WHEN his offices had to close and clients canceled contracts during the lockdown, Steven Bartlett, who co-founded media agency Social Chain Group, responded by focusing on new revenue streams and keeping lines of communication open.
âParts of the business were hemorrhaging cash, so we focused resources on our e-commerce division to compensate,â he says. âAt the same time, as CEO, I tried to appear optimistic to support and reassure my employees. “
Steven is one of the youngest and most successful digital entrepreneurs in the UK. He created the integrated social media marketing firm Social Chain Group in 2014. The business has grown from a client to a Â£ 300million valuation in just five years, with a client list that includes Spotify, Microsoft and Just Eat. His personal fortune is valued at Â£ 60million. Not bad for a “college dropout”.
The rapid rise of Social Chain was built by harnessing the power of social media to communicate the brand’s message directly to its audience. Steven originally ran a student website, Wallpark, but changed when he saw how to connect people with brands.
âThere was huge resistance to social media when we first started,â he says. âTraditional marketing methods were still used and advocated. But social media was like a big wave hitting the shore and we were one of the few people who had a surfboard.
Steven surrounded himself with a young team – the average age was 20 – which included social media. Using an initial investment of Â£ 300,000, he hired the most followed people on social media and put them in an office in Manchester with no rules, unlimited vacations, a bar and free food.
âI ignored the conventions and tried to start a business where I would like to work. And that meant people had the freedom to behave as they wanted, âhe says. âI needed talented young people who thought like me. And when I needed experience to sell our expertise, I hired her too.
Steven left Social Chain Group in December to pursue new projects. He started private equity firm Catena Capital to fund personal passions such as biotechnology, space travel, and mental health issues, an issue he addresses in his autobiography, Happy Sexy Millionaire. .
He was also recently announced as the youngest member of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den investment team.
âTen years ago I applied to be on this show and I failed,â he says, âSo joining as a Dragon is an amazing thing. My goal is to represent a new generation of young people. black talents and bring a new business perspective to the show. â
Steven Bartlett’s Five Learnings from Lockdown
Data is king
The data you capture about your customers and your website visitors will become increasingly important. Analysis tools will then help you interpret everything.
Social networks are changing all the time. Try out some trial and error to find out what works. It will eventually lead you to the correct answer.
Social media is about people. Understand what makes them tick, why they will share something that will eventually go viral.
Prepare for the worst
The uncertainty will be post-pandemic. It can mean anything from cyber attacks, customer cancellations or office break-ins. I got them all. Plan accordingly.
Don’t romantically cling to your initial business idea if it doesn’t work.
ANTHONY IMPEY MBE, BE THE DEAL
Tech talk: the firm helps companies take the digital steps
Many companies learned to operate remotely during the pandemic. When he took charge of the business support organization Be the Business last September, Anthony Impey had to work with his team, partners and suppliers via video.
Nonetheless, they produced Rebuild, a comprehensive suite of online resources designed to help businesses adopt new technologies, in just two weeks.
âThe technology has proven to be vital in helping businesses meet new challenges and our goal has been to support and encourage them to embrace it,â he says. “The signs are positive, which is important because consumers by default expect digital transactions to be the norm.”
Anthony has spent his entire career defending digital technology. A born entrepreneur who sold stationery from a school locker, he started his first telecommunications company in his early twenties. In 2003, he founded Optimity, a pioneer in affordable wireless broadband for SMBs.
âI saw that the quality of the connectivity was becoming more and more important but the costs of laying the fiber cables were enormous,â he says. âBusinesses today can access powerful technology at a much lower cost, which is important because it means small businesses can be very competitive. “
Anthony’s ambition for Be the Business, a partner of Lloyds Bank, is to fuel the recovery.
âGovernment has a role to play in helping businesses find the support they need,â he says. “But just as important, if not more important, is the role business can play in helping and helping each other.”
As for the future, Anthony sees the need to prepare for more uncertainties.
âI think the next decade will be very volatile, so companies have to learn to innovate and using digital tools will help them do that. The good thing is that there are a lot of companies that have already taken the plunge and are happy to share their experience so that others can learn.
Join Steven and Anthony on July 5 for an online event on lockdown learnings and technology adoption.
Register on lockdownlearnings.co.uk/sun