Business Journey: Conor Hardy of Run PPC
As an ex-Google employee Conor Hardy is well placed to advise businesses on their strategies to catch the attention of customers in a crowded marketplace. He talks to us about not just surviving, but growing, through the pandemic and his plans for the future.
What is it the company does?
Run PPC delivers Google Ads services to businesses across every sector. We work with company owners, marketers and key decision-makers to build strategies that get them noticed by the right people in Google search results. This is implemented alongside other tactics to maximise exposure across the Google advertising network. We specialise in delivering the best possible return from marketing spend.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I founded the business alongside Andy Brownlie and today serve as the Managing Director. I run the business on a day-to-day basis, doing a lot of the unglamorous stuff behind the scenes, but I also like to be hands-on and can typically be found either on the phone or - COVID permitting - meeting with clients to discuss their needs.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The first lockdown we had saw us lose 80% of our revenue overnight, so finding a way to diversify and change the business was really challenging. I wanted to find a way to make us bulletproof moving forward. The reason it was such a big challenge was because everybody panicked and, of the business we lost overnight, I'd say that we got 70% of that back over the next four months because people realised that people were still spending money, the world was still spinning round and companies still had to market themselves. We lost 30% ultimately because businesses simply couldn't operate any more in the world as it is as the moment. By changing our marketing strategies, the way that we target businesses, and the types of businesses we target, we were able to ride through it.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
My plan is to sell the business in between eight and ten years from now, and I'd like to get it to a point where we're making over £500,000 net profit - that's my personal goal.
In terms of the company five years from now, I'd like to be in a position where we have 200+ clients on retainer and working in an efficient way to deliver the best possible results for them. I'd like us to have established a solid leadership in the industry, not only for the quality of our work, but also the intent. I want us to be known for our honesty and partnership-style of working that is already very important to us.
I think we can achieve these objectives by growing as we are and focusing on being the absolute best at what we do.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never give up. Don't be scared of change or risk, or of making mistakes. Ultimately, it is is those mistakes moving forward that will form the basis of your biggest strength. You'd be surprised how resilient you can be when the proverbial hits the fan.
What do you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
I wish somebody would have told me not to procrastinate and agonise over the little details too much, to instead just make decisions and take the lessons from the results of the decisions. That could be sticking with your initial instinct or making a change. Trust your instinct and don't over-think things. As long as you've calculated the risk, and it's not huge, then give things a try and make your final decision based on what you learn. Arguing with yourself for weeks will literally get you nowhere.
What did you do before you started this business?
I worked for Google in their Leeds and London offices and managed a portfolio of 60 agencies who were delivering Google Ads services to their clients. My role was to ensure that they were delivering the best possible service, to upskill them and ensure that money being spent was being used efficiently. It's great to have been able to apply those skills and experiences as a business owner serving others.
What inspired you to start up?
From a personal point of view, I'd always wanted to work for myself. I never ever fitted that mould of working for somebody else, for various reasons. But the inspiration behind starting Run PPC was seeing the number of agencies charging companies a lot of money but only delivering diluted results, with very vague information. I didn't think they were being given the service or results they should be, and myself and my business partner Andy thought "we could do this better". We also saw the opportunity to be a specialist, as opposed to the myriad agencies out there who offer everything. Many can do it quite well, but very few can do it really well.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
To be completely honest, you may as well ask me how I'd describe my business to anybody. It is difficult to articulate and often I'm just tempted to say "we do websites", but that's not accurate, nor does it do us justice. To explain it to anybody who doesn't understand, I'd ask 'what do you do if you want a new pair of shoes?' and often the answer is 'go on Google'. We're the people that help businesses put themselves in front of those people at the right time.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I've mainly learned through trying things and making mistakes. When things don't work then that's an excellent source of advice that informs me going forward. In terms of somebody to confide in then I'd have to say my dad.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Andy and myself did the maths and we took a risk. We put £300 each into the business account and it was a case of hammering the phones and seeing if we can get two or three clients through in the first month, or we knew we were going to be in trouble.
We both had bills to pay, we both had houses and cars, and about a month's worth of money to keep us both going. If we didn't manage to get the clients then we would have been in a very difficult position. We would have put ourselves in debt while paying bills and looking for a job, but luckily it worked.
We knuckled down and hammered the phones. We got six client over the line, which gave us just enough money to pay ourselves a small wage and keep the business going. We kept our overheads as low as possible and were able to get by without needed to source any external finance.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Getting through the first lockdown by not only surviving but also growing. March 2020 was the worst month we've ever had but then July 2020 was the best we've ever had, and I'm very proud of the resilience we showed to be able to bounce back. Not just scraping through, but thriving, and topping that period off by moving into a new office earlier this year.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We just do the one thing and we do it really well. Run PPC do the Google network and we don't touch anything else. That is a key differentiator for us in the marketplace and a key USP that we have is that Andy and I are ex-Google employees, which I'd like to think allows us to provide a unique insight that not many others can.