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Tax & admin Rebecca Smith · 30 September 2015
Alchemy Digital: Using the power of referrals to win clients like Elle Macpherson
The managing partner of web design agency Alchemy Digital spoke to Business Advice about the importance of delivering a core service and how his firm’s success on this front?has meant it doesn’t need to advertise at all. Will Morris always wanted to run his own company ? driven by a love of travel and surfing, he thought being a business owner would mean he could manage his own time. Today, balancing the running of a business alongside?looking after an eight week-old newborn son has meant he hasn’t had much time to follow those pastimes recently, but he’s very content nonetheless. Now the managing partner of web design agency Alchemy Digital, Morris runs the business alongside his co-founder Bobby Dennis, a designer and the creative director. ?I’ve always been interested in the internet. I finished primary school a year early and they wouldn’t let me start secondary school, so I spent that time programming computers,? he explained. ?I was borderline addicted to online gaming and my school experience was almost exclusively-based around arts and design,? so from his perspective, there was no future he saw for himself that didn’t involve those interests in some capacity. On the up: Alchemy Digital from Business Advice on Vimeo. The running of Alchemy is divided between Morris and Dennis, with the latter tackling the front-end of the business, while Morris covers digital strategy. In order to devote the time necessary to this, Morris uses KPMG for its accountancy services, which he feels has freed up ?two or three days a month for me to focus on running the business?. He thinks it’s a big help to surround yourself with experts if you can: ?I’m an expert web designer, I’ve been doing this my whole life, but I’m not an expert accountant or lawyer.? For someone adept at design and everything digital, Morris has a surprising approach when it comes to marketing ? he doesn’t really do it. Alchemy’s?site is fairly clean without too many links off to case studies, while he’s not big on using business cards either. ?We don’t advertise because we don’t need to, we don’t use any form of digital advertising or digital media,? Morris said simply. The focus on providing ?world-class web design? has paid off with referral after referral securing Alchemy a steady flow of work. Around 90 per cent of our new business comes from doing really good work for existing clients and they tell their friends,? he explained. It’s this approach, which Morris thinks is the best route to take as a small business. ?Make sure you’re an expert in something ? I think it should be one thing, so you can be focused and deliver whatever it is well,? he said. ?The four big agencies claim to be the best in the world at every possible agency service ? it’s just not true,? Morris added, and confesses he doesn’t have grandiose aims of delivering a global Ogilvy offering. ?Stick to your core and don’t move away from it until you’ve got it completely mastered. Even when you do, make sure that stays rock solid because your reputation is based wholly on your ability to deliver your core service, whether that’s making crisps, shooting movies, writing copy or building walls.? For the team of six in his London office, the designers are encouraged to have a real active interest in the internet, so the sole requirement isn’t just being able to ?draw a pretty website? but the ability to code too. Morris has a considered approach when it comes to growth too ? he wants to develop the business, but at a pace that enables Alchemy to stay consistent in what it delivers. More than anything he thinks new firms need to ?have integrity and don’t go for the quick buck, because it doesn’t work?. ?If you fall over yourself to make promises that you can’t keep then your reputation is gone and it only ever goes once, so try and retain that integrity,? he said. The value of being realistic also can’t be overstated ? Morris feels quite simply, you should ?expect to fail?. Not in the sense of being pessimistic to your detriment, any business owner needs to believe in their concept otherwise how will anyone else? Rather, he pressed the importance of having contingency plans and ?when you do a project plan, expect for some elements to take longer because they always do, things will always cost you more because you’re optimistic about your business?. Morris pointed out: “Other people aren’t optimistic about your business ? they won’t help you the way you think the will, so be prepared for knock-backs in terms of cash and finances, but also when you’re running a business for the first time, it won’t go the way you think it will, so be ready for setbacks?.
ABOUT THE EXPERTRebecca Smith
Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.