Llew Jury, 39, is from Brisbane, Australia. He started his advertising and marketing business, Reload Media, in 2008. Reload Media is an award-winning digital marketing agency that placed 34th in BRW’s Fast100 in 2013 and has 65 staff in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Manila. Their services include SEO and content marketing, pay per click and performance based search advertising, social media marketing, and digital strategy.
Starting the Business
Q: Where did the idea for your business come from? Where were you in your life and career?
A: In 2006, I had just sold my web design agency Alfresco to a joint venture between Next Digital and STW Group (founded by John Singleton) and I had a few years of consulting and time with my family to think about the next digital industries that would take off.
In 2008, I saw a gap in the market in SEO and PPC, in that it was still predominately a cottage industry and there weren’t too many good-quality corporate players in the Australian space.
So I set up Reload Media with the help of my now-business partner Craig Somerville under my house in Brisbane. And away we went with 100% year-on-year growth for the first 4 years.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting out?
A: There weren’t too many challenges initially as I had come from 7 years of running a business at Alfresco. This saw my brother (co-founder) and I in 1999 go from one PC (that sat on a milk crate) through to Queensland’s leading web development agency with 25 staff in 2006.
So I had practiced how to run a business and had endured the pitfalls along the way. I took this knowledge into Reload Media so there weren’t too many initial shocks in the first few years.
Once Reload Media got started, the biggest problem was actually keeping up with the growth especially around the hiring of staff and having the office space to accommodate them. A few years ago, in one 4 month period alone, we had added 8 staff and we moved offices a few times during these years to allow for this growth.
Q: What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started the business?
A: It stems from my previous business Alfresco, in that we didn’t have a large management team that could assist in the daily operations of the business. We were probably too involved in the daily operations of the business to have time to work on the big picture. So my brother and I worked longer hours than I do now at Reload Media.
Early on at Reload Media I implemented a management structure and ISO QA business processes to support them and their teams.
We hired some exceptional managers that have been a huge part of freeing my time up to grow Reload Media’s strategy, reputation and brand, rather than getting distracted in daily operations and technical areas of the business.
Q: What would you consider your first big success in the business?
A: The first major success was finding a 19-year-old student called Craig Somerville. He started part time in the early days of Reload Media.
Today, Craig is the only other Director of the Reload Business Group Pty Ltd that has seven different international entities (the owner of Reload Media) and came into the business when it was still under my house.
Craig has been instrumental in the Australian and International growth of the Reload Media business and brand. At 25 yrs he’s already received an MBA from UQ Business School, is the Chairman of the AIM Advisory Board and is overseeing the great growth of the UK brand.
(Editor’s Note: I LOVE this answer – appreciating your staff is the key to having a great company.)
Q: What is the toughest thing about getting to the top / staying on top in your industry specifically?
A: There are many small and large sized competitors joining the growing wave of digital marketing agencies here in Australia, some with large funds and international backing. Although these don’t pose an issue for us as we have a great brand, corporate culture and client mix, we still need to continue to innovate and grow the brand both here and overseas.
Our key point of difference is that Reload Media is 100% customer service focused, a technology/business leader, and a great place to do business. This requires marketing, branding and social media engagement on a daily basis.
Q: Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5 years?
A: There is a shake out going on in the SEO and PPC space, in terms of companies not making any profits and going under. This is partly due to poor leadership and their internal processes, cash flow recovery issues and the constant changes to search engines ranking factors.
We’ve been approached 3 times in the past few months to take over distressed competitors or join in on mergers with companies that haven’t innovated with the new way of doing SEO or digital marketing.
These poor performers are getting into the press for the wrong reasons and we’re in a great position to continue to grow the Reload Media business and brand in national and international markets.
Q: What do you plan on doing / changing in order to keep growing in this time period?
A: As a team we are constantly working with the clients and staff to highlight the trends and changes that the next 2-5 years will bring to our industry.
Our management team has regular strategy sessions that map out the next tactical areas that Reload Media will need to embrace. And we also have our “Batman Project” that is like an R&D innovation area within the business.
Focused around B2B and internal projects that create value, the big transformation initiative at the moment is the 4th version of our cloud-based CRM tool called REMAPS.
This will significantly reduce staff time on many processes and improve various parts of the business up to 30% in some key areas.
Q: What does ultimate success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
A: Success to me is the amount of time I spend with family.
This is because when you have a management team sharing the load and pressures of the business operations, you can spend quality time with the people that need you most. I have an eight- and six-year-old and you don’t have many years to be part of their growth and development, so you have to make it count.
After this, everything else can come such as business success, personal branding and reputation… and at the bottom – money.
Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs in the near future?
A: The biggest challenge Australian entrepreneurs face is staffing pressures in terms of a qualified and quality workforce that sticks around.
Many younger people are looking for instant challenges and rewards, so it’s different to 10 years ago when the majority of people were staying in roles longer and looking for a career. It’s no longer about “doing your time in one industry”, and is now more about crossing over to other career choices to further their progression. As an entrepreneur you need to be vigilant of this.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in your industry and wanting to make it to the top?
A: I have many pieces of advice, including “cash flow and getting paid by clients is king”.
But the best one for me is “to employ great managers to share the load, always give exceptional customer service to every client, and hire people that are passionate and technically better than you.”