Reload Media is one of Australia's leading digital marketing agencies. They tell us about their journey of starting and growing Reload Media into what it is today and give their top tips on how to build a successful digital marketing business.
Tell us about your business?
Reload Media is one of Australia's leading digital marketing agencies. We have 55 staff in 4 countries with more than 500 clients and have grown at over 100% year on year for the past 4 years.
Reload Media offers SEO, PPC and Social Media strategy, programs and management and have corporate and SME clients such as Subway, NextByte, Price Attack and National Storage.
We are a Google, Facebook and Yahoo! partner and recently spoke with Google in Australia, NZ and the UK at their Google Engage events.
Our award-winning team are all young digital experts, with the average age being 24.7 years and having a great corporate culture is the key pillar of our dynamic agency.
The success of Reload Media saw me being awarded the Brisbane Lord Mayor's Young Business Person of the year for 2012.
Why did you start up your business?
From 1999 to 2006, I set up and co-foundered Queensland’s leading web design agency Alfresco Design. With great staff and 300 clients throughout Australia and overseas, this business was then sold to an ASX led consortium (STW Group/Next Digital).
In selling to an ASX consortium, I had a few years to sit out doing anything digital.
So I set up Reload Consulting in 2006 and did business consulting. In May 2008, I then foundered Reload Media.
I set up the business as I saw a gap in the Queensland and Australian markets to deliver quality digital marketing solutions, mainly around SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC. Until this time, it was a bit of a cottage industry and no one company had really grabbed the opportunity to treat it as a professional business.
What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting your business?
There weren't too many hurdles when I started Reload Media, as I had done my learning with Alfresco Design of the 7 years of running the business.
However, like any business, cash flow is king and I needed to get processes in place early on so that we wouldn't have any issues with cash at hand or collecting monies of clients.
We now have the whole organisation geared towards collecting cash and this has allowed us to expand internationally on the back of these profits.
What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting their own business?
Apart from watching cash flow like a hawk, I recommend anyone looking at a new business venture do a few of these tips:
1. Set up on the cheap. Use low-cost company registration services like Incorporater.com.au, although talk to an Accountant for structural advice. Cheap websites and domain names are easy to find too.
2. Use free and cost-effective digital marketing tactics such as social media. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are good starting resources and grab your company's name on these to secure them.
3. Use a home office to save on rent for the first few months/years. And drive a cheaper car for a while!
4. Build up a partner network of people that will be happy to refer you leads and pay them a commission. Pop it into a document so each party knows the relationship.
5. Develop business processes in a quality management framework early and before you expand.
What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business?
For the past 15 years, I have run my own businesses so setting up Reload Media was a pretty simple process as I wanted to keep my hand in digital marketing.
I also enjoy running my own business and seeing innovation and plans come to life, both here in Australia and overseas.
How did your family and friends react?
They all assumed I would start another one after the sale of Alfresco Design. So not many surprised faces when I told them what I was up to.
I did promise my wife that I wouldn't do web design anymore, and this has turned out correct as we partner with great web designers to drive traffic to their client's websites.
How has your life changed?
Having my own business has allowed me to spend more time with my two kids and my wife. I encourage a life/work balance in our business and this means I can have more time out of the office.
Funnily enough, the more time you spend out of the office, the clearer your head is to think of new business strategies and work through any niggling issues.
What is the vision for your business going forward?
Personal – My primary future personal goal is to grow my leadership and knowledge base further and to instil this into my staff and other stakeholders. I am keen to retain a great life/work balance and continue to spend plenty of time with my young family. I want to retain my positive outlook on life and I also intend on playing more golf.
Business – My business goals in the next 24 months are to create more efficiency within my business. I am keen to look at an increase in profit, rather than a large increase in revenue growth. I feel my global team is culturally spot on at the moment and therefore want to increase their management and leadership opportunities and experiences. I plan to identify some new and emerging digital marketing technologies and leverage these for increased productivity throughout my businesses. I am also looking at new markets in Asia and the US too.
What tips can you give other SavvySMEs about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your start-up?
Patience and trust are the two key pillars here.
Starting and growing a business takes time and it won't happen overnight, no matter what anyone tells you. To get through the times where you want to chuck it all in, make sure you review why you are doing the business, the overall goal you want from it and the fact that problems normally work themselves out. Plus there is always tomorrow.
I place a huge amount of trust in all my staff to manage and operate the business. This allows a great life/work balance to be had. We hire the very best staff for each role and our leadership team are empowered to take ownership of the entire business and look for constant innovation opportunities to offer value between our different divisions.
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