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Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day: How to Build a Business Empire that Stands the Test of Time

Murray and I love to wander the streets of a new city after dark… there’s a certain beauty and mystery about a city at night.

Last night was our first night in Rome and we found ourselves wandering the old city and the riverbank. We watched people watching people watching people. We saw a gay couple dressed like gladiators, black eyeliner and leather sandals laced to their knees. We looked out at the island in the middle of the Tiber where Romulus and Remus were abandoned and taken in by wolves 2600 years ago…

rome3 And the thing we admired most about Rome is how the new is built right on top of the old.

If there is a crumbling arch or the ancient corner of a building, the Romans have left it standing and built on top of it or around it. You can see an ancient column peeking out from a new hotel or old engraved stones cast into the wall of a modern church.

Perhaps they ask themselves, If it’s lasted 2000 years, why tear it down now?

That got me thinking about the online business world, where it’s so easy to get swept up in the “boom town” mentality of “get it while you can” — chasing the trends and basing an entire business on what’s hot — NOW. Then packing up once the gold runs out and going on to the next town… and the next.

Rather than taking a step back and asking, how long is this going to last? Do I want to have to rebuild in a year or two once I’ve ridden this gravy train as far as it will go? Is this the kind of business I really want?

Conventional internet marketing wisdom tells you to test your products by throwing up a squeeze page, buying some traffic and seeing if your offer converts. Because you just don’t know what’s going to work.

And that may be true when it comes to testing a headline or a pricepoint or a promise, but many times, a truly great idea just doesn’t work the first time around.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with my friend Michael X about his Press Advantage system.

I hosted him a few years ago on the Superhero Summit. During the 1 hour length of the presentation, he got someone ranked on Page 1 of Google using his press release system. Right then and there. And the audience loved it. He did super well selling his press release syndication service.

You might think: Successful Idea. Check! And leave it at that.

But he kept listening to what people wanted. He realized two things: people didn’t want to lose press release credits if they didn’t use them each month and most people didn’t want to write their own press releases.

So now he’s created a new, improved system that includes writing and editing the releases and guarantees a minimum of 200 syndications (including GoogleNews), and sells this package for $97 — a fraction of the cost of other press syndication and distribution packages that don’t include the done-for-you service… and it’s doing gangbusters.

Instant success, right? Not so much. What you don’t know is that it took him 3 tries and 5 years to get it “right.”

Now he has it totally dialed in where it’s almost entirely automated (except for the human element of writing and editing). They have a good profit margin, and an API to offer their service through other people’s software.

So much for instant success.

It may have taken him 5 years to perfect, but now Michael has something that’s head and shoulders above the other offerings out there. By looking beyond the initial “gold rush” opportunity of using press releases to rank on Google, he’s created something that’s going to last.

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and some ideas take years to evolve.

Three years ago Murray and I first hatched the idea of a new website builder specifically for online entrepreneurs.

One year later we released our Take Flight Now program. Our goal was to bring the custom high-end web design that we offer our $50K+ clients to emerging entrepreneurs, so they could go big without spending big. We thought we could create a DIY software system that could guide our customers through the process of making each choice about their website, so they could literally click their way to a beautiful high-converting site.

But, alas, it didn’t work exactly as we’d hoped.

Our customers didn’t think that way. They wanted to see the entire site at once, instead of taking it one small decision at a time. Instead of feeling liberated, they got stuck.

It was a hard fail for us. Not only did we invest a lot of time and money in building the platform, but we didn’t want to let our customers down. It was painful to watch our customers struggle and get frustrated. Our goal is to make their lives easier, not more difficult… and we stand by everything we create.

At that point, most people would have chosen to give up and walk away. I’m thinking planned demolition. Just blow it up and do something new. Chalk it up to an expensive failure.

As challenging as it was to have built something that didn’t serve our customers the way we wanted. We still realized that the idea was good. Clearly there was a market need, which is why so many people signed up. But our execution was lacking.

It took a lot of humility and courage to fess up to our mistakes and try again, but we had a lot of customers we didn’t want to let down. We wanted to make it right for them and we knew the idea had merit, so we decided to rebrand and rebuild.

We looked at what worked… and what didn’t. We gathered all the feedback and criticism we got. We learned from our mistakes. And we built something new on top of the old. Something that went way beyond our initial attempts. Something with the potential to be truly great.

And this time we’re taking our time. We’re only letting a few beta users into the platform, starting with our initial Take Flight Now community, and gathering their feedback before we release Heroik to the world. And so far the feedback has been completely different.

But we never could have gotten here the first time around. We had to stumble before we could walk. We had to build on top of the rubble of our missteps.

Way too often in our online business world, people get so caught up in the boom town mentality that they forget they’re building an empire. Brick by brick. And stone by stone.

I’ve seen my students give up on good ideas because they were looking for that fast hit. They wanted instant evidence of success… when all they needed was to spend a bit more time with the marble, chipping away at everything that doesn’t serve, and getting to the masterpiece that all of us have within us.

I’ve also watched students who began, slow and steady, trying things out, checking in with their customers, tweaking their idea, following up time and time again, and continuing to refine until they had something that was truly great. And before you knew it they were experiencing a flood of customers and success…

So if you find yourself frustrated with where you are and the progress you’ve made, I encourage you to celebrate how far you’ve come, and focus on what you’ve learned along the way.

As Murray likes to say “if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

rome1 So why not embrace all there is to learn from your so-called failures and missteps? How has your idea ripened and matured? Perhaps the ground is now fertile for you to build the new on top of the old? To build something that will truly stand the test of time?

While it can be easy to focus on all the mistakes you’ve made and what you don’t have, why not embrace the process and realize that Rome can’t be built in a day?

Where some may see the ruins of an ancient civilization, the Romans see beauty, strength and wisdom in the old. They embrace the dust, the rubble and the ruins and build their future on the shoulders of giants.

It’s time to plant seeds in the dirt of your past… and grow your future success from the soil of all the experiences that have brought you to this particular moment. It’s your time.

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Nicole Avatar

    Marisa, you are such a beautiful writer! I love how your words and phrases create pictures in my mind.

    This one, “. . . when all they needed was to spend a bit more time with the marble, chipping away at everything that doesn’t serve, and getting to the masterpiece that all of us have within us.” I get an immediate picture of Michelangelo chipping away at his David until it was perfect.

    Or this one, “It’s time to plant seeds in the dirt of your past… and grow your future success from the soil of all the experiences that have brought you to this particular moment.” I picture a hard-working farmer riding his tractor in the hot sun, preparing to sow seeds for his new crops.

    Every blog post you write is a poetic work of art!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks so much for noticing… 🙂 So glad you enjoy reading as much I enjoyed writing…

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