Spotlight on Joe Gilbert
Having been design-obsessed my whole life, I originally studied architecture at University. However, after completing my degree, I realised architecture wasn’t for me; too much red tape and not enough designing! From there I got into marketing, and after spending some years working my way up to marketing manager and working with many agencies along the way, I realised there was a big disconnect within the web design industry. You had your techy web guys out there who were great at development but not so great at design, you had your graphic design guys who could make things look amazing but didn’t really know how to properly build it, and you had your marketing guys who understood consumer behaviour and customer journeys, but weren’t designers or developers.
There seemed to be a real gap in the market for a creative agency that truly understood these three pillars of great web design! That’s when I left employment and started Red Giraffe. Combining my obsession and passion for pixel-perfect design with my love for marketing, I teamed up with a top developer to offer the market a product that looked amazing, worked flawlessly, and actually generated leads!
The big idea
We were working with an agency at the time on a new website for the company I was employed at. Whilst I have no doubt they were good at coding and development, they just never seemed to understand what we wanted. I had to dictate exactly how the website should look, what calls-to-action to use, what should go where etc. They didn’t seem to be able to offer advice or knowledge on any of that, which is surely fundamental to any successful website. That's when I thought “there has to be a better way than this at getting a website created!” And thus, Red Giraffe was born.
My biggest challenges have by far been my own limiting beliefs; not believing in my value, selling myself short, feeling too humble to ask for the sale, and generally having a very small money mindset. Thankfully I’ve had a lot of help from both a fantastic sales coach and a great business coach, who have helped me to grow in confidence and charge the prices we should. I always believed in the value of our products and services, but always felt embarrassed or rejected when people told us our prices were too high. Thankfully now I’ve learned to recognise not everyone is your customer and not everyone will see the value in your services. That’s fine, it means we can focus on the clients that do!
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
I really believe that in order to receive, you have to give back. The universe has been good to us and business has been fantastic, and as such, I’ve always been committed to giving back rather than just revelling in our good fortune. We do a lot of work with eco charities to ensure our company is not only sustainable but climate positive – meaning we offset more CO2 than we emit. We give to charity regularly, including the local food bank and local food schemes. Last year we became a corporate member of the MK Community Foundation in order to support our local communities.
But we also give back to everyone we deal with; whether that’s going the extra mile for our clients or showing gratitude and thankfulness to our suppliers. And finally, there’s my brilliant team – your staff are your greatest assets! I always make sure my team knows how valued and important they are, and as the company grows they’re rewarded accordingly.
Drive and determination
There are so many cowboys and rip off merchants in the digital marketing and web industry! Most people we talk to have at some point had a negative experience with one of these companies. I see it as our duty to give people real value and the quality of service they deserve. Hardworking entrepreneurs throw them all into their businesses; it’s only right to give them a service worthy of their energy.
The biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to stop and give up when the going gets tough! Having been an avid mountain climber for many years, I’ve learned that you can’t reach the summit without a few tough moments along the route. There have been so many points since I started the company where I wanted nothing more than to throw in the towel, call it a day and go back to employment where life was easy and straightforward. Thankfully my business coach has always been there to get me back on track and keep me on the right path. We would never have achieved the successes we had if I’d walked away from the business.
Three tips for those starting their careers
Make sure you follow your heart and passion! You spend more time at work than anywhere else, so it’s crucial you love your job. Plus success is hard work – you’ll never be successful if you don’t love what you do!
Always be honest, genuine and ethical in what you do. Liars and scammers never last long, but true authenticity lasts.
Don’t listen to the nay-sayers! Those who stand out will always face criticism and negativity. Ignore it! Rise above it and make sure you associate with people who will support and encourage you. As I like to say, “either wish me well or go to hell!”
Advice to those wanting to start a business
Don’t rush into it and don’t underestimate how difficult it will be. I’ve seen too many people get excited by an idea, rush into starting a business, only to fold it within a year because they didn’t realise how much work was involved. Take your time, understand that it will take more work than you ever imagined, and really commit to giving it at least three years. Everyone sees the face-value rewards of successful entrepreneurs – not many people see the enormous amount of work that takes place behind the scenes. Oh and THINK BIG – too many business owners stay stuck in a micro-business mindset.
Advice for people aiming for leadership positions
My advice would be to really take the time to understand people – understand what motivates them, what demoralises them, how to make them feel valued, and how to get the most out of people. Modern leadership is not about sitting at the back cracking the whip, it's about charging forward at the front with your team behind you.
Advice to someone managing a team
I would say listen to your staff, take the time to mentor them and find out how they’re feeling. Encourage open and honest conversations. Be firm but fair. Reward them for what you expect, rather than disciplining them for the wrong behaviour. Your team are human beings, not factory machines.
The best and worst part of your job
The best part of my role is the flexibility – taking time out when you need to without having to answer to anybody. The worst would be that we’ve had to let a few staff go over the years where it hasn’t worked out. Every time it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Sadly it’s just business, nothing personal, and something every successful business owner has probably had to do at some point.
To what do you attribute your success?
How you do one thing is how you do everything. Everything we do we do right and we do it properly, we don’t cut corners or do things by halves. That commitment to quality and service gets you a reputation, helps you stand out from your competitors and keeps customers loyal.
We’re now increasingly advancing into the digital marketing sector; not only building great websites for our clients but helping our clients drive traffic to them through SEO and PPC campaigns with the same quality, customer service and attention to detail people have learned to expect from Red Giraffe. We’re currently working on a new, first-of-its-kind initiative: an AI and algorithm powered tool that will help clients create a successful marketing strategy for their business. It’s only very early days, but we’re so confident it can deliver consistent leads each month we’re prepared to back it with a money-back guarantee!
“Only you can determine how the story you write for yourself goes. Make it a great story!”
If you’ve found Joe’s story interesting, stay up to date with him and Red Giraffe Marketing LTD by connecting with him on Linkedin and following Red Giraffe Marketing on Instagram and Twitter. To read more inspiring blogs like this click here.