Javan Bramhall

Meet Javan Bramhall – Directing a business through the COVID pandemic

Today we have selected Javan Bramhall To to take his interview. He is The Founder Of Digital Glue.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

Overall we’re doing well. As a business, we’ve worked hard to focus on team well-being and engagement throughout this period. We’ve built-in better communication habits and tried to make sure we find ways to socialize as well as work. On a personal level, the challenge of home school can’t be ignored, but we’re doing okay!

Businesswise, we’re continuing to grow and we all remain focused on the task at hand.

We’ve been working at home since the first lockdown and came to the office in bubbles when restrictions allowed but have since returned back to working at home for the foreseeable.

Tell us about yourself, your career, how you founded or joined this company.

I began working for ITV in media sales after leaving university, before joining a PR firm.

I joined a client of the PR agency, a distributor called Color Confidence, and during 6 years at this business was able to get exposure to PR, web, marketing, sales, and leadership.

I have always wanted to run my own business, and after a brief spell at another agency, I struck out. I believed a company should be driven by a core set of values and wanted to go out on my own and build a company that did that.

I started Digital Glue back in 2013 from a spare room, and then a garden office. Since then, we’ve grown into a full-service agency, with a current team of 15 which we plan to grow over the next year.

How does your company innovate?

As an agency, innovation needs to come for ourselves and our clients, and it needs to be something that is an ongoing state of mind. People think of innovation as a big lightbulb moment, and while that has a place, I think most innovation comes from listening to what customers need and responding with your own best responses.

We use a number of processes to help this. One tool is our ‘sh*t’ ideas board, where any team member can write an idea they have to improve the business. That idea then stays on the board for a couple of weeks for people to look at. We’ll then take another look at it to see if after time, the idea is actually beneficial or we just got carried away with it at the moment. (The worst ones are usually mine!)

For clients, we use a quarterly strategic review process each quarter. This is a thorough look at what we’re doing and achieving, the client’s objectives, and the market around them to ensure we’re regularly keeping up with the changing landscape and coming up with new ways which can help our clients’ businesses to grow.

As a creative company, we believe mistakes are a good thing that helps us learn and improve and we’re constantly testing and trying out new things. With that, whilst mistakes occur, we are able to clearly learn from them, in order to stop them from happening again.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

At first, it was a worry, people, people understandably cautious with money, and cash became an issue, but this eased and in reality, we were back at full speed by the summer. Our clients have stuck with us, and many have added new services to what we offer them.

We adapted the business plan quickly at the start of the pandemic and came up with crying scenarios depending on the worst-case vs. mid-range impact. As we approached the end of the year we were on course to achieve results at the better end of this scale and have grown year on year.

Despite being out of the office and the hardships that come with that, we’ve managed to stick to our values and keep a bit of normality throughout the team.

We continue to have weekly team meetings, along with coffee breaks in our calendars. We also still finish early on Fridays to jump on a call and have a drink to switch off and stay in contact in a less formal setting.

I believe everything is something you can learn from, and the pandemic has delivered learning opportunities in spades. We’re forever adapting to be the best we can possibly be as a team and as a company.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

I think we’ve been quite lucky as a business. We haven’t had to make any rash decisions and have always made decisions with the team in mind. We offered the team a choice of a temporary 10% pay cut or one team member furloughed when the pandemic first shut down the office, but the team took a pay cut which only lasted for one month, and we were able to pay that back in the summer.

I think we’ve learned that the team we have is a strongly knit unit, and working from home hasn’t been as big as a problem as first feared. We’ve been able to look at our clients’ businesses and ourselves as a business and make tweaks and improvements to ensure we’re offering the best possible service.

One key lesson for us has been that you simply cannot communicate enough! We have always been transparent as a business, but it’s been great to see that the more we share, the better the team responds.

The other key lesson has been that projects take longer with full WFH. Building websites or running creative projects without the ability to work side by side has been much more drawn out and time-consuming. We’ve got great systems in pace, but it’s not the same!

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

We’ve been using Google Drive throughout, and find it really helpful to have a work-in-progress file that can be edited with ease. We’ve also been using Monday.com which is an incredible app, allowing you to plan projects and timelines with ease.

In terms of management skills, nothing has changed in my view since the crisis. I allow each member of the team to be intuitive and forge their own path in their career. I let them learn from their mistakes and learn more about what they want to learn. An example of this is our personal development plans (PDP), where we write down both personal goals and business goals, and it’s then up to that person to come up with a strategy on how to achieve these goals.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game? Your final thoughts

We only really compete with ourselves. There are numerous agencies that are doing their own thing, and we’re trying to do ours. We compete to ensure we’re delivering on our promises and living by our values which are important to us.

We know what we can offer to a client and what we can’t, and we make sure that if we can’t give 100% we won’t commit to working with them. It’s good to compare yourself to other agencies, and if you can’t see what your USP is compared to them then you have a problem.

About Digital Glue

Digital Glue is a full-service, integrated communication, and creative agency. We exist to help people and businesses maximize their potential.

We specialize in making the complex, understandable, and the mundane stand out. We connect technical and B2B businesses with their customers through copy and design which is audience focussed and with campaigns that deliver ROI.

Digital Glue’s clients across a range of industries including professional services, venture capital firms, technology, and charities. Digital Glue is guided by our values – so much so, we made them part of our office.

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