A look at Jon Richardson's successful digital agency journey with Blam Websites
Company: Overt Digital Media Ltd
Owner: Jon Richardson
Type: Blam Partner Franchise
Company Summary: Digital marketing specialists in Bournemouth and Poole helping small and medium size businesses to stand out from the crowd and attract more customers.
Life Before Blam
Before starting his journey as a Blam Partner, I was in sales for over 20 years selling big-ticket, complex technology products from communications software to HR systems to large businesses. My last position was selling software for the cruise industry which included travelling all over the world but I was made redundant after my company was sold.
I’ve wanted to be self-employed for the past 10-years, but the thing that stopped me was what I saw as my skill set - big-ticket sales. My deals would take between 6-36 months to come to fruition. When I got made redundant and started to look at what I could do next, I looked at a number of franchises and, because my background involved a lot of international travel, I was very close to signing on the dotted line with a travel franchise.
The Blam formula for passive income
When you have a job, if you have an accident or break your leg or you get the flu, you can lay on the sofa and still get paid your paycheck at the end of the month. You might not get paid as much, but you know your mortgage and your bills will be paid by someone else.
You don’t have that luxury when you work for yourself. But, with Blam, you do. it’s a win-win and a no-brainer in my mind, I don’t know why you would do anything else.
Hitting the ground running with Blam
I’m 16 months into my journey now. The last eight months have been phenomenal - really, really good!
We set up Overt Digital Media on the 19th of March 2020, four days before the lockdown. I spent quite a bit of time researching what the best business model was for me. I always knew it was a passive revenue or recurring revenue model and after looking at several different possible partners, I chose Blam in February  and have never looked back.
It took a little while to get off the ground because of several factors, but I’m 16 months into my journey now. The last eight months have been phenomenal - really, really good!
My first time being in business on my own
I’d always been employed prior to that and always in quite senior roles. My last role was a global role selling big-ticket software platforms to the cruise industry so I was travelling to LA, Florida, and all around the Mediterranean (all in business class) and earning really good money. I decided that I wanted to walk away from that and just take control of my own life and not have all those sales meetings, those one-to-ones, appraisals, forecast calls, quarterly business reviews, and all of that nonsense that goes with it.
It was always going to be a huge learning curve and it certainly lived up to that expectation. Going from the corporate world to being on your own, running your own business it’s polar opposites.
The first 16 months
“In May, I had so much to do in terms of delivery that I had to actually stop selling…I had about 12 websites and apps to deliver before I went on holiday at the end of May.”
The business was growing steadily every month but, obviously, it felt like ‘two steps forward one step backward’. I’d have a good month and then people would cancel and I was thinking ‘What am I doing wrong?’ Then I’d panic and discount massively [to get sales].
Then November came and I had a storming month, the stars just aligned. Then December was a good month as well - not as good as November - but still brought on two or three new customers and then I really took stock over the Christmas period and said ‘right, okay where do I wanna be…where I want to take this and how I want to get there?’ That was a really valuable exercise and literally every month this year has been my best ever month with the exception of May.
In May, I had so much to do in terms of delivery that I had to actually stop selling. I had to close the doors, hunker down, and actually get everything delivered. I think I had about 12 websites and apps to deliver before I went on holiday at the end of May.
The wow-factor for customers
“Because we don’t charge like £2000 up front, this is £125 a month, people have a lower expectation. When you come back with this killer website, people are just blown away by it.”
But it was a conscious thing, a conscious action to take. I look back at that time and I think ‘well, what’s the reason for what I was doing differently?’ It’s still quite a difficult question to answer
because it’s a gradual process and you have a lot more confidence in the quality of the websites that we sell and the apps that we provide - the quality of the work. Every time I deliver a website, pretty much without fail the customer goes ‘wow that’s a lot better than I was expecting!’
Because we don’t charge like £2000 up front, this is £125 a month, people have a lower expectation. When you come back with this killer website, people are just blown away by it. So that really built my confidence in the product, the offering, and the expertise of the team.
Full steam ahead!
Then I got a head of steam and I started getting my first referrals from existing customers. I was like ‘oh okay, well that’s it, that’s an easy win’ and that started to build up a head of steam now. I entered into this month [July 2021] with eight deals likely to close in my pipeline which was just unheard [in the past] - it was always two or three - and it just builds confidence. The more confident you are, the more people will come over to you, and now I’ve started adding additional fees onto the website fee just for my own time and consultancy.
So now I’ve got this additional recurring revenue from the experience gained the last 16 months. Things are looking really good now. I’m way ahead of my business plan and that was the business plan I put in place prior to Covid-19, so I obviously had to rethink that. But even when I look at that business plan, I’m way ahead of it.
“I’m four months into my second financial year and I’m probably where I expected to be at the end of the financial year”
I’m quite conservative and risk-averse by nature, so you know I always air on the side of caution. But, actually, I’m four months into my second financial year and I’m probably where I expected to be at the end of the financial year.
Setting a price that reflects my experience
I didn’t believe in this until it happened to be completely honest. I do a discount if I’ve got a sole trader who’s just starting out on that journey. You know they’ve just left their job and they’re not quite sure what I’m going to do. I still do discounts if I like that person and I think that they’re serious, but I very rarely discount now. Actually this month, my volume of deals is actually down quite significantly but the profitability of the month is way up so it’s completely the right model. I think when you set these benchmarks, you think ‘oh that’s never going to happen’, and then all of a sudden it just does and it’s like ‘wow, oh here we go!’
Taking on staff and scaling the business
“If all I do is replicate what I’ve done in the last 12 months I’ll get there”
This is the next thing and I’m already thinking about that. My wife is coming into the business, albeit not full-time, as I’m too busy at the moment and I need that help. Next up is a member of staff. I’m all about the numbers. I think I’m probably about a month away from hitting the numbers to employ that person and, in fact, I think there’ll probably be a couple of people in the next couple of months - one on the admin side and one on the sales side.
It’s very exciting and I know that if all I do is replicate what I’ve done in the last 12 months I’ll get there. I don’t need to get any better, the market doesn’t need to get any better, and all I need to do is stay static in terms of my ability in the market and I’ll get there.
Hopefully, I will get better and the market will get better and I’ll get there a lot sooner! But where the opportunity lies for me, and I don’t want to drop this on you because we’ve not really talked about this, I know within two years (hopefully within a year) I’m going to get myself to a point where I don’t actually need to be in it. I’ll have salespeople bringing it in, I’ll have admin people delivering it, and then I’ll work a couple of hours a day. That’s the goal because naturally, I’m quite lazy
It’s completely achievable with this model, it’s absolutely, completely achievable! If you’d asked me that eight months ago I’d have said ‘you’re crazy’, but now I’m probably about a year away
from doing that. In three years from start to finish - although it won’t be finished because it will never be finished - but actually achieving those goals, I can see it, I can taste it now.
Blam support is like gold dust
Don’t get me wrong there are some sleepless nights, long hours, and a lot of head-scratching. But, the support you get from the team at Blam is just gold dust, I couldn’t have done it without Blam, to be honest.
I would be nowhere near where I am today, I’d probably be back in a job again if it wasn’t for the Blam guys so thank you.