Ben Cash | [Top Agency Series] From Struggling Musician to Thriving Agency Owner
Smart Business Revolution

Ben Cash is the Founding Partner and CEO of Reason One, a full-service digital agency. Before going remote, they had offices in Toronto, Charleston, and Dublin. With over 20 years of experience in the web services industry, Ben brings a depth of knowledge and experience to the digital space that helps clients achieve measurable results. Over the years, he has developed a key set of proven strategies and methodologies that fuel Reason One’s success and have taken him across the country as a guest lecturer and consultant.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Ben Cash, the Founding Partner and CEO of Reason One, about his journey from being a musician to starting and running a thriving digital agency. They also talk about working with mission-driven companies, how Ben’s business was impacted by the 2008 financial crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, and his reasons for merging with another company in 2019. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Ben Cash’s passion for music and his transition to computer programming and digital marketing
  • The people that helped Ben learn about the digital industry — and how he turned it into a great business 
  • The 2008 economic crisis’ effects on Ben’s business
  • Ben explains how he parted ways with his business partner, what he learned from that, and why he decided to merge with another company
  • The challenges Ben faced after the merger and the things he would have done differently
  • Ben talks about rebranding his company in 2019 and shares an example of an undesirable client
  • How the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Ben’s business, the changes they made, and the new opportunities they got because of the pandemic
  • The peers Ben acknowledges for his achievements

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, host of this show. And you know, each week I get to talk to interesting founders, CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs from all kinds of companies. This is part of our top agency founder series and take a look at my archives because there’s some great interviews with founders and executives from YPO, EO, Netflix, Kinkos, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, and so many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help to connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And a quick shout out to Carl Smith of Bureau of Digital who introduced me to today’s guest, his name is Ben Cash. And Ben is the Founding Partner and CEO of Reason One, it’s a full service digital agency and this is a remote world that we’re living in now. But nevertheless, going into that remote world, they had offices in Toronto, Charleston and Dublin and we’re gonna get into his journey from being a musician to a full service digital agency owner for 20 plus years now. And first, before we get into that, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses connect with clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships through podcasts and content marketing. Ben, I know you’re a fan of content marketing, because it’s built into everything that we do in the digital world. And I am to you to talk to great people, interesting people like yourself, if you want to learn more about it, go to Alright, Ben, so you got this great story. I’m based in San Francisco you’re in Charleston now but you lived in San Francisco. You came to San Francisco not to pursue a digital degree to become a digital agency owner but rather to pursue music. What led you from that original passion into the world that you’re in now?

Ben Cash 2:31

Great question. And yeah, I want to shout out to Carl, how we connected Carl is the center of universe for all of us, right? Yeah. So where I got into it, which was a musician or recovering trombone player you know I haven’t played in a long time but those were the days yeah I went to the conservatory out there love San Francisco great great town but i you know i a you know nothing nothing prevents change like mediocre success and you know and I was doing okay for a while you know, I just hadn’t really broken through and do want to be a freelance musician the rest of my life and at a certain point I you know, started taking some electives actually doing a doctorate in computer programming

John Corcoran 3:19

And went from music to computer programming

Ben Cash 3:23

While I was getting DMM Dr. Musical Arts at LSU after my coming from Cisco and ended up taking some computer courses as electives you know just to fill the document where and I liked it, it was a really creative endeavor. I always chose music because I loved the creative outlet but computers and computer programming has its uses on your right brain a whole lot so I really got into it and enjoyed having some friends who started web design businesses and musicians as well. And just you know, there was before Google you know, we’d go to the go to Barnes and Noble those still exist get a book and bought books and just figured out how to how to do it and you know, bought the software and what I what I enjoyed about the about web design in relation to music was that the technique serves the creativity in music, you play your scales you do your arpeggios, you know you you build your technique, so that it’s not a barrier to communicating communicating something meaningful, you know, a great turn of phrase you know, little little motion or you know, something in the in the music that reaches people. And in digital it’s the same you know, you learn to code, you learn the software, you learn, learn the best practices, etc. But if you don’t have anything you need to convey or to say, or design wise that no one cares. No one cares what’s under the hood, how to function etc, but That was always my, the way that I learned was, I’d have a high standard for what I wanted it to look and feel like. And I would just figure all the technical crap out to get to that. And as you know, I had high standards . There was a lot to learn in there, basically to automate it.

John Corcoran 5:19

You know, it’s funny, I had a similar experience where I went onto my high school newspaper staff as a cartoonist and emerged as writer, editor, and eventually editor in chief of my high school newspaper. So I found that writing was a creative outlet for me. And similar to you. Like, I felt like I wasn’t a great cartoonist, there was another cartoonist who was there who was better than me. And I was like, I can, I can’t be as good as him. But I switched and found writing to be my creative outlet. So you’re in your, you’re getting this doctoral degree, and you start designing websites on the side? And at what point do you decide I’m going to make a go of this and drop out of my doctoral program,

Ben Cash 6:02

I started taking the program courses, I think maybe a year into it, I only was there for two years. I had a doctoral citizenship. I was, you know, I was making a small living doing this and could have been there for a while, but I just, it just clicked, just made sense. Like, originally, what I was intent was to go back out to San Francisco, had a lot of contacts out there. And, and was going to hopefully go back and freelance and do the computer thing to support my music habit, right, because the salaries there and make a lot better living than the, you know, the poor life I lead, Corbin happy life, other musicians. And so I ended up getting into it and ended up where I am, myself more passionately into that than I had music, I mean, music initially, and I put this in 1000 hours, and I was, you know, really into and passionate about it. But at the same time, when I got that, it taught me to have two master’s degrees. And over the course of the next few years, I slowly transitioned out of that and added several more points at which I had to just give up music completely, because I couldn’t maintain my standard of playing and those kinds of things. So I left it behind.

John Corcoran 7:23

Now, one of the hard things about that when you shift careers or shift businesses is family and friends and what they say, and I hear you devoted a lot of your life to music when you shifted over to this new nascent world of digital marketing. What was that? Like? What did your family and friends say when you made that shift?

Ben Cash 7:43

I was very supportive. I, you know, I no one, no one had any issues. I think I was lucky at the time, and like a lot of entrepreneurs, luck is that I had some free time. You know, I didn’t have any debt. I mostly paid for school scholarships and things. So I wasn’t, didn’t have to work. And I, you know, spent a year or two just sort of skating by on a little bit of income, which I’d learned to do as a musician, and use that time to just build skills and build clientele. So it wasn’t this sort of like, abrupt thing, even for a number of years. While I was starting the business, I would still be teaching at a music festival up in Maine, every summer for about maybe six summers. And I was still doing that in the summers. And so I had to maintain my chops a little bit. But at a certain point it was just too difficult to maintain. And so I closed that book and how the musicians I was playing with time were probably thankful that I gave it up because I just, you know, like I said, you can’t have two masters. 

John Corcoran 8:49

You can’t really yeah. Now you mentioned when you were learning the new industry, you went to Barnes and Noble and picked out a book because there wasn’t Google back then. You also had some friends who had started web development agencies. Was there anyone else that you had that you could turn to mentors or community that helped you to learn this new industry?