Episode 25 – Rob Twells – The Digital Maze

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Audio Transcript:

VO Guy: 

Hello. And thanks for coming along to, and we have an office doc, the digital agency podcast, where we talk to agency owner directors and learn more about what makes them tick. From the things that make them similar to the things they’d rather have known sooner. Where they’ve success and where they’ve learned some hard lessons. All will be revealed. With your host Chris Simmons, the agency coach. And he’ll be talking to a different awesome agency person in each episode, asking them four questions and seeing where the conversation takes us over the next 25 minutes. Okay, so let us begin. Over to you, Chris. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Thanks voice over guy. And today on the podcast, we got Rob. Rob from The Digital Maze. Nice to meet you, Rob. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Nice to meet you. Thank you for having me. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

No problem at all. First of all, tell us all about The Digital maze. You’re the co-founder, right? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, one of three. Effectively, The Digital Maze was born just about 18 months ago now. Effectively, it brought together three agencies in the Midland to form a group. One’s called Frogspark, one’s called Boom Online, and one is called Evolve. I co-founded Frogspark about 9, 10 years ago now with my business partner, Liam. Boom was founded by a chap called Ian Lockwood about 11 years ago. And Evolve goes back 18, 19 years now. And a merger/acquisition type situation brought together The Digital Maze, which started like I said, about 18 months ago. And yeah, all in the pandemic so far, so all fun and games. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

So, The Digital Maze is really a year and a half old, but it’s actually come from something which is significantly older? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, for sure. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Okay. And I can’t see a gray hair in sight for those who can’t see Rob, there’s no gray hairs there. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Wow! The camera must be blurry or something, I don’t know. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, could be. So as with every podcast, I’ve got four questions for you over the next 25 minutes and we’ll see where the conversation takes us. I think this will be quite interesting given the initial bit here around the M&A and the group building. So, I’ll kick off if you’re ready. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, for sure. Let’s go. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Wonderful. So, what do you feel has been one of your biggest successes over the years of running current agency plus up to then? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, I mean, I kind of split it in half, so one is pre Digital Maze when we were Frogspark at the time, myself and Liam. We started that business in 2012. And I think there’s not really a isolated thing that I could really highlight. But I think the thing that I always look back on that I’m particularly proud of is the fact that we grew year on year for the whole eight years. Eight years straight. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Awesome. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

And it wasn’t… We’re not talking 100% growth year on year or anything like that. It was quite steady 20% to 30% year on year. But to do that in such a sustainable way for us was really quite good. And I think the second thing post merger and acquisition, I think, again, there’s nothing I could really highlight. But the fact that this agency was starting in 2012 when actually we were at university managed to land us in a position where we are now. We’ve got this Digital Maze agency, we’ve got a team of around 50 people now, and- 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Quirky. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, to be in that position where we have got 50 odd people, overnight we went from 15 people as Frogspark. Joined The Digital Maze and overnight we had 40 people, now we’ve got 50. To be in that position is something I never thought. I never thought we’d reach that stage starting the agency. I thought, one of the things we never really have was a properly clear vision at Frogspark, which we have now as The Digital Maze. We’ve got a much better structure, a much better management structure and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, it’s crazy to think where we are now compared to where we were nine years ago, and it’s all going to stay fast as well. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Absolutely, I think it’s… I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but when I was running my previous agency, I found that time both went very fast and very slow. In that some weeks feel very, very, very slow, but then you look at it on aggregate and you think, Jesus, this three years just passed. And you’re trying to catch up on your own self. And I guess with the two stages of the agency career from your side of things, if you don’t go into it aiming to go through an M&A then that’s a nice bonus on top of the sustainable growth that you’ve had. Because you could have kept just doing that, I guess? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, absolutely. And I think not to lead this in a different direction, but the reason we wanted to do the group situation and be part of a bigger thing was purely because we were getting sustainable growth year on year, but we didn’t know where this was going to take us. And the offer to join the group and be part of this group landed on us to be honest. And we had a sit down and we thought we could carry on doing this for X amount of years, but for us it was a case of every time we added new people to the business, we were canceling out profit and all that stuff. The typical 10 to 20-person agency growth problems that you’ll seem to get. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

And the opportunity to grow overnight, albeit a smaller part of a bigger pie was nice for us. And we’re surrounded by lots of experienced people now and all that kind of stuff. And we did think about, okay, can we do this on our own? Can we grow Frogspark from where it was to this 50 to 100 person mega agency? But where we were in our lives, late 20s at the time when it happened about 18 months ago. Liam’s just started a family I’m getting married. Did we want to sell our souls to the devil to try and scale a business? And for what reason? And for us it was no, we weren’t prepared to put that time and energy in on our own, and put our [crosstalk 00:06:16] on the line to do that. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

So the opportunity to do it with an experienced group of people who have done it in the past… The guys we’re in business with now have done it with businesses in the past as well. So they’ve got lots of scaling, different companies and that kind of stuff. So to be surrounded by that and have that level of knowledge and experience injected into the business now is really good, really incredible. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

So, between yourself and the other directors of the business, how do things work in terms of decision making? Do you sit and have a board meeting on a monthly basis, or is everything broken down into departments? How does that work for you? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, it’s very departmental. So we’ve got a finance director, obviously looks after that finance side, the HR side, legal side, bits and pieces like that. We’ve got Liam who looks after the technical side of the business and the project delivery. And that obviously the designers, developers, all that stuff. We’ve got a chap called Wayne, he looks after the digital marketing areas of the business. That’s your SEO, your PPC. Me, I’m technically commercial director, so I look after new business, new opportunities, new service offerings and new customers, sales pitches, all that stuff. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

And in terms of decision making all the guys I’ve just mentioned there, we form the operating board. So we have a monthly meeting where we discuss different things, get on the same page, make sure we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, and we’re all striving toward the same thing. And then we have a shareholders meeting as well, once a month, where myself, Liam, two other shareholders, and a guy called Ian Lancaster who’s our majority shareholder. Not involved day to day, but we obviously we go on and give [crosstalk 00:07:48]. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Of course. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

… basis and any large decisions stuff that’s based on the vision, any large financial commitments, that stuff. That’s what we’ll discuss there. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Awesome. Quirky. So I mean, there’s a lot of day to day that goes on in a day in an agency? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

[inaudible 00:08:06] meetings, a lot of zooms. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, exactly. And I think one of the key things you alluded to earlier is with Frogspark, not having a vision per se, and now having one. I think having trusted people at the right level, doing the right job, as long as it all aligns to the vision, the decision making on a day to day basis should be technically, usually relatively simple. And then the board meetings and things they’re good to top up the headlines between each other and keep the wheels greased. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

The board meeting is often just a place to update each other. We all in a roundabout way stay in our own lanes. We have this cross departmental collaboration, of course. And there’s some decisions that are going to impact one another’s department or area, should we stay. But the guys we have in charge of each department, they’re there for a reason, they’re there because they’re the best person for that job, and they’re the best person to make the decision. So it’s all based on trust. We trust that whatever decision gets put in place, A, there’s always visibility at board meetings on that anyway. And B, it’s going to be the right decision because they’ve been doing it for so many years and that’s why they’re there. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Trust is a big, big factor. So, if you could go back to the founding date of Frogspark and talk to the younger, who was already young by the sounds of the beginnings at that point, and a more sprightly version of you, what advice would you give yourself? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah. I mean, we started Frogspark, like I said we were just finishing university. We were in our second year out of the four, actually. Early 20s, 21 I think it was when we started. No clue how to… I mean, we’d not had a proper job, to be honest, let alone starting a business in the past, so it was very, very wet behind the ears in terms of what we knew. But I think looking back over the last circa 10 years that I’ve been doing this. The advice I’d give myself is be braver with hiring decisions. Early days you’re getting busy, you start to employ your first set of staff, and you’re starting to build a team. We opted for… 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

And I think it’s not a problem. I don’t think this is a problem, but we opted to bring in younger people that we would train up, for example. And we would bring them through that career ladder, we’d would bring them through at Frogspark. But I think looking back, if we had invested a bit more money on a higher salary to bring in some more experience, I think we would’ve gone faster, quicker. And by hiring a group of young people, naturally myself and Liam who started Frogspark were probably most experienced, even though we were only early 20s ourselves. And therefore we were limited by our own ideas. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

It was only me and Liam who were commercially thinking about the different things we could do to grow this thing. But as soon as we did start hiring more senior people, layers of management and all that stuff. And as soon as we had those people in, we could have people who could sit at the table with me and Liam to share those ideas. And all of a sudden two ideas become four, become six, become eight, and you start to really get some momentum with the growth. So yeah, for sure, I think it would be, be a bit braver with hiring. It is difficult when you first start hiring, the idea of paying somebody a full-time salary is daunting. It’s a lot of money, especially when you’re a small business. But I think just pull the plug as early as possible, get somebody in who’s been there, done that and accept that they’re going to be better than you at certain things, and that’s the way it is. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

I mean, when you’re working in an agency for your own agency, ego is often the thing you need to get out of the way of. I remember the agency grew faster when I got out of my own way. And before that, again, similar to you hiring younger inexperienced people, which with the provision that you would train them, you get busy. You can’t necessarily train them all the time. They then get complacent, there’s problems, there’s churn, there’s all sorts of problems that come off the back of that. And especially then, if you don’t have like the full wisdom of running your own business, because of age or because of just general experience, it can all come tumbling down very quickly. It sounds like you got a handle on it just at the right time? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah, for sure. And don’t get me wrong, young people always, always think you should have young people in business. And in fact, some of the guys we employed as apprentices, for example, in some cases are still with us now as The Digital Maze. And we wouldn’t be where we are without those sorts of people. But having said that, it’s a lot to handle. A lot falls onto your shoulders because you don’t want to give a young person that level of responsibility where they’re going to feel stressed at work. You want them to focus on the work. You want them to focus on growing their own skill sets and all that stuff. So naturally you start to on more and more responsibility. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

But it’s not the right way to do it. You want to free yourself up as much as possible to be perfectly honest, to have that head space to think about more high level decisions and all that stuff. So, yeah, completely agree. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Cool. So, a bit of a departure from the typical third question I would normally ask about what do you regret? Because it sounds like there’s good things that have been going on. And along the M&A line, what is it that first of all, apart from the you want to grow but you’ve got all these live things going on, and this is one option and the other option. What was the real thing that sealed the deal? What was the lesson or the thing that got you to go, “You know what actually? This is the right route.” 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

I think it was the fact that we sat down when we were in this phase where we were talking about it, and considering all that stuff. I think it was so clear what we wanted to achieve with this group. We wanted to achieve a revenue of 10 million in the next five years. We feel like we’ve got a pretty good plan in order to get there. And all that kind of stuff. They were the things that we had question marks against at Frogspark, we didn’t really have… We never really went through that five year plan, what do we want to do when we’re 30 and all that stuff? And then when you do start to… You’re in the journey for five, six, sex years, you do start to go through the motion, and you start thinking what are we actually doing? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

I mean, granted yeah, we’re earning a good salary, all that stuff, good standard of living and all that stuff. But we’ve created something here and we don’t actually know where it’s going to land us. But with The Digital Maze and going through that process and knowing that we had people surrounding us that could help us get to that end point, and grow the business was really key for us. Having that support network I think was one of the key things. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

It’s invaluable, to be honest, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of… A lot of the things we’ve done over the last 18 months, I think, well, if I’d known that 18 months ago [inaudible 00:14:51] now, where could we have been? But you just don’t know what you don’t know, do you? 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

No. And this is somewhere along the lines of how a lot of digital agency owners think I’m in it on my own, and I don’t know how to solve this problem. Or I don’t even know it’s a problem. It’s that unknown unknown stage, and quite a lot of people have that. And that’s where agency masterminds, that’s where coaching and things like that can come in. But also from your perspective, I think it sounds like it was the right time for an M&A, but also the right lessons coming. Because I suspect maybe three, four, five years ago when you were running the agency, just the two of you, maybe some of those lessons might have just passed you by. Maybe you wouldn’t have even noticed them because you’ve got a million miles an hour and lots of things going on. Sometimes you just don’t see the lesson until it hits you in the face. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

No you don’t. And it was mid 20s when we were four, five years in. It was just a million miles an hour. I was that classic up all night, I was obsessed with work, and “hustling” and all that stuff, and you just see [inaudible 00:15:59], it’s just not cool. It’s not cool at all. Work life balance is cool. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah. Work work life balance is way cooler than sitting up all night hunching over your desk, emailing someone, asking whether they’ve seen your pitch deck. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

[crosstalk 00:16:11]. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

So in terms of the general, sort of the broad strokes of the process, how did things work for you? So you agreed with Liam that you were keen to do something like into a group. So what was the process there? What happened? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Well, we started having conversations with the guys that were involved. I think me and Liam, because we’re so close anyway and we’ve been best friends. We went to university, we went to school together. We go back 12, 13 years old. Typically, we tend to agree on stuff like that. But I think the process in terms of getting from point A to point B, which is Frogspark as it was to The Digital Maze, obviously there’s the legal process and all that stuff, but it was the pandemic. Doing a merger and an acquisition during a pandemic is very, very difficult. It’s difficult enough as it is, let alone doing it more [foreign language 00:17:06]. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

I mean, 18 months ago, going to the shops was difficult. So merging an entire business with another entire business must have been very hard. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Well yeah. Well, there was, in theory, there was three to be honest, and there’s three different sets of people there, three different cultures, three different sets of beliefs and values and all that stuff. So doing that via Zoom was very difficult. And obviously we couldn’t all meet up. Meeting face to face I imagine would’ve solved all the issues we had during that merger and acquisition process. But it’s gone really well. We’ve adapted really well to these remote working. And that’s going back to your first question about what you’re proud of. I think that is another thing the fact that we’ve had a really good first full year. I think we grew revenue by about 30% whilst merging the companies together and grow sales is something we’re really proud of. Yeah. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Absolutely amazing. Yeah. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

It wasn’t really a process in terms of getting from point A to point B. It was just taking it step by step. We went very, very slowly, it wasn’t… It wasn’t just kind of let’s put these things together. Let’s change everything. We more or less operated quite independently for the first three or four months anyway, because you don’t want to make too many changes too soon. It throws people off. It makes people feel uncomfortable, it makes people feel unsafe. So we tried to keep as much the same as possible for as long as possible, and slowly changing some processes. And any changes we did make, it was all for the good of trying to scale and trying to be more sophisticated. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

The three businesses were independent, smaller agencies. So naturally the processes were probably not built for scale in the way we would have liked. So it was just about introducing those slowly over time. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah. I mean, systems and operational processes are insanely important,.but like you say, when you’ve got three different businesses with different approaches, personalities, visions, there’s always a little bit of spice in these processes where you might do something ever so slightly differently. But have the exact same end result. And trying to work out the best way, doing that when someone’s been, I don’t know, in one of the agencies five years doing the same thing, and someone’s been doing it two years, the other way and the same results. You’ve got to somehow work out, to put all these pieces together. And so if anyone is listening at the minute, who’s looking to start their own agency in the future, or just starting out like their first couple of months in. They’ve started outside of the pandemic, thankfully, what one piece of advice would you give them? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

So starting an agency, what piece of advice? For me, I think it’ll be about being realistic. Being realistic about what it is you can do. I keep going back to it. But when we first started the agency, when myself and Liam were 21, 22, you naturally, you’re overly ambitious. You think you’re going to have 100 people in two years, and you think you’re going to be a millionaire. All this silly stuff you think when you first start an agency and things start to go well. And the minute it doesn’t, you start to beat yourself up and you start to feel bad about certain things. But if you look at it from a wide angle lens, actually things are going really well. You’re just not achieving what your unrealistic expectations were set out to be. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Yes. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

So for me, it’s just about set your sight on something sustainable, whether it’s quarterly, whether it’s yearly, or a five-year plan. For some people to grow 20% year on year is not that impressive. Some people want 100% year on year, but for us at the time that was fantastic. It was great. It allowed us to do all the things we wanted to do in our personal lives. It allows us to do what we wanted to do with the business, hire great people, all that stuff. So for me, it’d be about realistic. I mean, maybe you were very impressive and realistic to you is 200% year on year, but for us it wasn’t. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

I think no two agencies are the same. They’re never the same, they are… It’s ultimately a formula business. You put people in, you put process in, you put results out. But the way that they grow is usually dependent on lots of factors where they start, where they’re positioned in the market, whether they’re niched down. If you’re niched down, then maybe 200% year over year is great. But maybe it’s not. If you are, I say regional. I’m in London right now. But west Midlands, as you say. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

East Midlands, we are. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

East Midlands? 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Semi regional, starting out all for yourselves, in university, 20% year over year is astronomically good. If you were to do the exact same in London, it would probably be about 5% year over year because there’s about five billion versions of the exact same business all saying everything. And they often say, “And we have an office dog as well.” 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yes, [crosstalk 00:21:57]. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Because the chief morale officer or biscuit giver or whatever it is. But yeah, so no two agencies are the same in this sense, there’s just… So’s just the real benchmark is longevity. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yes. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

And again, no two goals are the same so you’ve got to… I always look at things like you start with the end in mind, whether it’s a strategy or whether it’s a personal plan. And if you think five years time the sign of success will be, I’ve exited the business at 35, 45, whatever it might be, and I’ve got enough money to live comfortably, but not extravagantly for the rest of my life. Cool. That’s the sign of success with the agency. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Or- 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

It’s one of those lines being realistic, like I just said there is key you know. I would say, going back to the advice thing you said, one thing that was probably my downfall and especially in the early years, was letting the business and how the business was performing be a reflection of my mood, if that makes sense. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

Yeah. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

[crosstalk 00:23:00] the business had about a week or a bad two weeks, a bad three weeks, I would just be in about mood for those three weeks. But as you get a bit older and as you got more of experience under your belt of running a business and having your agency, you can detach yourself from it a little bit. Whereas, you’re so involved, you’re so deeply in love with this new business you just started [crosstalk 00:23:21] the early days. That’s [crosstalk 00:23:23], don’t get me wrong, it is required to get off the ground, but it’s a dangerous place to be, I think. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

I mean, everything’s personal, but over time that personal it takes its toll. And you need to have a personal life as well. But yeah, all good points and thanks very much, Rob, for joining us on the podcast today. It’s been fantastic to hear about you, the journey of the agency to many agencies, and wish you all the best in the future. And thanks for coming along. 

𝗥𝗼𝗯 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝘀 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁): 

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. 

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁): 

And in our next podcast, we’ll have another different, awesome digital agency owner, and we’ll be going through the same four questions over the following 25 minutes. So, keep listening and enjoy. 

 

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