Interview with Cindy Krum, CEO & Founder at Mobile Moxie

Cindy Krum is CEO & Founder at Mobile Moxie, a Mobile SEO & ASO Consulting and Toolset founded in 2008, with a 7 people team that is remote based. In this interview Cindy shares her remote work journey as a consultant, author, speaker and entrepreneur, with learnings and tips. You can find Cindy in Twitter, LinkedIn, and the Mobile Moxie Website.

Interview Transcript

Aleyda Solis:
Hello everybody and welcome again to another remoters interview. This time I’m having the wonderful Cindy Krum. Cindy is one of the most well-known, just in case if you are not into SEO, most well-known technical SEOs, strategical SEOs around. She has been highly focused on mobile SEO, was one of the first people to talk ever about mobile optimization. She is from the U.S., she’s basically a U.S. but she has a remote-based company. So Cindy, please feel free to clarify its stance, a lot of it, and where you are specifically at your company in general.

Cindy Krum:
Sure, so we have been around for over 11 years now, and remote the whole time. For some number of years it was mostly just me, but now we have a couple more people in Denver, but everyone works from home. And then we have a development team, it’s mostly in Australia. And then one guy in India and I think one guy in Thailand, but they’re part-time. But people all over, and I know roughly what time zone it is all the time everywhere, because sometimes people are working while we’re sleeping, we would [inaudible 00:01:15] things done, and [inaudible 00:01:16].

Aleyda Solis:
How many are you are right now?

Cindy Krum:
If you include part-time it’s about seven.

Aleyda Solis:
Ah, okay. That’s really a good number to coordinate times. So what do you usually do to do exactly that, if you are all spread out, especially with Australian. What do you do to coordinate?

Cindy Krum:
We use a lot of Slack and Trello, simple stuff.

Aleyda Solis:
Interesting.

Cindy Krum:
And just leave people notes so that when they wake up, when they start working, they can pick up where someone else left off. We have this one developer, he spends half his year in Brisbane and the other half in Japan so that he can ski.

Aleyda Solis:
That’s amazing. Oh, my God, in Japan, good sushi and ski. What else you can ask? That’s great. So let’s go back a little bit more in time because you mentioned when you started your company 11 years ago, you started remotely, right away. What made you to start working remotely instead of setting the typical office, especially at that time?

Cindy Krum:
Yeah. Well, and that was 2008, right at the worst part of the economy. My dad, when I talked to him about it, and we were talking about the economy he was like, “Cindy, do you know what the best thing to have during a bad economy?” And I was like, “No,” and he was like, “A job. Go get a job.” So I left a job and was just going to do consulting until I found the perfect job for me because I felt held back at a previous job so I was going to be really thorough in my job search, and I knew that might take some time. I started doing consulting just to get me through until I found the perfect job.

Cindy Krum:
But then consulting was paying the bills and I was getting to travel where I wanted to travel, and so eventually I just started looking for another job, and said, “I’ll just keep doing this. This is fun.”

Aleyda Solis:
Find a job. Then you realize that what you’re looking for, that perfect job is the job that you’re able to decide yourself for you.

Cindy Krum:
Yeah, exactly. And I kind of made a deal with myself whereas long as the bills are paid and I live an okay life, I don’t have to get rich. I want to travel. I want to see the world. I want to use this company as an excuse to get out and experience real life, lots of places.

Aleyda Solis:
I think this is super important because you as a business owner and entrepreneur. You have written books. You have created tools. We are going to speak a little bit more about it in a bit. You do consulting. So you, besides being an SEO and especially in a specific area, you’re an entrepreneur, what the benefits of it that you have seen on one hand. We don’t know also the usual struggle, the disadvantages that you have found along the way.

Cindy Krum:
Yeah, there’s so much to talk about in that. So sometimes it works out as planned, and you get to ride the wave and relax when there’s not a lot of business, and then hustle when there is a lot of business. I didn’t mind the hustle too much, but I was also younger, 11 years younger, and I was good at hustle. But I’ll tell you, one of the best things that not a lot of people know about me is that very soon after I started my own company I got very sick. I need a lot of sleep and I needed doctors appointments all the time and stuff like that. If I had had a real job I would have been fired.

Cindy Krum:
So working for myself allowed me to do crazy things, like literally I had a desk in my bed that I would set over here, take a nap, and pull the desk back over and get back to work. So working for myself in that way allowed me continue to be who I was, and to get healthier without everyone having to know, without me having to ask for money from my parents or whatever, and just to be flexible, much more flexible than any regular job would be. So that’s been really good.

Cindy Krum:
And now, it’s much less of an issue. My health is more, I don’t know, lined up. I still have issues sometimes, but it’s stable. But I still get to pull the brakes if I want to, or if I’m feeling overwhelmed or if there’s just too much business or too much to do then I have a lot more control being the boss and being remote, for getting in a break. Or for instance, if I feel like I’m not at my sharpest, if I feel like my brain’s not working today, today’s the day I go get groceries and do other things, and not being forced to be at your best in certain hours of the day every day.

Aleyda Solis:
What about with the tool I imagine you had an additional layer of complexity that was the development part, right? How did you do to find developers that you could trust. This is important. Why? Because there’s…

Cindy Krum:
I love the guys that I’m working with now, but they came in by luck. It is so hard, we’re trying to hire a developer right now, that’s why if you have HP background send me your resume, because we take remote. But it’s really hard. I hired friends at first to build my website, and build the first version of this wall.

Cindy Krum:
The reality is that the tool that I was building was something that I needed myself, because I was the only one thinking about mobile SEO, and I wanted to know what’s the difference between the different phones and what’s the difference between iOS and Android. I was literally buying people’s old phones from them to test with.

Cindy Krum:
So we had to build what’s now called the SERPerator tool so that I wouldn’t have to keep buying people’s junk phones to test with. So now the SERPerator lets you test a mobile search result from anywhere in the world. They could [inaudible 00:07:32] standing in the middle of Tokyo or wherever you want to be, and in any language. I say ‘any language,’ almost any language. I realized yesterday we don’t have Romansh, because I was looking for-

Aleyda Solis:
That’s cool. You’re fine.

Cindy Krum:
Including some languages like Hindi and Chinese and Arabic, and those, I don’t know if you know this, Aleyda, but developing on the web for languages that are not left to right, but are right to left, and making… The way that our goal worked is it’s two browsers within a browser, and this big browser has to work on all of the browsers that might be on your computer, and it has to look kind of the same with the little browsers next to [inaudible 00:08:18] phones, are just mini browsers.

Cindy Krum:
Getting that to work in the beginning is really hard, and getting it to work where these languages or this writing is in script writing like Arabic, and this is in English, it’s very hard.

Aleyda Solis:
I would like you to share a little bit more regarding what you have found to be particularly hard, because of the remote type of work, because of the remote setting on one hand. And then on the other hand, I know that you also travel a lot for certain times of the year because of conference seasons, because of events. You tend also to travel, so I would like you to share with us a little bit of insights regarding that too.

Cindy Krum:
Working alone and essentially working from home, it does get lonely. You just have to plan on that. So for instance I’ve had employees, when I do their annual review and I say, “What would you change if you could change something?” One of the best things I’ve gotten back is the people in Denver who I see, someone said, “You know what? I get lonely, and I think we should meet up in person at least once a week.” Okay, that’s easy.

Cindy Krum:
And even though we have a lot of video conference and that helps, before video conference was so popular, talking only on the phone still felt lonely. With video conference it’s a little bit better, but I do think you have to see people in person. So I’ll make a point to fly people to Denver. I’ve brought the Australians here, or go visit them or just get people together.

Cindy Krum:
And then the conferences, the conferences where most of my friends are, most of my friends are in this industry but don’t live in Denver, and so I look so forward to going and seeing them. I get my fill of hugs and people time and stuff like that. That helps, but it’s also a strain. It’s kind of a mixed blessing where I look so forward to seeing people and catching up, but it’s also a lot of effort to leave home so often, and have to get dog sitters and stuff like that.

Cindy Krum:
It’s like everything, nothing is all good or all bad, you know? So you have to take the good with the bad. For me, it’s still a good balance. I think the days that I get to stay home and work in sweatpants and do whatever I want or not worry too much about the rest of the world, those are great, because I’m a big introvert, and then I spend all my social energy at a conference for two or three days, and then I’m exhausted and I come home and I recharge.

Cindy Krum:
It’s just you have to find the right balance for you because everyone’s different. Especially at conferences, if I’m in a hotel room and I know my friends are out doing something fun, it’s just too distracting, and I know that the networking is part of the job, and making friends and being seen. That’s why I spend the money to be there, so I shouldn’t hide in my hotel room and do work. So I tried really hard to delegate work when I’m traveling, reschedule calls if I can, and I don’t plan… My brain is just in a different mode when I’m away from home, and it’s not a good focus, thoughtful mode.

Cindy Krum:
So yeah, that part is hard too. Scheduling, you kind of have to… I think working remote and working for yourself you get really good, like fitness buffs get really good at knowing what their body needs. I know what my brain needs all the time. I’m very tapped in to what is going to be productive for me and my energy and my ability to concentrate at any given time.

Aleyda Solis:
That’s nice. And which are those tools that you use to work remotely, or maybe these are not necessarily remote factor tools, but these are the tools that you think you couldn’t live without in order to make it work, the remote setting.

Cindy Krum:
So it’s funny because I’ve been doing it so long, and we did make it work before most of these tools. Because I did remote work when we didn’t have video conferences and everything was just a phone call, and we didn’t have Slack. One of the things you have to be of you’re remote is flexible. Actually now that what I love, it took me a while to get away from solid hard documents, like Excel documents and Word documents, and work in the Cloud, but then being able to have my team on a video conference and have a document that’s shared and have everyone looking at the same thing and typing and have it all just saved immediately, it took a while for me to switch over, but now that’s magic. It’s so helpful and great.

Aleyda Solis:
Do you use Google Docs or… Okay.

Cindy Krum:
Yeah, Google Docs, and Google Hangouts.

Aleyda Solis:
Yes.

Cindy Krum:
Or Google Meet, I guess. The business versions. It’s still free.

Aleyda Solis:
Excellent. When you are trying to explain something that is complex to clients or to your team, what do you tend to do? What has been what you have found that is the best way to avoid any misunderstanding?

Cindy Krum:
I think it’s talking through things and video chat. So some people in some companies have a culture where you have to have something on the calendar and we’ll have a video chat at this exact time, we don’t have that. I mean, we’ll do it for clients, very casually switch windows and turn on a video call so that we could talk through things. I think that that’s where I excel in explaining things much more so than writing. Then I can see people’s faces to see if they understand.

Cindy Krum:
And actually, one of the things that I struggle with is when clients, they can’t figure out their conference room camera or they refuse to turn on their camera. There are days when I don’t want to turn on my camera every now and then, but usually I will because to me being able to read someone’s face to see if they understand or not, or they’re listening or not, is a big deal. For me knowing if I’m doing a good job or if I need to switch and explain something differently or slow down or speed up or whatever. So yeah, video chat is my best means of being really clear.

Aleyda Solis:
So is there any last tip or anything that you think we haven’t covered yet that you that think is super important to mention to anybody who would like to start working remotely or who are working remotely and could find something valuable from?

Cindy Krum:
Especially for me, and having such a niche focus, like on mobile and it was before mobile was even a big deal. To know and trust that the workload is going to kind of go up and down sometimes, and you have to enjoy the down [inaudible 00:15:27] come back, and if you don’t rest, enjoy it’s a little bit slow, you’re not going to be ready when it amps back up.

Cindy Krum:
That’s something that I still have to remind myself and practice. It’s not something that comes naturally, because if you’re like, “Well, I don’t know if I have enough business starting next month, I really need a new client and I need to hustle, hustle, hustle,” then you’re not getting the benefit that you want from working for yourself, and you might be better go get a job where everything’s [crosstalk 00:16:00].

Aleyda Solis:
I think this is super important because I think that you mentioned, and thank you very much, because we had missed something that is critical also in your remote work setting, that you’re your own boss. There are many people nowadays that before it wasn’t like that, but there are many people nowadays who are remote, but they are employees. So in that sense I have to say, it’s much more easily to get online with work that is given to you. But in your additional case or my additional case, we have additionally that there’s a possibility of being our own bosses and to manage from the business side of things, cash flow, selling, support, everything to make sure that the usual ups and down of that entrepreneurial life also get along well with the remote setting.

Cindy Krum:
I’ve put in enough time, I am well-known in my company with current and previous employees for telling people, “You’re done for the day. You’ve worked enough. Take a break. This is great. Take a break. Leave early.” Because I don’t want people to, because I’m not there kill themselves working on get all wrapped up and worried about something. I need them to by healthy and to take breaks, to go to the gym, and to be a real human and stuff like that.

Cindy Krum:
So I think again, that’s one thing. And then the other thing, and this isn’t mine. This is from a guy named Micah. He gave me this tip. He’s at Front Stage, he’s also a friend. I saw him say once, “If you’re too busy and you have too much work to do, double your prices. Don’t even be shy about it. Double.” Because then you only have to get one client to make just as much money, and it’s harder to sell a little bit and you have to be more patient in the selling process, but then you have to work half as hard.

Aleyda Solis:
100%.

Cindy Krum:
Yeah.

Aleyda Solis:
That is the best way to scale I have to say. Especially when you are a freelancer of boutique consultancy company, small. Raise prices for sure.

Cindy Krum:
And just do it. You have to be brave. If people don’t want to pay that, someone else will usually. It’s at last worth a try, right?

Aleyda Solis:
And you are busy anyway, so…

Cindy Krum:
We’re busy anyway. Yeah. Especially if you’re busy anyway. But it’s always worth a try. And I’ve had some people in the negotiation process come back and say, “My boss tells me that I can do this deal, but we have to get some discount.” So if they have stupid rules like that, you may as well come in high if they’re going to make you whittle, “Oh, 5% here, 5% there.” Whatever. So fine. So come in high. Pricing options so people like this, and then sometimes they choose the top one that you never thought they would ever choose. It’s great. Good day.

Aleyda Solis:
Excellent. So thank you very much, Cindy. It has been super valuable. I think we have covered more than remote your day-to-day, but also the entrepreneurial side, the [inaudible 00:19:03] also has been super insightful. Thank you very much. I love talking to you as usual, and thank you for sharing with us.

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