Founder of NetSuccess Lori Barber: On Her Company, Social Media and Her Battle With Cancer
Back in August I sent out a tweet about cancer in our family and how my wife and I created a team (The Shade Runners) for the Susan G. Komen, Race for the Cure. And later that day I received an @ reply on Twitter from Lori Barber that said the following:
I had already been following the work of Lori Barber and her company NetSuccess, but it was that tweet that bridged the connection and allowed me the privilege this last week to sit down with her and ask her some questions about her work, social media and her battle with cancer. Lori is the founder of NetSuccess and was recently just featured in a great article in the Dallas Business Journal, “Weathering the Storms.”
Check out the interview below:
How long have you lived in Dallas?
Since ’93…I grew up in Missouri. I lived there until I met the man who later became my husband. So my move was inspired from a guy. And then I started NetSuccess in 1995.
If someone where to ask you what NetSuccess does, how would you respond?
We are an interactive agency. We specialize in helping our clients use internet technologies. So anything that is done online and that is interactive…that kind of falls within our specialty. Design a website, developing a website…to make sure it has the right technology that is scalable, that will accomplish the goal…marketing, and that’s the whole science of how we drive traffic to the site. That could be social media, it could be pay per click advertising, it could be search engine optimization, it could be mobile application. And then maintenance. Maintaining a site over many, many years.
Do you have an ideal client you like working with?
Yeah, we kind of exist in the middle sector of the marketplace. We are a great agency for mid-size business. We aren’t the guy in the garage. But we are also not the behemoth layer upon layer upon layer interactive agency. We can service anyone with a mid-range website application. We probably aren’t going to launch the next Amazon.com, but we also aren’t going to do a kind of one-off.
What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
I think it’s serving my clients and really helping them. The web touches so many aspects of their business, and if you can get the website right, and really use the technology, it can literally change the course of a business. I mean if you can leverage…if you can use the right technology, and implement a design that will speak to a target audience, that can drive the right kind of traffic to a site, and then convert that traffic. That process, doing it correctly, can change the fate of a business and their lives.
How many clients do you currently work with?
We normally have about 15-20 projects in development at any given time. Clients who have done business with us in the last 18 months…that’s probably a few hundred.
Since I met you on Twitter, what’s your favorite thing about Twitter?
That particular tool is a great way to either actively deliver content to your target audience or passively participate in delivering content. Actively would be saying here is information I want you to hear and pushing it out whether it’s a TwitPic, whether a press release, whether a link to something else…a random statement. Whatever the message is you want to get out to that target audience.
How do you use it personally?
Personally I use it to stay in touch with the industry. I specifically built my following. And followed people that my clients need to deliver content to. Industry peers like yourself. In keeping in touch with clients, potential clients, and my client’s clients. That’s how I use it if I want to deliver content for NetSuccess or my clients..either actively or passively.
How do you set boundaries between online and your own personal life?
That’s a really good question…technology has advanced to the point that technology operates faster than the human body. That’s why I think we have a stressed out, sort of emotionally and psychologically dysfunctional society because technology goes so quickly the human body can’t keep up with it. So I try successfully sometimes, and sometimes horribly unsuccessfully. I try to make the technology work for me. And for me social media is a lifestyle, and my company is a lifestyle. For me, it’s my life. It is incorporated in every aspect. I don’t shut my phone off. But, I see what’s going on, and that’s constantly on my radar screen which gives me freedom to be doing other things so that I can have this stuff going on. Totally unplugging, I don’t really ever totally unplug…because I want to. It would be like unplugging from my life. For me it’s a lifestyle, being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle. And being able to serve my clients is a lifestyle. It is very fun and rewarding to grow something that is meaningful and valuable.
When I met you online it was because I had tweeted about my family and cancer, and you responded with a tweet saying you were a survivor. When were you first diagnosed?
June of 2008. I had two kinds of cancer. In February I was diagnosed with melanoma because of a small spot on my abdomen. It was in the first stage, completely curable…they removed it…clear margins. Done. But having melanoma puts you at risk for every other kind of cancer. So that’s when my doctor suggested a mammogram a year earlier than she originally suggested. On the mammogram they detected a spot about the size of 6 grains of sand…very, very small. And then of course the biopsy indicated it was cancer. This particular kind of cancer also has a high likelihood of spreading to ovarian cancer. So I elected to have a hysterectomy at the same time. So in June I am diagnosed. In July I’m having the lumpectomy and hysterectomy at the same time. And then after that…radiation. But thankfully it was such an early form of cancer that I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy. So that was a blessing.
When did you start your radiation?
Six weeks after surgery.
How long did you go through radiation?
Twelve weeks everyday.
Did you take a leave from work?
No. I would come to work exhausted. I would work. I would go to a treatment. Come back to work and work as long as I could. I couldn’t think and I was just very, very tired.
During that time what/who was your biggest support?
My family isn’t here. So good friend. God.
How did you stay positive the whole time?
You just do.
Have you been hesitant to share your story?
My fear was, I didn’t want to be a weak leader. And when your leader’s sick, I didn’t want them to be afraid, and I couldn’t afford to have them focused on my sickness instead of the work we had to do. So I really wanted to keep them focused on the clients and focused on the work. I just felt like it was better for my clients not to be afraid. It’s a small company and a lot of my participation is required. I knew I would be okay. I knew it would be a long journey. I knew the kind of cancer I had was curable. It has a 99% cure rate. I knew I was going to be okay, and that I could put it behind me. I just had to get from point A to B. What I didn’t want to happen was my employees to become afraid and leave, or my clients. Work, good friends and my faith kept me going through this time.
What was your overall feelings/emotions during this time?
I think I was in denial. I don’t think I just stopped long enough. I’m stubborn….I just had to plow through it. I think I was sort of detached from the problem. I knew it was stage 1 and the kind of cancer I had was treatable.
Was there a point when you realized, wow, I have been through a lot?
Yes…about 90 days ago. I literally kept this agency…I mean when the economy tanked, my clients literally stopped spending money…literally. So I had to reduce the staff. I had to make adjustments to respond to the economy. And I was just coming off cancer. And once I got all that behind me. And the business was back on solid ground and we were doing the numbers we were used to doing. We got some new accounts. I had just healed from my divorce. I just look up one day and realize that life is normal again.
Is there anything you do to help cancer prevention?
I’ve always been very healthy. I’ve always worked out. I have amazing eating habits. I continue to get mammograms and wear sunscreen.
What has been the best thing about sharing your story in this article? (i.e. Dallas Business Journal)
Just to provide encouragement. Sometimes there is the perception that if you get cancer it’s a death sentence. And a lot of times it’s not a death sentence. A lot of times it’s something you need to go through. The blessing and silver lining of cancer for me was to show, and to really help me keep things in perspective. Your health is important and is taken for granted so often. But it really put my life in perspective. So sharing my story, I hope the message is, is that cancer isn’t always a death sentence. I’m so thankful that we live in a country with health resources.
It was a real pleasure to be able to sit down and talk with Lori about a variety of topics. She, her team, and their company NetSuccess are doing an amazing job in the area of web design, development, SEO and brand marketing. If you are looking for someone with their expertise, I hope you take the opportunity to connect with them.
You can check them out here.
And you can follow Lori on Twitter here.