International Women’s Day, celebrated on the 8th of March, is a global day that honours women of past, present and future generations. The key objective of this years’ campaign is to #BreakTheBias, to advance gender equality through women’s leadership.
Here at Click2Convert, we are proud to promote equality. This International Women’s Day we would like to share the journey of our Managing Director Cheryl, an inspiring woman who founded Click2Convert back in 2010. This interview gives some behind-the-scenes insight into Cheryl's career, her journey to establishing Click2Convert and her thoughts on women in business.
Can you tell us a bit about your background in your career in digital marketing?
I started in digital marketing around 16 years ago. I went for an interview at an agency that also carried out event management, and the role I was going for was Events Manager. At this point, I had just recently got back from travelling around Australia and New Zealand.
During the interview with the agency owner, he intimated that digital marketing would be a good fit for my skill set, and looking back, I’m so glad he saw that. He offered me a role as Account Executive in one of Scotland's top digital agencies. I spent two years there, and quickly worked my way up to Account Manager. During my time there, I worked on some really good accounts; there was travel involved, I worked on multiple campaigns, various forms of marketing, and I gained so much experience.
From there, I went to another digital agency in Glasgow, and I was offered the Account Director role, which was fantastic! Lots of travelling, and I learned a lot about business operations. Compared to the first agency, which was very much hands on and doing the job; in this company, I worked closely with the Managing Director, who showed me all aspects of business - invoicing, business development, managing a team.
After working in these two great agencies, over four years, I got a lot of good experience, which meant I was well rounded in the whole role of marketing and running a business.
Then, there was the financial crash which led to a lot of redundancies. From this, as I’d always wanted to run my own company, I thought I would take this opportunity to set up my own business. I had been thinking about it for years. I even had some of my own branding that I knew I would like. The Click2Convert domain had been purchased for some time, I just didn’t know about whether I would actually go through with it. It was quite a daunting time to be setting up a business, when so many businesses were folding and making these massive redundancies, however I just thought lets go for it and see what happens. Fortunately, because my role was in client servicing, I still had great relationships with the previous clients I worked with. One of them, who was a really good client of mine, found out I was setting up Click2Convert and offered me some work for one of their hotel groups. So, I got my first client, which was fantastic! It was a big brand and had multiple campaigns.
Initially when I started Click2Convert, I was more of a consultant. I spent a lot of time in London, and was working mostly for one hotel group. Then there were other hotel groups that approached me and asked for some support. I was working at board level, with Finance Directors, CEOs and Revenue Managers. I was very fortunate to work in those circles.
Then, after lots of word-of-mouth recommendations, I started working with other hotel groups, and before I knew it, they were asking me “can you do…”. And, “You must know someone who can do design… or development… or emails” - and I just took that opportunity, and said “yes, I do! Let’s work something out.” Back then, I had freelancers working for me, but it got so busy that I needed to bring some of the work in-house, and that’s what happened. Since then, I've brought various different roles in-house, and I’ve grown the agency.
Click2Convert now has twelve on payroll at the moment. We’re a growing business. I’ve been really fortunate that the staff that I’ve brought on have been superb in delivery, and their outlook has been in line with the way I think, in terms of; professionalism, delivering good results, being really passionate about their career and the job they’re doing. We have, as a team, won some great accounts, worked with some fantastic brands, and we’re continuing to grow today.
Why do you think it’s important that Click2Convert recognises International Women’s Day?
Being a solely female owned business in a male dominated environment, it’s important to have our voice. It’s predominantly male owned digital agencies that I’m up against when I’m pitching for new business and it’s good to be able to say, it is possible. I went from being an account executive, and within 4 years, I was a business owner.
It is so valuable to be able to provide inspiration to young females, that you can achieve whatever you want to do. It is all possible. I have the longevity there - we’ve been going for 12 twelve years now - so, you can do it. Get married, have a child, and you can still manage a business. So, that’s why I think it’s important.
This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias. So, why do you think it’s important that we break away from the stereotypical workplace?
Well, I’ve always hired based on merit, and gender has never really come into it for me. It’s more; Is this the right person? Have they got the right personality? The right skillset? Sometimes people didn’t have the right skill set when they joined Click but I just saw a spark to them and thought, they’ve got the drive, they have the ambition, they want to learn, and I thought, let's go for it, because I don’t think there should be any barriers.
However, I think actually, just the way things have worked out, we do have slightly more females working at Click than we do males. We’ve got different personalities, different ideas, different views. It’s pretty balanced within the office in terms of the male to female ratio.
So, I do think it’s important to break that bias of, “it needs to be all the men in the boardroom”, with them making the big decisions. That’s certainly not how my business operates.
Why is it important for women to start their own businesses?
Because, there are opportunities in building your own business. There are challenges - the mental challenge of running a business. You’re constantly juggling different areas of business. Whether it be accounts, or HR, there’s various roles. It’s exciting to own your own business. There’s opportunities, but also benefits, and it’s a massive risk. It’s a worry, a lot of the time, but, it also can bring massive benefits in terms of flexibility with your time, financial rewards, and being able to create something that you like, and what you think is right. It’s my business, I don’t run it the way other agencies do, I've got the team massively involved. I don’t make big decisions solely on what I think, I involve my team, which has females there that have a voice too.
For example, for working from home and the hybrid approach; what’s best for people with families is brought into the decision. You question, do they want to work less in the office? As long as everyone is delivering the same standard of work, it doesn’t matter to me. If it is going to be easier for those with kids, to be at home so they can do the school drop off and pick up, then I’m more than happy to go with that.
Have you faced related challenges in your career in becoming a business owner, and if so, how did you overcome them?
I think that I’ve had to be very strong and resilient. I’ve had to sometimes set aside emotions, as I think women are typically a little more emotional than men.
I’ve been in that environment when I’ve been working in an Account Management team that was very much female orientated, and I saw a lot of girls get upset. I’ve seen it in males as well, but probably more so with women, and I just think it was a side that I was not able to show. I’ve had to constantly think, I need to be strong. It’s daunting to sit at that boardroom table, around multiple males, and I’m the only female there.
I wasn’t going to show that I was emotional or upset by anything, I just had to stay strong. That is a challenge, because I’m maybe more predisposed to be emotional, being a female, but I feel that I’ve just had to stay strong and think of the bigger picture - focus on “I can do this”.
What is the most important piece of advice that you have been given?
I’ve been given a lot of good advice, I’ve had business coaches and mentors. I think that a lot of the time, it’s yourself that can set barriers to what you're achieving. So it’s always been, to stay open minded. If you want something there’s ways to get around it. So, I think it’s just to be resilient, open minded, and if at first you don’t succeed you need to try, and try again. I think that’s probably the best piece of advice as you will encounter failure at times.
There have been opportunities that we have not won, and I could have seen it as a massive setback, or I could have seen it as - Why didn’t we win this? What can we do to improve? How do we make sure we get our message across appropriately next time? Just be strong and just keep standing up, and if you encounter a failure, just keep going, don’t let it set you back permanently.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women that are thinking about starting their own business or pursuing a career in digital marketing?
I think digital marketing is an excellent career for anyone, there are so many different roles within digital. We’ve got an executive that started with us a few months ago, and we’re letting her trial [everything] - What does she think of account management? What does she think of social media? Doing a bit of learning within those teams. Does she like SEO? Would she like a bit of training in paid search? Let her find which role suits her best. She’s actually identified that she’s found that search is something that she’s really interested in, so that’s what we’re training her in and we’re spending more time in that training now.
So, I think there are so many roles, there are so many opportunities to advance your career. You’ll start at the executive level, to manager and director, to potentially, like myself, you go on to be an owner, once you’ve learned and you know you’ve got contacts and experience. There's an opportunity there to really climb up the ladder, and it’s very exciting, it’s interesting and it always has tangible results. If you’ve got a spend, you know exactly what the return on investment is, through different tracking and tagging. It’s great to know when you’ve been part of a campaign, to see what the results did for that brand. I think it’s a great career. I would advise anyone that’s not sure whether to give it a shot or not, to absolutely go for it and trial it out, because there’s going to be loads to keep your brain ticking over.
In terms of advice, I would say, being a female business owner does bring challenges, particularly when you have a family. So, you will find yourself short on time because you want to balance the time you are spending with your family, in particular if you’ve got children, and the time you’re dedicating to growing your business; to nurturing your team, ensuring they are achieving the standards that you want your business to provide.
There are days where I am working late at night because I wanted to drop my son at school, and I’ve got the flexibility to do that. If I want to pick my child up after school and take him to a class, then I’ll need to work after dinner once he’s in bed, with a laptop open and just continue working then.
So, it is hard work, not for every industry, but certainly for mine. I often find there are not enough hours in the day, however, you just get on with it.
Is there one woman in particular that inspires you and why?
There’s not one in particular that stands out. I have a friend that has two businesses and has two kids. I’ve got many women that I’ve worked alongside and they’re managing to make it happen, even though it’s really hard work.
It’s always about being the best mum that you can be, and being around your kids, while also managing a successful business. I take my hat off to anyone that is out there doing that, because it’s not easy. It is difficult. It brings rewards, but you’re going to be working your socks off.