One thing Undercover Boss has right is that you need to stay in touch with base.
Lose sight of what goes on in the trenches and your business will deteriorate as you're increasingly keeping yourself busy with abstract business-only type work.
One way to avoid that from happening in SEO or search marketing is by setting up your own empathy site.
An empathy site allows you to experience what your clients go through when they want to rank now in order to earn money today. It helps you stay in touch with what your employees are doing for SEO today " not back in the day when you entered the game.
And if you're no an SEO but do something in marketing, social media, community, copywriting or what not, running an empathy site helps you better understand what goes on at that other agency or at the other end of the telephone line.
Nothing is more illuminating than experiences first hand the wins and frustrations your customers or employees may experience.
BUT I ALREADY HAVE MY OWN SITE(S)!
Many SEO's already have one or more own sites. Some have gone into SEO because they learned they're so good at this by working on their own sites.
Still, setting up a new empathy site will be different.
Pre-existing sites often sit on aged domains, have aged links. They predate certain algo changes that impact differently when they hit a site just out vs one that was already there for a while.
Or maybe you've made a name for yourself and what was once an obscure blog is now a well-known blog.
SETTING UP YOUR EMPATHY SITES
Depending on your clients you might go with two empathy sites.
With either empathy site, try to not touch your common tools; don't fall back on existing link networks or link relations. Work on the sites for a while the way an entrepreneur might; trying to gain attention here, get traction there
With this site, almost everything you do will have observable results in the search engines but you'll learn that ranking for an obscure term doesn't equal traffic.
It will give you a new understanding of the hardship certain very specialized businesses go through.
It will teach you to think off the downtrodden path of existing popular queries because there is no query space for the product to speak of. That in turn will help think about how products and services are launched; how they claim their fame, how they stake their space; how they go from generic words to branded terms, from unknown need to searches around that need.
Build another in as large a market as possible: the more sites the better.
Virtually nothing you do to this site will seem to have any effect at all for a long time, if you can observe your site within the first 1000 results even, that is. You'll come to recognize how futile it can all feel. You'll see how certain efforts are hardly visible to your clients at first; not in ranking, traffic or money in hand.
Both sites will make you a better business person as you'll understand the needs and fears of your clients — and are able to address them proactively.
My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.