• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on - Corrie Jones

At Spotlight, we got the opportunity to talk to CEO & Founder of Untapped Digital, Corrie Jones. Chatting all things business, choosing the right career for you, life lessons and setbacks.

A background into you and your business?

I started my business in 2016, having never run or even contemplated running a business before. Before Untapped, I was working at a university managing their social media to help with student recruitment, and alongside my 9-5 I started working with a couple of start-up clients on their social media marketing. It got to the stage where I wasn’t enjoying my full-time job so much and wanted more freedom to work without a manager and set my own schedule, so it was the right time to jump into being a business owner.

What made you choose this career/industry?

Marketing is a super interesting industry to me. I studied psychology at college and a lot of learnings about human behaviour goes into being good at marketing - you’re essentially always questioning why people do what they do then using creativity and data to shape and change opinions. There’s a lot of different verticals you could specialise in within marketing, but to me, social media is at the forefront of how the world communicates in the modern-day, so that’s a big appeal.

What has been your biggest challenge or setback during your career?

There are so many mini setbacks you have on a weekly basis in business, whether it’s getting a ‘no’ to a client proposal or an invoice being paid late or feeling overwhelmed at the amount you have to do. My biggest challenge, looking back, has been not thinking big enough. I think as I’d never run a business before and I was only 23 when I started Untapped, I had a lot of growing to do in terms of confidence and self-belief. I’d encourage anyone starting their own thing to never be held back by how much you think it’s possible for you to achieve. The only limits are the limits you put on yourself.

What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?

I think I thrive a lot off the people around me. If I’m surrounded by talented, highly-competent people then I’ll always feel pushed to be my best self too. It’s important to have people in your life who keep you accountable and who understand your drive and determination. At school, I always wanted to be the person who got the best grade and would get so hyped by other people’s positive feedback or getting an A* and full marks on an essay - the real trick when you leave education is learning to be fulfilled and satisfied from being proud of yourself, not on what other people think of you.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?

Don’t give up. There are days where it seems really tough and completely not worth it, but the biggest rewards come to those who keep going, even during difficult times. To anyone just starting out I would say speak up - your opinion deserves to be heard, even if you’re the youngest in the room. Ask for extra projects and create more responsibilities for yourself wherever you can - the more you can learn, the better. And what you don’t have in experience yet, you can make up for with energy and drive.

What is your advice to people who are wanting to start a business?

Start! Don’t let people talk you out of it (don’t even let yourself talk you out of it!) and you never know, it might be the best thing you ever do. If not, you’ll learn a lot of lessons and start your next adventure from a place of experience. The best advice I’ve been given is “keep the main thing the main thing”. I have a big tendency to overthink and try and think of how I’ll handle step 100 of a project when I haven’t even taken step 1. This advice reminds me to focus on the task at hand, overcome what’s directly in front of me, and not fill my mind with any unnecessary side thoughts.

What advice do you have for people aiming for leadership positions?

You’re already a leader in so many areas of your life, so start recognising and honing where you’re using those skills. I see a lot of people getting rejected for leadership positions at their work because they “don’t have enough management experience”. The catch-22 is that you can’t get experience until you get experience, so see how you can practice and demonstrate leadership in everything that you do.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Everything is your responsibility and you should take accountability as such. It doesn’t matter if it was someone else who got it wrong, ultimately it’s up to you to keep things ticking along as you want them to, so sit down and see how you can fix an issue without playing the blame game.

Managing a team is hard. It's important to be empathetic and treat people as individuals. Some people in your team will need more guidance than others; some people will learn faster and be ready to take on new challenges sooner; some people will prefer working solo rather than in groups, and so on. It’s important to take the time to listen to the people you’re managing and get to know what kind of management style brings out the best in them. If you need to give critical feedback, remember that you’re actually helping that person to develop and grow (no-one learns anything productive from being around a ‘yes’ person all the time).

What’s the best and worst part of your job?

The best part of my job is the unlimited potential for progression and achievements. There’s no ceiling to what we could do. The worst is definitely accounts and VAT returns. But at a certain point, you can outsource the “worst parts” that you don’t love or are not good at (I used to cry in Maths class in year 2 and my relationship with numbers has only gotten marginally better).

Everyone has a different path to success, and even the definition of success means something different to everyone, so I don’t think there is one set pattern or formula to follow. I’d liken it to the way I approach cooking - you need to have certain ingredients ready to use (grit, determination, hard work) but you don’t need to follow the recipe exactly.

What has been your strategy for your business during corona?

My biggest learning from this time has been that you have to be dependent on yourself and try, to the best of your abilities, not to let outside circumstances define or bring you down. By that I mean, do not complain that the government isn’t offering you any support; do not moan that the economy is crashing and clients are cancelling projects; do not talk about anything negative without taking action to create something positive. We’ve been focused on staying busy and on target to grow, the same as always. Social media is a bigger form of communication than it ever has been, and it will continue to be a key part of this increasingly virtual world. We’re here to help businesses navigate that and we’re lucky to be operating as close to normal as can be - all of our services are conducted online anyway, so aside from the team not being in the office, it’s been business as usual.

What top tips do you have for businesses struggling with remote working?

Use systems that keep things organised and help the team stay in touch. We use Slack to communicate and all our documents were on Google Drive anyway. I don’t love working from home, although I did it a lot when I first started the business and we didn’t have the income to cover an office space yet, so I am quite used to being at the dining room table with a laptop. It’s important to give yourself some time to get used to it, and check in on each other to see how your team and colleagues are coping too. Remind everyone to drink enough water and get up from the screen to stretch.

If you enjoyed this Spotlight blog check out more just like it here. To learn more about Untapped Digital, visit their website here.

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