Where in Scotland are you located?
Tell us about yourself?
I took a very roundabout route into marketing. I worked in product design and architecture, and ran several small businesses before founding Design Hero.
But I don’t see this as wasted time; A lot of those skills were transferable. I was always creative, and was always looking at ways to “do it better”.
Web design started as a hobby and a creative outlet, but I was shocked by the number people who had already been stung by “digital cowboys” who would disappear off the face of the planet, or didn’t care about the results for the client.
I was determined to do better, and set out to build a marketing agency where every client gets the superhero treatment, and so “Design Hero” was born. Originally my freelance moniker, it’s since grown into a multi-award winning marketing agency.
I split my time & focus now between managing Design Hero, and coaching freelancers to build their own super-lean, profitable businesses.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Being an entrepreneur has taught me that traditional teaching is flawed. Our education system sets up the expectation that we should work hard, avoid failure and you’ll get your rewards. But that’s a lie. Reward is not equal to hard work.
Your results are a product of your input, not your effort! Your wins will be a result of how many times you failed. We’re conditioned that failure is negative so we avoid it. It’s a cliche, but failing is the only way you’ll win as an entrepreneur.
If you want to achieve anything great, then you WILL fail, a LOT. Your first launches will be a flop, your campaigns will bomb, you’ll lose money or time. But every failure is an opportunity to improve, to optimize, to refine, to rebuild it better.
There’s a tendency to celebrate the “overnight success” stories without recognizing the 10 years of experiments that proceeded the big win. This has taught me you have to enjoy the process.
You have to see it as a game, because not many people enjoy failing, and even fewer have the persistence to keep failing over and over again until they succeed!
The “overnight successes” Justin Welsh, Neil Patel etc. are just very talented people who were willing to fail over and over till they got it right.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
“SYSTEMS WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE!”. Good systems are the boring part of business that entrepreneurs overlook while chasing profit. But there’s no way to make it above 6 figures without burn out! Profit is useless unless you have stability to maintain it, and freedom to enjoy it.
I’d advise young Design Heroes to start trading money for time as soon as possible. Simplify, eliminate, delegate and automate everything in your business until you are working on ONLY the tasks that your personal genius adds the most value to, or the tasks that you enjoy most.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
It was definitely an issue, especially for freelancers. There will always be peaks and troughs in workload, so I’ve learned you have to set up your life so that you can enjoy the journey! Stop telling yourself “I’ll rest when I get to £X” because there is no “THERE”.
When you set that arbitrary goal, and you finally reach that peak, you’ll find there’s another bigger mountain to climb just beyond it. This is something that came into sharp focus for me recently; With success comes more opportunities.
We won several awards at Design Hero which was a huge win for the team. But whilst I had a highly profitable business I quickly found myself feeling burnt out.
So unlike many agencies instead of going the usual route of more growth, more staff, I set out to build an extremely lean business, which would prioritize freedom over profit.
More time and freedom means less churn, better results for our clients and profit is a side effect, instead of profit being a goal in itself.
This is where highly efficient, optimized and automated systems allows you to balance work and life; in fat it’s the only way to run a profitable solopreneur business without chaining yourself to a desk 24/7.
If your reading this and find yourself chained to your desk, then you have to ask yourself “what’s the point?”. You only live once, so if you aren’t happy with your life then design the life you want and act to change it.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
The superhero imagery came from stepping in to “save” business owners who had been ripped off by what I call “digital cowboys”. I started in web design and the niche was rife with bad players.
I was determined to do better, and set out to build a marketing agency where every client gets the superhero treatment, and so “Design Hero” was born. I’m still commited to that ethos, delivering value and results over all else is a core part of the brand!
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
Design Hero is set apart from other marketing agencies by keeping it super lean. You don’t need 40 creatives sitting about on beanbags eating avocados. A small team of experts who know what they’re doing can provide powerful transformation for any business.
Focussing on delivering real results allows Design Hero to forge long term relationships with our clients. We are a single point of contact providing everything a business needs to grow.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
There’s a lot of shiny new toys out there, social media, AI, VR. there’s always going to be new “quick ways to get rich”. every guru claims to have the answer. and that’s stressful. how do you know who’s RIGHT? The truth is there is no RIGHT way, only the way that worked for their particular business.
Every business is different so you have to try things and see what works. But then after you’ve tried them you have to be laser-focused and be a mercenary with your time; There will always be a shiny new distraction or tool to try.
Focus on a small number of important tasks that push the goalpost forwards & ignore everything that doesn’t produce results. Of course, identifying the important tasks is the tricky bit….
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge ironically was born from a success. After we won x3 awards in the space of 3 months new opportunities came pouring in the door for Design Hero. It was a huge success for us and yet I felt my heart gripped in stress and terror.
I was afraid of how to fulfil the work. That was my first lesson in the double-edged sword of success as I sank into burnout trying to keep up. A brief much-needed holiday I with my wife was my saviour and allowed me to reassess my goals.
I determined to stop taking on every project, to double down on my focus on quality work and only work with clients we could actually help; We aim for nothing less than ‘amazing’. But we can’t save everybody; Not every-one is ready to be helped.
We work long-term with our clients to boost business growth. It’s a process that requires courage, creativity and determination.
This subtle change in mindset led me to streamlining the services we offer through Design Hero, to redesign and optimize our fulfillment system and to reprioritize the personal freedom that attracted me to solopreneurship in the first place!
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Scotland?
despite the fact that our work is 100% remote, people like to work with who they know; It’s a small country and it’s nice working with people with shared culture and interests.
What if any are weaknesses of operating your business within Scotland?
International clients struggle to understand my accent! I have to speak very slowwwwly
What influence does being part of the UK have on your business?
Most of my clients are UK based
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?
My focus for the next 5 years is on my new coaching programme for solopreneurs. reaching the stage I’m at now took many years of agonising trial and error: sharing that knowledge with other solopreneurs will help shave years off their journeys and is incredibly rewarding. Keep an eye out for “Systems for 6 figure solopreneurs” on my instagram
How has Brexit impacted your business (if at all)?
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
I share my 6 figure systems for solopreneurs on instagram https://www.instagram.com/the_design_hero/ you can also join the design hero newsletters for quick and dirty marketing wins design-hero.com/newsletter