I studied Law at university and after graduating I went on to become a commercial property solicitor for 2 years. I started at the peak of the market and then the recession hit so I decided to retrain in another industry. I got a junior SEO role at an agency in the city centre that had a number of legal clients. It allowed me to utilise my knowledge, but at the same time I also gained an interest and passion for the digital marketing industry. I left after 8 months, set up freelancing from my dining room table and, after a lot of hard work, I reached capacity. My business partner, Alex, left his SEO job for a large second hand car company and we opened up our business. We went from a windowless room in Spinningfields to hiring our 8th member in two and a half years.
What is FireCask?
FireCask is a digital marketing and web development agency. We specialise in content creation, ideation, social media management, WordPress design and development and all aspects of SEO. The company has grown steadily and continues to do so. FireCask has clients ranging from medium sized accountants to internationally known companies such as Expedia and 123-Reg.
What’s FireCask’s proudest achievement?
One of our proudest achievements was receiving the Highly Commended Small Agency in the Northern Marketing Awards.
I personally mentor a number of young people and hearing them talk passionately about FireCask and how we have helped them develop their skills online as well as in business is very rewarding.
Being a small and relatively new agency, gaining clients such as Expedia and other household names, has been a great achievement for us.
What do you see as the pitfalls when running a growing and dynamic enterprise?
In terms of the digital marketing industry, it is forever changing, which can be challenging. We adopt ethical practices and so our clients have never been hit by penalties. However you never really know which way the industry is going to go. Competing with larger agencies is also a challenge as some companies will only consider a “household name”.
Creativity seems like a big part of your value proposition. How do you keep a creative workforce engaged and happy?
The FireCask team is amazing; we would be nothing without them. It’s a talented bunch. It’s easy to discuss a client’s campaign because the ideas seem to flow naturally.
We don’t have formal meetings; we keep everything pretty casual, which works for us as a company and it gets the best results from our employees. We are like a little dysfunctional family and our creative sessions are fun but achieve results.
At the heart of most progressive growth plans is talent, making it the new premium in business. How important is talent for you and how do you go about attracting talent to work for you?
Talent is extremely important to running any successful business and our team have done such great work that it has helped us to grow. We offer a great working environment and believe in rewarding our staff with company lunches, giving them their birthday off as an extra holiday day and, of course, lots of drinks after work. We took the team away to the Lake District overnight for our Christmas party and we like to help them with their personal and professional development. For example, one team member started off purely as a content writer but wanted to learn more about technical SEO, so we did everything in our power to make this happen and he is now an account manager. Alex and I hire people not just their experience but more importantly their work ethic and personality. We have employed people (where suitable) with no experience and they have now become valued and irreplaceable members of the team.
How important is a digital strategy and digital awareness for businesses?
A digital strategy and awareness is extremely important for a business, but I bet you knew I would say that! I think in a time where some companies are recovering from the recession, an online presence can sometimes be more effective than print or other forms of advertisement. This is not a blanket rule for all industries. However in an era where people use their phones and mobile devices to search for various things, from solicitors to restaurants, and games to professional services, having a digital presence is important.
I see you are a passionate mentor for university students. Can you elaborate on the reasons why?
I mentor a number of young people from college to university students and it one of my great passions. Other than looking up to my dad who started a successful law firm at 23 and asking him for advice, there weren’t really any structured mentor programmes in place when I was in school or university. I started by becoming part of the MMU Agency Life programme where students on digital marketing courses came into the office to learn more once a week. I then decided I wanted to grow this side of things for myself and took on students from Trafford and Leeds College and others that I had been recommended to. It goes hand in hand with the free consultancy I do for a number of charities. I believe it is important to help build these young people’s confidence and help them with any potential business ideas they have, guide them into deciding what they want to do professionally, helping with CV and interview skills and so on.
Creativity mixed with entrepreneurship makes for a freewheeling experience. Do you find it challenging to implement HR activities when you are busy chasing business?
It hasn’t been a problem to date and I don’t know if that is due to our size or if we are just really organised (haha!). I have always had a keen interest in business and the processes that go with it.
What makes you optimistic?
Seeing how FireCask has grown – and continues to do so – makes me optimistic. In the beginning, we were constantly out selling and chasing business, yet now, due to the quality of work we do and our reputation, a lot of our business comes to us. We don’t have a sales team as we believe we are the best people to sell our services and brand. As such, seeing clients coming to us makes me optimistic for FireCask’s future. Hearing that our team are happy and actually enjoy coming to work (well, that is what they tell us!) makes me optimistic that we can continue to grow the team and company and I believe that 2015 is our year to shine!