Posted: Mon 28th Mar 2022
Enterprise Nation has partnered with Dell Technologies on the UK Top Towns for Business competition. The aim is to celebrate local businesses and the towns that allow entrepreneurial spirit to flourish.
As part of that drive, we like to showcase businesses and business owners we find interesting and inspiring. Here, we speak to Emma Goode, managing director of digital marketing agency 24fingers, about her company, the challenges she's faced, and how she and her team make use of technology.
Can you give us a quick introduction to your business and how it started?
My business is called 24fingers, and we're a digital marketing agency based in Essex. We work with people across the UK and around the world.
I love helping small business owners navigate their way through digital marketing. It can be a complex landscape, and people spend a lot of money, time and effort on it. My job is to take the jargon out of it and help businesses get better results.
I'd been in print marketing for 25 years, but I was learning online marketing and social media myself out of work. When I was made redundant in 2014, I thought it's now or never in terms of setting up on my own, so I just did it. I'd been in marketing a long time, so there were clients I could take with me from my previous role.
Did you find that move into business ownership easy or challenging?
So challenging! I was used to doing the job that I'd done for 25 years – I could do that in my sleep. But to do something in a new industry and by myself, yes, it was really, really challenging. And I didn't have a mentor back then. I was alone, and of course I made so many mistakes.
I had really great personal support, but I didn't have that network of professionals and professional bodies around me. Being a founder by yourself is challenging, so my advice is to get the right team around you from the start.
Were there places you went to for support in those early days?
No. I just suffered in silence and spoke to friends. And I made so many mistakes. It's funny: I have a second business with another Enterprise Nation Local Leader, and if I'd have had her at the beginning of this business, things would have been completely different!
My son has started his own business and he has me as his mentor. He can turn around and ask me anything. I think everyone needs somebody they can do that with, to get that important, impartial advice.
A lot of early businesses fail quite quickly. How long did it take for you to realise your business was going to be successful?
There wasn't one second that I thought I'd fail. It just didn't cross my mind. I couldn't have failed – I had bills to pay. But I was in the fortunate position that I started the business with clients. I moved clients across from the business that I was made redundant from, so I began with a good foundation.
But I never for one minute thought I'd fail. I'm a very tenacious person. A single parent too, so there simply wasn't any other option. In my case, the business wasn't like a comfort blanket. I had to succeed.
What's a typical working day like? Do you have one?
It's quite standard. I'm an early riser, so the things I need to focus on I tend to do in the morning. I have a lot of online meetings with clients and I do quite a few webinars. I do a lot of training as well.
I tend to communicate with the team via WhatsApp. They're in different countries – we've actually never all met in person. We have people in England, Europe and Asia. So that works quite well in terms of covering a full working day.
I've worked at home for years. I did have an office, but I gave it up when my dad got ill. From that point, I've been home-based, so the switch to remote working during COVID hasn't really affected me or the team.
So during the pandemic, it was business as usual?
From an operations point of view, 100%. But what we found is that certain clients – like those in the leisure industry – went overnight. But then other clients we'd been speaking to who hadn't quite come on board yet were suddenly ready, because they knew they needed to do stuff around digital marketing.
And then we did things like every Monday, putting on free sessions for the local business community. Helping them learn the skills they needed to get them through lockdown – how to promote yourself on social media, that kind of thing.
Moving on to technology, obviously it's crucial to your industry and the whole field of digital marketing. Can you talk through what tech you use and how it benefits your business?
All the team work on laptops, and mine is a Dell Latitude laptop. I chose it because I knew it'd be very easy to set up. It has everything I need, and it doesn't break. It's had some heavy-duty use and it's still surviving.
The team communicate via Zoom and WhatsApp and then we have a centralised project management system. All tasks are loaded onto that and assigned to people and then as they complete, the team get notified.
I've always been quite savvy, tech-wise. I can get around. You have to be quite analytical, and I think I have that type of brain.
Is there any technology that would make your life easier that you're perhaps not using at the moment but might do in the future?
I'm on a bit of a mission for automation, so that's my new baby. It's my focus for Q2 and Q3 of this year. I'm looking to automate everything – all our processes. I'm really excited about that.
I've already started implementing it. So, to give a simple example, if someone leaves us a review, that gets emailed to the team automatically. Then the relevant member of the team knows to go in and reply. So that's all automated - we don't have to touch that.
I'm also looking to use more AI, for things like content writing and designing. We're already using elements of it but it will be good to expand.
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