For as long as I can remember I was destined to do something in business. From an early age I used to copy my dad (a businessman) by using one of his old briefcases to carry my things around. As I grew older he used to refer to me as his personal assistant since I was always taking telephone messages for him from his colleagues when they called the house.
Despite having very good GCSEs and A level results, I knew university was not for me, to the consternation of my teachers although funnily enough not my parents! I was hungry to get out to work and start my “business apprenticeship”. Not a formal one but a succession of jobs that gave me the grounding in customer relations and management. The last of these positions provided me the inspiration to start my own business.
So what was this inspirational job?
It was an account manager for a digital agency that built and managed websites and the on-going digital marketing for these sites. I’d had account manager jobs before, but working exclusively in the digital world was like switching all the lights on. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised about this, my dad had worked in IT for 40 years! The more I researched and learnt about digital marketing the more excited I became by this vibrant and still emerging sector.
So in February 2011 at age 24 I took the plunge head-first into the unknown, handing in my notice and quitting a very well paid job. With just a £3k initial loan from my parents and working from the spare bedroom of my flat, Reflect Digital Limited was born.
Reflect Digital is the realisation of my dream to run a digital agency that cares passionately for its clients. We have “set our stall out” to play the long game; we want our clients to remain our clients this month, next month, next year and forever! We really want to be viewed as our client’s own digital marketing department showing them real ROI throughout the life of their website/marketing campaign. Understanding a client’s business is fundamental to getting results from their digital presence.
The one thing I believe you must have above everything else when starting a new business is passion! Bags of it! You are going to be living your work morning, noon and night, without that passion you will soon start to tire of the fight to get established. Also that passion is what is going to make you stand out and to be listened to by your new prospective clients.
How did I get my first clients for Reflect Digital?
My very first client was a City of London Law firm specialising in the technology sector, as I researched and learnt about this particular area of business I was able to appeal successfully to other law firms. This has led to us becoming quite a prominent name in offering digital marketing expertise to the legal profession in general. Technology companies were our second target sector and as the company grew and I had sales staff I encouraged them to pursue business sectors they were passionate about. This led us to winning Tottenham Hotspur Football Club as a client!
At first all of our development work, building websites, was contracted out to a third party company, which was the only option if I wanted to offer this service, since I can only dabble with a bit of HTML, I’m no expert! Bringing development in-house, which we started to do in 2013, has been a real challenge. In fact finding the right staff in general is one of the most difficult tasks you will face as you build your business.
Look after your employees…
Your employees will make the real difference with regard to how successful your business will be, running a business is a team event and you will need to know you have a solid core within that team. I have tried to make working for Reflect Digital special, I care about my staff and provide the best benefits that the company can offer whilst providing them the opportunity to develop their skill set and always encouraging further learning. We organise company days where we share thoughts about the direction of the company and have some downtime fun. My best recruit so far has been persuading my fiancé to join me as a director of the business. Paul’s skill set compliments mine and together we are the driving force.
Funding for a new business is never easy we found the traditional high street banks to be very unhelpful, fortunately for me my parents were able to extend a business loan when we needed to expand, this has helped tremendously with cash flow, something you will need to keep a very close eye on as your business moves forward. You can be amazingly successful but due to slow payment from your clients you can find yourself in difficulty when salaries need to be paid!
Having been a managing director of a successful technology company my dad has been a great source of advice and a sounding board for problems and ideas. I would encourage any new business owner to try to find a mentor that you can talk to. Having someone who has had experience of growing a small company to talk to is a real benefit in many ways.
Business Achievements, so far…
2015 to date has been an amazing year for Reflect Digital, in March this year I was named as runner up for the Kent Women in Business Awards, Business Woman of the Year – which was a fantastic personal achievement, which I could not have done without the incredible team around me. Then in June we won a Drum Search Award for Best B2B SEO Campaign for our client Egress – which was amazing, as we were up against some of the biggest agencies in the country. June also ended on a high by being awarded Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Kent Excellence in Business Awards – which was hugely unexpected against some really talented entrepreneurs.
It’s been four years since I started Reflect Digital and I’ve been amazed at the success we have had, we have literally gone from zero turnover to over half a million and from one person to a staff of 23. Now the fun really begins, we plan to organically grow the business to a turnover of £5 million in the next five years. This is going to be a very interesting journey.
“Take time to ensure your recruitment process is designed to know as much about your new prospective employee before you extend the offer to join the team. You are going to need people who want the opportunity to do something more than just come to work. These people will be the building blocks of your company and together you will achieve great things.”