The Entrepreneur: Andrew Atalla, atom42

Having organically grown his business to £15m revenues, marketing mogul Atalla shares his advice, mistakes, and gripes with Red Tape...

Founder: Andrew Atalla
Company: atom42
Description in one line: Online marketing agency
Previous companies: PHD Media, Ask Jeeves, Fish4, Netbooster
Turnover: £15m
12 month target: 25% year on year net profit growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We help clients grow their business using online marketing. We’re fully transparent and 100% independent.
  • We take an owner mentality, looking after clients as if their business was our own (which isn’t far from reality).
  • Rather than baffling our clients with geeky chat, we educate every step of the way.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

The best financial achievement is probably the organic year on year growth we’ve seen (around 20%) in gross profit. But the thing which makes me the happiest is how long we have kept our clients and our team happy. Many of our clients have been with us for over five years, as have our team. In this industry, that’s really unheard of, which is why I feel like it’s such a strong achievement.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

None. I don’t believe that looking at numbers every day is a smart thing to do. Data can be very helpful but it can also drive you insane – keeping you from taking a smarter, broader view of your business.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We run international campaigns for a number of clients, although our only offices are in London.

Describe your growth funding path:

We have been self-funding since day one.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Probably our move to be 100% cloud-based. I can work anywhere, on any machine, at any time and be as productive (if not more!) than I might be if I was in the office.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

I’d like us to have been able to continue our organic growth, and retained the family feel which we have. In terms of financial growth, we’re aiming for about 20% growth in gross profits each year.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Start. Generally, I find the hardest moments are the beginnings. With a bit of momentum behind you, everything becomes a little easier.

What was your biggest business mistake?

I remember once a website was for sale which we thought our client should buy. Whilst they were doing due diligence, a competitor ended up snapping it up. It turned out to be quite a steal.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

It should be as easy to fire someone as it is to hire someone.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Creating a business which is too reliant on themselves.

How will your market look in three years?

Digital marketing will become so prominent, it will probably just become ‘marketing’.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Hire people who are smarter than you.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

My Van Nicholas push bike.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learn it on the job.

What would make you a better leader?

If I had learnt the importance of letting go earlier on in my career.

Business book:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

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