PEARL LEMON INTERVIEWS:
Ben founded cascade web//development in 2001 following three years leading another web design start-up, Mt. Hood Software. In 2010, Ben co-founded a live video platform company, brandlive, built upon Cascade’s evergreen platform. Brandlive was incubated within Cascade for several years before being spun out in the fall of 2012 to take the funded startup path. Ben has served on various non-profit boards. He currently sits on the board of the Street Trust. Ben’s passion for the outdoors includes coaching a big mountain ski team for the Meadows Race Team and serving as a mountain athlete ambassador for Marmot and the Mountain Shop.
A Fireside Chat
I had the opportunity to have an amazing conversation with Ben McKinley at Cascade Web Dev today. From talking about SEO for Web Development sites, Ben agreed to a quick interview.
He took the time to talk to me and answer some questions so I could get to know him better and hear more about the things that have helped shape his business success to date – let’s get stuck into it!
What Is The Book (Or Books) You’ve Given Most As A Gift, And Why?
The Book of Joy by Douglas Abrams. This is a fascinating book where these two religious icons (Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu) from vastly different faiths share notes on life and agree that they have much more in common than their religions might suggest. Society as a whole could learn a lot from this book as we seek to find common ground and build off our collective strengths.
What Purchase Of $100 Or Less Has Most Positively Impacted Your Life In The Last Six Months?
Gaia GPS Navigation App for my smartphone ($40/yr). It’s a powerful navigation app that has helped keep me on track during a wide variety of outdoor adventures. I use this in conjunction with Caltopo.com to plan and execute adventures year-round. Gaia makes it extremely difficult to get off track even in areas lacking cellphone service.
When You Feel Overwhelmed Or Unfocused, Or Have Lost Your Focus Temporarily, What Do You Do?
I take a break. I might scroll through Instagram, go say hello to my family (Pandemic silver lining), go for a run or meditate for a bit. Physical activity is the best tool for regaining focus, I’ve found. Often times, I will solve the problem while exercising.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I often hear people recommend tools and services that are siloed and don’t integrate well with other technology. These types of widget solutions might solve small, short term pain, but they rarely scale and integrate with other tools being used. This creates a new problem that is a challenge to solve. I encourage people to think more broadly about needs.
Be authentic. Different is good.
- Ben McKinley
What Is One Of The Best Or Most Worthwhile Investments You’ve Ever Made?
I coach a big mountain and backcountry ski team at our local resort, Mt. Hood Meadows. I’m coaching my 25th season and building a unique program that has attracted a lot of positive attention from athletes, families, brands and coaches. While coaching will not support my family’s lifestyle, it’s deeply rewarding to support the ski community by creating a team that I only dreamed of as a young skier. We focus on a wide range of skill development and respect for the wild outdoor environments. It’s my hope that I can contribute to a generation of outdoor enthusiasts that respect it in its natural state and are motivated to help balance our need for natural resources with that of healthy ecosystems. It’s surprising how much good comes back from what feels very natural to me. If only all success came so effortlessly.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Bigger is not better. While 2020 was full of challenges, we managed to have our most profitable year in our 19 yr history. We also had fewer people than we’ve had in a decade. While we applied a lot of learning from all those years in business, I also worked more closely with my team and our clients. I was able to help identify inefficiencies and better support client needs. I feel like I was more empathetic to the challenges experienced by my team and our clients. While this required a bit more of my time, this approach built trust with both groups, and we found new levels of fulfillment and success.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
‘Life is short. Work hard for the future, but enjoy the steps along the way.’ I try to balance living in the moment while providing for the future. I believe that all we have is the moment we’re living in, and there is no guarantee we’ll be around to enjoy some lofty future goal. That said, I do want to take care of my family, so remain goal-oriented and delay plenty of gratification along the way.
What careers advice would you give to your 21-year old self?
Be authentic. Different is good.
Tell Us About Your Business. What Does It Do And What Value Do You Add?
Cascade Web Development is a B Corp that helps organizations leverage web-based solutions to crush their goals and delight their customers. We provide strategy, design, development, hosting and support services to our clients. We work with a wide range of industries but focus on mission-driven organizations that value long term partnerships.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Post pandemic, I’d like to create adventure tourism opportunities for c-suite executives that expose them to rigors and beauty of the outdoors. I’d want these trips to be close to home to share the pearls that exist within a couple of hours to help them find new meaning while also not relying on airplanes and exotic destinations to validate their trip as worthy. The other side benefit is having a smaller carbon footprint in pursuit of our selfish goals.
Where do you see your industry in the next 5 years?
I see organizations relying more upon web tools to do business internally, with customers and on a personal level. It will be increasingly difficult to separate from the digital realm. Hopefully, my teaching efforts in the outdoors will help combat this challenge.
What is a 'hack' you have for success that most people don't know about?
I blur the lines between my personal and professional life. At the end of the day, my reputation is all I have. I certainly have flaws, but do my best to present myself in a way that serves others regardless of the hat I am wearing. This focus on integrity has helped me make decisions that result in building trust.
What one song can you listen to every day non-stop?
Live Like a Warrior – Matisyahu
How has Covid-19 changed your company?
We all work remote now. That allows us to consider talent from further afield and reduces precious time spent commuting. There are also new distractions with the lack of separation between personal and professional realms.
What's your favourite holiday destination?
A mountain covered in deep, dry, stable snow.
What one thing in life do you consider to be overrated?
luxury automobiles. They are expensive depreciating assets that lose their luster with each mile driven.
What are you NOT Very Good at?
Details and cleaning. Fortunately my wife is an all star in these areas.
What's your star sign?
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Breakfast burrito but I usually avoid eating till lunch.
Check Out Ben's Company Profiles:
Pearl Lemon are an SEO, PPC, PR, and B2B lead-generation agency. We are based in London but service clients around the world.
We have taken the time to interview entrepreneurs and experts (like Ben) in this new series.