Rory's Rants

It’s the end of the decade and it seems everyone is looking back. Last night I got my Spotify year review and was interested to see the change in my music tastes over the decade (if you want to know, it used to be pure indie, and now is incredibly eclectic with a heavy lean towards hip hop) and I had a great time reviewing everything. 

So not one to buck a trend, I thought this would be a great opportunity to look back at the past year and share with you some highs and lows from Ground Up Digital’s journey so far. 

Tough Start 

I started Ground Up in March 2019, and at the time I had hopes of growing quickly and becoming successful almost immediately. We were new, hungry for success both in our social mission and financially, and very soon the reality of business admin kicked in and meant that we had to temper our ambition slightly. 

The start was also compounded by my first hire, who was a genuinely lovely guy and inspired my hip-hop musical pathway, but unfortunately things did not work out as well as I’d hoped and he ended up leaving the company after a few months. There are no hard feelings here from me because in these first three months I learnt so much. This time helped shape the company you see before you today, and it was him who came up with the name. Most importantly he was the very first Ground Up employee and will forever be in the history books of this company. 

Video and social media 

The launch of our ‘about us’ video was a huge moment. For me it was the proof of concept I’d been looking for. Until then I’d just been telling people what I was doing and they were, on the whole, very positive but what people say and think can sometimes be very different things. When we released the about us video, things really changed. People from all over were suddenly reaching out to us to chat. The Yorkshire Post covered us as did The Drum. Suddenly it felt that we’d gone viral. Even personally, people I’d not spoken to in years were reaching out to tell me how much they loved what I was doing. I don’t remember being unsure about the business before then, but if I ever was, as soon as we launched that video, I wasn’t any more. 

From then we made a decision to keep people informed and not let our social presence slide, and it certainly has had an impact as people are still reaching out to me. Lesson here is social media is a powerful tool… Who knew?

Networking is simply put… Crucial 

At the start of this journey, I knew I wanted to do more networking, so I set myself a challenge to try and have a meeting with at least one influential business leader each week and see where the opportunities led. I didn’t expect anything but hoped to learn a nugget of information that would help me grow the company from each person I met. I didn’t know at the time, but this would be an incredibly effective tactic. I was shocked with the level of response I got, with so many people willing to generously give their time and I learnt something new from each and every meeting. Suddenly Ground Up Digital’s visibility in Leeds started to rise.

Joining groups like Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber was a huge benefit to us, as I have no experience working in the third sector. Being able to go to SEYH networking lunches and conferences has not only helped me gain a far greater understanding of the sector but has also inspired me beyond words. There are so many businesses out there doing incredible things and so many people actively making a difference day in day out.

I also joined a networking group of businesses under the BNI banner called Acclaim. This has been invaluable as it meant that suddenly we had a supportive group of business owners around us, who all understand the pressures of being a business owner.

If you build it, they will come

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had this year is where I’m looking to hire new staff from. Every time I would reply, with what has become known as my “Field Of Dreams” Philosophy, “If you build it, they will come”. The plan is having been networking around third sector we can then ask the organisations with their ear to the ground to recommend candidates. We’ve met so many organisations that we have a synergy with, who love this approach and we’re incredibly excited to start working with them.

The first person through the door was our Head Of Operations, who found the business through our social networking and after researching us, reached out and asked if there was any way that she could help. Louise has made herself an invaluable employee in the company with a job remit to help develop and shape our social mission and has a big voice in the strategic direction of the company. I’m incredibly grateful for all she has done for the company so far.

Next up through the door was Ryan, our Digital Marketing Manager. He battled his way through an interview process consisting of up to seventy candidates. I’ve been incredibly impressed with Ryan since he joined, he is hard working, diligent, creative and most importantly a really nice person who I’m overjoyed is representing the Ground Up Digital brand.

To end the year, we also have brought in a new copyrighter Anna, who starts in January and we are excited to have her on board and see what value she brings to the team.

The Business Growth

If the first six months were putting the foundations in place, the last four months have been a roller-coaster of rapid growth. The business has tripled in size since September and some of the results we’ve managed to generate for our clients along the way have made a real difference. I can’t help but sit here and feel extremely proud of my team for the position this company finds itself in today. A company that at this same stage last year was only an idea in my head, and now is a team of four with a beautifully eclectic roster of amazing clients.

Goals for 2020

I think we should at this point set a few goals to benchmark next year and make them very public so we can review them next year and see how we did. With this in mind our goals for next year are:

  • Triple revenue January to January
  • Grow to 10 employees
  • Take a team to Brighton SEO
  • Get asked to present at two conferences (Bonus point for a TedX)
  • Win 1 business award
  • Personally write 52 blog posts

No pressure team, but I’ve made these public, so there is no hiding from them now, let’s see how many of these we can hit… I’m excited already.

Thank you

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone for your support, your kind words, your hard work, your being your beautiful selves. I’d love to write a huge list of people’s names who have really made a difference but I would miss out people and offend someone. So, what I will say is if you’ve got to the end of this blog post, your name should be here, because the fact that you care enough to read to the bottom of this blog post shows the support and commitment you’re giving us. Thank you, for everything, have a happy new year and remember most importantly, keep smiling, and we’ll be smiling with you.