Pierre Coombes, Big Wolf Marketing
In hindsight getting 200 T-shirts printed with the company logo was perhaps not the best use of his start up funds but Pierre Coombes quickly ditched his vanity project for serving clients better at his marketing agency Big Wolf Marketing.
- What was the inspiration for your business?
I had been working in lots of different sales and marketing roles for marketing agencies; most of them were very traditional and old school and I thought that I could do it slightly differently by using digital marketing and new technology. I also thought I could offer a fairer pricing structure.
- How did you get started?
I was 28 and living with my parents in Reading. A good friend gave me a free desk in his office and told me that if I just sat there from 9am to 5pm every day for a couple of months, I would find my business model. He was right; I did.
- How did you find your first customer?
I found my first client via a freelancing website. It was an accountancy firm and my task was to approach new companies to introduce their services and set up a free initial consultation. This worked really well for them and they continue to use our services today.
- How did you finance the growth of your business?
I started the business with a couple of hundred pounds in savings. I was fortunate that after leaving school I taught myself website design so I managed to set up the website myself without having to pay anyone to do it.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
Scaling the business. The way we fixed the problem was to be more flexible and use the freelancer economy. Using freelancers was frowned upon in the agency I worked for previously; it was deemed unprofessional. But things have changed since then, and using freelancers means that we can deliver a better price point and a better service.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business and how have you dealt with this?
We have slightly adapted our offering to create results we think work better. We are doing a lot more online and are being a lot more strict with the clients we bring onboard – if their business has been massively affected and we think we can’t get through to their prospects then we have had to turn business away, which is a strange position to be in. There are a lot more people working from home so it is not as easy getting through to them.
For me it has also been a time of reflection; I think any entrepreneur worth their salt has to always be about change, so I have seen this as a challenge to really strengthen our processes.
- What mistakes did you make?
One of the biggest mistakes I made was succumbing to vanity. I got a couple of hundred T shirts printed with the business logo and it was great to put photos of them on social media, but it didn’t really do anything for the business and in reality we wear shirts and ties at work anyway. I have still got a load of them.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
The biggest secret is doing what the clients want. I am a big fan of Jeff Bezos and the key element that runs Amazon is customers being happy. So we have always led the business on that. Some agencies, for example, require customers to sign up for a minimum of six months, but we will let customers have a single day of telemarketing if that is what they want. It is all about listening to customers and trying to be flexible and not being too stagnant in terms of the rules we set as a company. We have worked with start ups who have wanted to have a single day of telemarketing and now they are big companies and they still work with us. It feels good to have had a role in that.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
Just do it. Think of an idea, make sure you are passionate about it and then actually do it. So many people tread water and are too scared to get it going, so they put off launching their business and always have an excuse. Sometimes you just have to start and make mistakes and push forward. I certainly wish I had done this a long time before I actually did.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?