I first met Becky Simms in the lead up to Digital Elite Day in June this year. Becky runs her own business, speaks at many conferences including International Search Summit and she recently introduced a 4 day week at her company. I wanted to find out what it was like to run her own business and the effects of implementing a 4 day week at an agency, something I thought may have been unheard of in the UK, but something I wanted to happen.
When did you set up your own business and why?
Reflect Digital was founded in my little flat back in 2011. I had worked in two agencies and seen two different environments, but still felt there was a place to do things differently. I had always dreamed of running my own business, my dad had been my inspiration as he ran a business and I always wanted to be like him, I just did not know what that business would be.
I wanted to create an agency that truly put the client’s results at the forefront but also, and just as important, that the team were put first as well. I wanted to create somewhere that the team had the autonomy to do what they are best at and a safe place to be creative and to challenge the norm.
2. Do you think you need to have a certain number of years experience before branching out on your own?
Yes and no. I had 5 years work experience, which helped, but I did not have experience of hiring people, doing accounts, being in charge of HR etc… I do a lot of work with students and I always say that I believe to get the base skills needed to grow a team you need to have had an amazing boss and a terrible boss. You need to understand that scale so you can identify where you sit and ensure you are never that terrible boss and always striving to be that amazing boss.
There are entrepreneurs out there doing an amazing job without any experience, but the key to this is being open to feedback and help. I too have become more open to this and realised it is not a failing to need help and advice, you cannot expect yourself to know everything, especially when every day can lead you into unknown territory.
3. Your company introduced a 4 day week last year, what prompted you to do this?
Our 4-day week was born out of wanting to do something different, we wanted to switch up the way we worked but needed to keep consistency and collaboration at the forefront. Consistency was important for our clients and collaboration was important for the work we do – we are hugely collaborative and therefore this ruled out offering extremely flexible working which can result in the team working whatever hours they wish. We also wanted to put our team’s wellness at the forefront, working in an agency can be stressful, therefore ensuring we all have time to recharge is important to deliver the best results we can and get the right balance between work and play.
We were chatting to Jonny, who is now our Group CEO, and LAB were about to bring in the 4-day week and this seemed to fit everything we wanted it to. It offered consistency for clients that they would know when we were working and we would be open 4 days a week. Plus it did not stop the collaboration, just changed it slightly as we are now only all in work Tues-Thurs.
We all work longer days for the four days, e.g. 08:00-18:15. So the agency has not lost any billable time and we truly are more productive in this time. We do have the 4-day week as an optional benefit, as it is only a benefit if it works for you individually, so we do have a couple of team members that opt for normal hours across 5 days.
One of our values is challenging the norm and this seemed like a fantastic way to do just that and we have not looked back.
4. What has been the result of the 4 day week?
The results have on the whole been fantastic. The only slight negative is that we are only all together Tues-Thurs, so it does mean we have to plan internal meetings around this.
The main results have been:
- Productivity increase – we have seen over a 20% increase in productivity. We put this down to the longer days and the drive to get things done so the team can truly enjoy their 3 days off not worrying about work.
- Staff wellness is up also by over 20%, people get more downtime by having the three days together, offering more time to relax, see friends/family and to do what they love doing outside of work.
- Job satisfaction is up 90%.
- Our revenue at the end of FY in March was up 25% recording our best year ever and this current year is set to be even better.
Our clients have also noted benefits in getting to work with a wider team, as on certain days their normal contact is not in. This offers more collaboration, more ideas and also less reliance on one team member as the main point of contact.
5. Do you think experience or a degree is more important in online marketing and why?
I 100% think experience outweighs a degree in our industry. The pace of change is high and to truly be good within digital one of the biggest skills is adaptability and drive to test and learn. Degrees cannot keep up, we often take on year placement students or interns over the summer and they all learn so much more with us than they feel like they do within their degrees.
6. What has been the highlight of your career and why?
Wow, there have been a few, recently becoming part of the LAB group, winning Digital Leader at the Wirehive Awards and our recent office move are very close. But actually, the day that has given me the best feeling ever, was our student conference Aspiration Digital last year, we are about to run our second, so this might just top it! This event was born out of my frustration that school students do not realise all the amazing possibilities in our industry, they are so tech-savvy, but they do not know what goes on behind the scenes and where they may fit into.
I started by running student workshops and inviting them into our agency, but this was a maximum of 10 students at a time, which felt quite slow from an impact perspective. So I came up with the idea to run an event, roping in as many amazing speakers that I could to share their experiences within marketing, design, development and the business side of running an agency. The result was the most inspiring day for over 200 students. You can see last year’s video here.
I believe it is our responsibility to help schools and to drive this knowledge, the teachers have a curriculum to follow and so many industries to be aware of, we are the experts and we need to be there inspiring the students to try and stop the digital skills gap that is occurring.”
Thank you Becky for your time. Really looking forward to your talk at International Search Summit Barcelona. As a media partner for IntSS, all readers will have 10% off the price of a ticket, simply use ISSBCN10JT at checkout.