We recently had the opportunity to talk to ActionCOACH in the Business Spotlight podcast.
Our Managing Director, Anthony Chaffey, answered a series of questions, giving an insight into all things digital, and how you shouldn’t let perfect get in the way of good.
Watch the full interview below, or go to the Business Spotlight YouTube channel here. Scroll below to read the interview transcript.
Who are ActionCOACH?
ActionCOACH is the UK’s number one business coach company providing professional coaching services to UK businesses.
Their Business Spotlight Series’ podcast shares expertise and insights, giving business owners the opportunity to showcase their business and position themselves as thought leaders in their industry.
Anthony, great to meet you. It’s Anthony Chaffey from Ballyhoo. I’m going to hand this over to you, Anthony, straight away to introduce your business.
Hi, I’m Anthony from Ballyhoo and so we are a digital agency based in the Midlands. What that means to anybody that’s not aware, is that we do branding work – we build brands for companies – we do web design, web development, we provide digital marketing, and promotion of websites and services beyond that. We also offer product support as well which is a big part of what we do.
Fantastic! Around 14 years?
Absolutely, yes. So we’ve just had our 14th birthday, which is quite exciting. It’s a really big milestone for us and I personally have been in the industry for over 20 years. So pretty much as long as it has been an industry, from when the web became a sort of marketing tool for businesses. I’ve been there pretty much from its inception as an industry.
Tell us a little bit about what makes you stand out from the other people who are doing that?
It’s an odd industry and there’s very little barrier to entry. We always talk about the kids, in their bedrooms making websites, and we were often asked if we’re competing with these, and there are build your own website tools that are available now.
That’s not the market that we’re in. But we do quite happily direct potential customers to these build your own website tools if they’re a very small business and are starting up, they don’t necessarily know what they want. They just want their website presence for the sake of it.
For us, we’re looking to work with businesses that are really trying to promote and build a business and grow their business, and use the web as a marketing tool.
And which then becomes a lot more complicated. It’s easy to build a website. To build a successful website it’s a lot more difficult. There’s a lot more to learn, a lot more to figure out in terms of what you’re trying to achieve, who your target audiences are and how are you going to convert visits, too. A website to actually create leads and conversions.
It’s an interesting industry and we very much positioned ourselves not to be competing with the likes of the kids in their bedrooms and build your own website tools.
Yeah, great. So that’s kind of what you are not competing with and what that makes you different from. What makes you different from the guys who are doing a similar kind of offering?
It tends to be our level of after sales support. And we’ve always been very keen to do that. I’ve got customers that I have been working with since 20 years ago when I started in the industry, so I’m very proud to be working with those people and we do like to support these businesses and be with them as they grow.
And be part of that growth and actually direct growth. It’s always been a logical thing for us to do, to support the customers so that we can stick with them and grow – where a lot of our competitors don’t seem to do that very well. We regularly pick up projects that have gone awry because of a failed relationship with the developer – developers that have over promised but not delivered, or have just made their money and move on.
That’s their business strategy. Whereas our strategies have always been to maintain those long-term relationships. And as technologies change, we’re in a brilliant position to communicate with customers. We can hopefully help them grow and stay up to date rather than make a few quid and move on.
This strategy has worked really well for us and it’s actually surprised us how few of our competitors have the same strategy. It seems like a very logical thing to do to be there for the customer, support has really paid dividends over the years.
Okay, cool. That makes it pretty clear. Thank you. So you say around 14 years, just had the birthday and really lots to reflect on but also a lot of future ahead. So where’s the business going? What is the plan?
We’ve been growing every year for those 14 years, with a small, very efficient team. It’s really all about efficiency for us. We’re not necessarily looking to exponentially grow the business but we are constantly looking at ways to improve efficiency. That’s often looking at new tools that we can use, and things that we can adapt, which is a massive deal for us at the moment. We’ve been seriously concentrating on that. So we have junior developers that are actually able to use tools that help them learn quickly and develop things a lot more not quickly than they traditionally did.
For things like copywriting content generation, we’ve been using AI to help, but there’s a lot of challenges involved with doing that and doing it properly and doing it right. But there’s some huge opportunities in being able to adapt, to being a small team and being a highly mobile team.
We can quite quickly adapt and use these, so that’s our main focus at the moment. We can see a significant growth in the business without actually expanding the team, and adopting some of these new technologies that are quite exciting, and that are genuinely interesting to us.
Oh, Yeah. Absolutely. And you move in a fairly fast paced, changing world – well, we all do! But yours might be a little bit faster, I guess. So what would you say the biggest learning is being for you as a business owner in the past 14 years?
For me, I think it’s come down to building this coreteam that we have here. And it’s taken a long time for me to really understand myself and understand what I’m good at, and what I’m not really good at.
I’ve always been okay at everything but not necessarily really good at one particular thing. So what I’ve done over the years is build a team of niche specialists, so we have very, very talented developers who understand the technologies. I have a very talented graphic designer who understands current trends in UI and UX, I have a very talented marketing manager who understands how to promote a business and the technologies and tools that can be used there.
It’s just building that team, that complements my skill set where I might fall down. I’m quite happy to defer decisions to staff members that I know are experienced and more knowledgeable than me in certain areas.
Don’t try to do it all, try and leave it to the experts and we have plenty of those here already.
Good. Yeah, that is good learning and it’s amazing actually, isn’t it? I speak to a lot of people about this and some people find it quite difficult to put stuff down, even now they’re not particularly strong at it, which is interesting. It’s really tough.
Yeah, it’s really tough. I mean, particularly in terms of development. I started as a developer and I come from a very technical background with a degree in computer science, and I’m a decent developer. But once we got busy and we needed more support in that area I brought in developers.
I think that’s good – they are much better than me and I’m able to have conversations with them and discuss the technology they approach and what we should be using. Sometimes they blow me away with what they actually produce and I know that I would never have come to that sort of solution and it’s interesting but it’s difficult to accept sometimes but it’s effective.
Yeah, no doubt. What would you say the biggest challenges have been then?
One thing I always say is learning to not let perfect get in the way of good. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be perfect. But I often think that that has been a bit of a barrier, so learning to produce things that are very good, but they’re not perfect, but get them out into the industry, get them out and see how they perform and be in a position to measure and adjust to feedback – that’s the biggest one for me.
It’s difficult. Like we said, it’s difficult to put things down sometimes. You want to get them to be absolutely perfect, and it has done us well over the years by that perfectionist approach.
You’ve got to learn to find the right level at which point you can get some into the market, get it out there and learn from feedback rather than continually making assumptions and pouring over data trying to figure something out that you can potentially learn much quicker by getting something to market and measuring.
So, if you were having a conversation with your 18 year old self, and with the knowledge you have now – and if your 18 year old self was prepared to accept it – what would you say?
Yeah, I think that does come back to my last answer. It’s about failing fast. Again, this applies to not just me but to our customers as well. We’ve worked with startup businesses that spend a lot of time deliberating, maybe even speaking to potential customers, and trying to learn and build the perfect product. Then they listen to feedback before something is launched, and they’ll have one person say ‘I’d be interested in that if it did this’ and then they take that as an absolute essential feature of functionality they need to build.
I don’t really like the phrase failing fast, because it feels scary to me. But in reality getting something to market, getting something out there quickly, and learning from feedback, is really essential. It can often be quicker to produce a prototype, get it out to market and learn from the feedback and can be quicker to do that whole process, than deliberate for many months trying to work out the best. You may get it wrong, but just get it out there and do your best. Obviously we have to make assumptions, but you can do your best and learn as much as you can.
Yep, good. And what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other business owners?
That’s it, really. We work with a lot of start up businesses – we work with businesses in all sorts of industries. We work best with businesses where we do work with them from day one.
We can be there to guide them in terms of brand image that they may need to develop, in terms of the technical aspects and the technical tools they are going to have to build, and what they think their strategy is going to be to get to market, along with our niche experience in digital.
Really get out there and fail fast. Do your best if you have an idea. We’ve seen businesses that have failed to be first in the market because they’ve taken so long over deliberating and trying to find the perfect solution, and it’s been painful to watch from the side lines and trying to guide them towards success. We talk about the MVP – minimum viable product – for a lot of projects and it’s very difficult from our perspective, working with the client to convince them that your idea is good.
Just think about what needs to be in the first phase of that development, and get it out there. It’s very difficult when they have such ambitions and such big ideas, they want it, they want to do it all. Scale it back and think about that minimum viable product and get that done to a good standard, and hopefully with a team like us that will have the experience to guide you. Get something out there and see how it performs and learn from it.
Cool, really good insight. Thank you. So, lots of great stuff around your business and around what you do. In terms of next steps, if what you’ve said today resonates with people and they want to get in touch. What will the next steps be Anthony?
The approach is a very consultative approach.
Everything we do is bespoke and it’s tied to how a customer operates, what they’re doing, what industry they are in. We’re very open to having an early dialogue, we work with business straight from the outset. Free no obligation conversations are how we do things – we’re very honest and open and that does play out in our customer support and relationships, so I’m more than happy to talk to anybody and we will happily direct them to technologies that may not be for us.
That’s the best thing that we have seen for anybody we speak to. If we see an opportunity where we can really help and then we can continue the conversation, but I’m also more than happy to talk to anybody, in any industry, and business size. I’m happy to advise and use my knowledge as much as I can.
Right, thank you. Great to meet you today.
Thank you too.
Here’s to a very successful next 14 years and however long after that! Thank you for your insights about business and all your tips and tricks.
You are welcome, thank you for having me!