unique cakes will be very challenging unless you’re able to ship your orders out to other places around you.

It’s important to consider what’s going to be the barrier so you can start on Google and start looking again. So, if I were in the city in this unique cake example, I could have a look to see if there’s anyone else in the city near me, and if there is, that’s actually a good thing. Don’t be afraid of competition because if you see that there’s perhaps one or two stores in your city, you can sit there and go, “Okay, well, it’s obviously working because these guys look like they’re doing well.”

That’s when you want to get as much information as possible about the business. Depending on which country you’re in, you’re able to access different financial records. You can try and get those records and find out how much money is coming into the business. And you could sit there and say, “Well, my rent and expenses are going to be this. This is how much money the competitor is making. Beautiful. There’s a bit of money to be made here.” That can be done, and it’s very easy actually to do that. So that’s a fantastic way of starting.

But perhaps they just need more information than that. An accountant is a great person to chat with. Accountants in the local area will know what businesses are thriving. That’s also a great, easy way, and a great person to have a chat with. If you’re in the States, a CPA will be able to narrow it down and say, “Don’t do this business.” 

Cultural Awareness in International Business

SBS – Since you operate or have operated businesses in different areas — Russia, Dubai, Australia, and the States — what kind of challenges and different strategies do you apply to each?

Ronald – This is my favorite question. I’m not going to lie. So I left Australia because I felt like I’d achieved it all, honestly. I felt like I’d done it all, I’d made the money, I was happy to be out, really. 

When I moved overseas, I never set up an actual company in Russia. I have companies in Dubai, Australia, and the US. However, dealing with Russians and individuals in the UAE is so different from dealing with Aussies. The reason is that Australians will work with someone they don’t like but can get results from, so they will focus on results. It’s more about, “Hey, give me this money, and I’ll turn it into this. This is the ROI I’m going to be able to give you.” 

In the UAE and Russia, none of that matters. You can be horrendous at your job, but if you’re best friends with them, they’ll just keep throwing money at you. You’d be even able to say, “Look, mate, we didn’t get the results because your budget wasn’t enough. I need more money.” And in the UAE and Russia, if you’re their best friend, they’re going to give you more money. It’s weird for me; that was very strange, so I needed to adapt to it more. You need to become friends with people.

It is getting better in the UAE, but in Russia, you will find that the people have no real trust in the system. We know we can rely on the courts in Australia, but in Russia, there’s no trust in the system. So a lot of people will be like, “Well, why am I going to give this guy money if I’m not best friends with him?” That happens in those countries, which was interesting for me. I’m a very I’l-do-this-you’ll-get-this guy. That’s all I would do. That’s how I speak with everything. 

SBS – What about the US?

Ronald – With the US, that was extremely challenging, and honestly, it’s still challenging to this day. I find Americans are very apprehensive. For instance, they come to me and know very little about me when perhaps someone referred them to me. They’ll sit down and say, “Wait a minute, you’re Australian. Where’s that accent from? Are you South African or Australian?” That’s what I get asked every single meeting with, let’s say, a referral client. Americans, I find it quite challenging to work with, even if you have a proven result with a set of individuals and something that’s in a similar area to them.

Americans need to be laid out in a system that’s itemized. Australians, not so much. With Australians, I’m able to sit there and be like, “You give me the money. This is what I’ll turn it into. This is how we go about it.” Done. Americans, though, would be like, “Well, you’ll give me the money, and then I’m going to do step one, and then I’m going to do step two, and then I’m going to do step three, and then this is how we’re going to move this to there, and then your outcome will come.” That’s how Americans work. That’s what I found. Americans need that structure. They need that in place. They’re still business-focused and happy to give away the money. Americans have no qualms in giving away the money, but you need to present it in that manner. That’s what I found working with Americans.

Outperforming Larger Digital Marketing Agencies

SBS – How can you outperform bigger digital marketing agencies?

Ronald – Very, very simple. To be honest, it’s about building the brand. If people go on to Google specifically for the US and search for “carpet cleaning SEO,” “roofing SEO,” “is Google always right,” “is Google wrong” — all of these funny and good terms — I beat out the biggest competitors with that. Now, the way I’m able to do that is by tying in YouTube and content as well.

Still applying the traditional steps when it comes to structuring everything — on-page content is very, very important. I’ve always been an avid supporter of Page Optimizer Pro and Kyle Roof and his structure. And I’ve taken Kyle’s philosophies and twisted them to myself to see what works. That’s where I start. I believe you cannot get further up if you don’t have good on-page SEO. You also save yourself a lot of money. You need to get less backlinks if you’ve got fantastic on-page SEO.

It’s also important to use something like a good website builder. I love Oxygen. There’s nowhere near the nesting that would happen with something like Elementor. So, it’s about these types of small things. It’s keeping it extremely simple. But I think in this day and age, we all get a little bit too confused. We’re like, “We need this tool.”

What is Google? All it is is an algorithm. What does an algorithm need? Well, it needs to be fed the right equation, and you’re going to rank. And that’s what I love about Google, because Google literally lays out, “Hey guys, look at this, look at this. If you do this, I’m going to rank you number one.” So if you build this type of page, if you send in these types of links, you structure it in this manner, you’re going to rank. And it’s that simple.

I find that many SEOs are guys and girls who are a little bit more focused on the computer and don’t build the business side of themselves. They miss out on a lot of tips and tricks, and on a lot of industries and even revenue because they’re not able to understand and be not necessarily extroverted, but willing just to try and reach out and be a part of a community that can help better themselves as well.

I’ve learned a lot of valuable information and have some great friends now. But over the years, there were points where I didn’t know things. So I’d reach out to people, and I find that many people might be stuck on a problem, and they’re hesitant to ask because they feel like it’s a stupid question. Who cares if it’s a stupid question if it helps you achieve the objective? 

Staying Ahead

SBS – How are you staying updated with the latest trends and everything happening right now, especially in digital marketing? 

Ronald – I don’t, mate. I am that guy. I’m like, “There’s so much noise in this. Oh, my goodness.” I remember when I first got into SEO. They said, “That’s it, guys, links are done. Backlinks are never going to matter anymore. Who’s using backlinks? Move away from it. Ridiculous.” And still, to this day, that’s what everyone’s saying. If I jump on Twitter, they’ll say, “Oh my God. AI content can’t rank.” Yeah, it can. I’ve proved it. It’s just a fallacy. 

Unfortunately, many people sometimes get caught up in that noise, adjust their strategy, and then go on and build something that actually doesn’t work. I don’t do that. My approach is that I just sit back. I let everyone else sort of play around and see what’s working. Once I know what’s working, then why not apply that? I would rather not waste my time trying to figure out how something works. I’ll wait a couple of weeks, and then someone will either make a course or just put out a YouTube video, and I can absorb that information in 30 minutes. Yeah, that’s how I approach it.

Unconventional Advice for Newbies

SBS – What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who is just starting their entrepreneurship journey?

Ronald – Make sure that you’ve done adequate market research. That’s the first thing. Make sure you look at your competitors. And the biggest thing I would say is — leaning on the Google example — don’t sit there and think you need to reinvent the wheel. There’s a lot of money to be made in improving systems.

So, if you have a business that is more of a traditional business, which is a great place to make money, don’t think that you need to be this innovative person who does it a new way. You can make money that way, but you can actually make a lot of money by improving your processes. There’s so much money to be made. So, as an example, telecom is renowned for being an unprofitable industry. Not for us. Not for us. And it’s because of the processes that I would introduce.

So make sure you reward your team and look after your team. It’s really important to constantly think about the small things. If you can improve the small things, everything else will flow along, and you’ll make more money in areas where you didn’t think there was an extra buck to be had.

Future Visions

SBS – What do you believe is the future of digital marketing?

Ronald – Negative.

SBS – Why do you think so?

Ronald – Just looking at the trends, I see that everything’s moving into more of a structure where we’re moving into a conglomerate-type setup. So the big players, the big businesses, are dominating the areas. Even Google is starting to reward the bigger companies, the bigger websites. We trust these guys more than a guy who might even be a doctor researching that specific issue in that field.

That’s where I think there’s still a window of opportunity. But I think it’s not much longer. I think the average person working from home, as an example, has five to ten years to really maximize what they can earn. 

SBS – You mean organically? 

Ronald – Organically, yes. Otherwise, it’s going to be moving into a world where we pay to play. So, if you’ve noticed, Google is a perfect example of this. There were never any paid ads up the top. Then all of a sudden, there was one, then two, then three, and now there are four. It’s crazy. It’s absolutely bananas. But that’s the world we’re going to start living in. You’re going to have to have money upfront.

With SEO, you could just come home from work, work really hard, build a website, and build something. You can invest just your time and have an outcome from that. But I think it’s going to be a lot more challenging in the future. I think you’ll need to invest your time to build a product, but then you’ll also have to use capital to market that product. I don’t think that’s a positive thing. 

SBS – Let’s hope you’re not right about this. 

Ronald – Exactly. I’m happy to be wrong.

Learning from Failure and Acknowledging Reality

SBS – What do you believe people can learn from their failures? Or what did you learn from your failures? 

Ronald – So, the biggest failure I’ve ever had was I lost $150,000 because I employed a guy who was a friend and not the right person for that position. So, I lost 150K just like that. That sucked.

I think you have to analyze what went wrong when you have failures. Go back and deconstruct it. Find out what actually happened. What happened in my situation? Well, I’ve put in a guy who I loved as a friend, but a guy who was utterly incompetent when it came to running a civil construction. So, in that situation, the really important thing I learned was I cannot hire individuals that I like. It needs to be people that I can rely on.

Again, this is where the cultural difference plays in. To me, I don’t care that we’re best friends. We could be enemies, but if that person’s good at running something, I’ll hire them. I’m more than happy to do that. That’s where I went wrong. A lot of the time, in very similar circumstances, I’m sitting there scratching my head, and it’s like, “How did we make this mistake? What happened here? Why has this not worked out the way we wanted it to?”

I promise you, if you sit down with that problem for an hour, you’ll find out exactly where you went wrong. I think that’s the biggest mistake a lot of people make, especially nowadays, when we’re in this world where it’s all positivity. 

SBS – What’s your advice for people trying to recover from such losses?

Ronald – Well, the biggest thing I always take away when I have failures is I just think the sun’s still coming up tomorrow. I don’t know if that’s because I was a soldier, and you get shot at for a living. So you’re like, “Yeah, nothing’s as bad as that.”

I think a lot of people have to sit there and think. Let’s just say you have a really bad failure, and you lose your business. Things go wrong, and you lose everything. What do you now have? You have the knowledge of how not to fail. Dissect it, find out what went wrong, and then move into something similar but with a different strategy. I think that’s what people need to have.

If you sit there and say that you’re going to go into business without a failure, you’re an idiot. I’ve got to be honest. If you think you’re going to launch something and everything’s going to work perfectly, you’re an idiot. You’re going to have so many sleepless nights, it’s not funny. It is the honest truth of going into business. So don’t be afraid when you have those massive setbacks. Just sit there and think, “Can I recover? Yeah, I can.” If you sit there and go, “I cannot recover. Everything’s gone,” it should be like, “Okay, well, how do I learn? What’s next? I can’t recover it now. I can’t fix this problem. Next? What have I learned from that problem? Next?”

You have to have something in your mind. And for me, the way it works is it’s just like, “Well, that sucked. What did I learn? All right, next.” You’ve just got to believe that everything the next day will be okay, fundamentally, in your heart. That doesn’t mean you get to write it off, leaning on what I do see a lot of people now, especially in America, because we know what the culture is like in America. I do see many people who’ll have a massive failure, and then they sort of brush it off, and become the one who says, “Well, it wasn’t my fault.” And it’s like, “No, if there was a failure, it’s your fault, and it’s only your fault. You have to take ownership.” That’s very important.

A little quote I live by is “Memento Mori” — remember, you must die. So, at the end of the day, tomorrow is not guaranteed to no man. So I think it’s very important that you always remember that. We’re just here to have a good time. Do what you like doing. Enjoy the pain. Enjoy the struggle. I’ve done a lot of different businesses, done a lot of different things, and every single time I’ve been in that stressful situation where you’re like, “Oh, this sucks, my world’s ending,” I look back now and all of those problems, and I go, “That was awesome. I got through it.”


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Navigating the Digital Landscape: A Conversation with Ronald Osborne