Simon chats with Llew Jury, Founder & Managing Partner of Sprint Ventures, Chair of Reload and Director of Advancer in episode 98 of the Cemoh Marketing Podcast. In this episode, Llew touched on some great tactics to build and grow an agency.
Sprint Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm based in Brisbane, Australia. They grow, mentor and invest in the very best early-stage ideas and most importantly, their founders.
Reload Business Group (RBG) is a global business and digital marketing network of companies with offices in London, Brisbane and Manila. RBG provides specialist digital marketing and business strategy services to a diverse range of industries and clients around the world.
Advancer is a HR consulting company that embraces technology to help business owners & managers get HR confident.
You can connect with Llew Jury here.
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Simon Dell: So, welcome to the Cemoh Marketing Podcast. And my guest today is Llew Jury. Welcome to the show.
Llew Jury: Thanks, Simon. Great to be here.
Simon Dell: Now, you and I obviously have a lot of history. We’ve known each other for a long time. You’re based here in Brisbane with me. But for the benefit of the people that have no idea who the fuck Llew is, give us the two-minute elevator pitch.
Llew Jury: Okay, no problem. So, I’ve been around, as you say, for a while and we’ve known each other a while, Simon. And it’s pretty much predominantly in the digital space. So yeah, my name’s Llew Jury. Currently, I’m the founder of Sprint Ventures. I’m the Managing Partner, and that’s a venture capital firm.
But to get to venture capital, you have to sort of go way back to web design and things like that in the late-90’s. I set up a company with my brother in the late-90’s called Al Fresco, and Al Fresco was a web design agency based out of Brisbane.
7 years to the day that we set that up in February 2006, we sold that to one of the companies that was part of John Singleton and Jack Singleton’s group called the STW Group. And we sold that company. And normally, when you sell to an ASX-type entity like STW at the time, who was going around and buying up small agencies of 30-odd staff like we were, basically you get slapped with the restraint.
And so, restraint is basically a term in the agreements that sort of say, “Thou shalt not compete.” And so, what I did was we basically went out there and I did some consulting for a few years from 2006 to 2008. And on the day that my restraint finished, because I wanted to be honourable and sort of make that, I set up a company called Reload.
And Reload very quickly, I think, do a number of factors: timing and a couple of other things, maybe hitting the market with search, and performance media, and things like that. In 2008, really took off. And Reload Media was the predominant company at that time and still is the engine room of the Reload Business Group.
But that’s now 80 staff in three countries. And in 2016, I became chair of that company, handed the reins, the day-to-day client management reins, and all the management over to Craig Somerville, who’s a bit of a genius and my business partner. And Craig and I are still the two shareholders in Reload.
And Craig’s run that business for four years and has allowed me to do this last part. And my next 10 year plan, and Sprint if you can call it that, which is Sprint Ventures, which is a lot of entrepreneur residence roles at River City Labs, and the Age Care Tech Accelerators but also investing in startups as a venture capital firm. There you go. Hopefully, that was two minutes.
Simon Dell: That was good. It was way over two minutes, but that’s cool.
Llew Jury: Of course.
Simon Dell: There was no way you were going to stick to two minutes. That was optimistic to start with. Okay, a couple of things I want to unpack from that. I think one of the things – I’m going to blow smoke up your ass here for a second – that’s always impressed me about you is two things: One, you always seem to have a plan.
And I think something you’ve just said then kind of alluded that there’s a 10-year plan for Sprint Ventures. There always seems to feel like you know where you’re going or you know what the road looks like ahead of you. Is that the case or are you selling me that really well and I’m falling for it?
Llew Jury: No, I think I’ve had to learn that over the years. And I’m probably selling it to you, and you’re probably falling for it, but no. Look, when I look back now – and we’re the same age, aren’t we? We’re bang on the same age, 74, born in 1974.
As you get a little wiser, and you’ve become very wise in your maturing age as well, Simon Dell. Basically, as you know, you start to reflect and you start to do a number of things. When you look back on your career, if you call it that – I’ve got some entrepreneurial thing like yourself, I haven’t really worked for anybody, so to speak. I’ve been doing my own startups.
It starts when I was 12. When I was 12, I wanted to set up… I lived in the Adelaide Hills around all the wineries and all that. I didn’t even realize how good I had it, but basically, when I was a kid, I lived up in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, and I wanted to set up a winery touring company with a bus and to drive people around in 1986 to wineries because I thought that was a pretty cool thing.
And I went to my parents and I pitched them a picture. I actually drew a picture. Instead of drawing BMXes back in the 80’s, I was drawing buses. I had all the decals on the sign and said, “Look, I want to do this for the next few years. I want you to go and mortgage your house and put some money into it.” They said, “We’re not going to do that because that costs lots of money.”
So I said, “I want to have a plan. I’m going to do this for the next number of years until I finish school and go to uni and do all that sort of thing.” But I didn’t move when I was 14 to Canberra and sort of joined the eastern seaboard of Australia. But that sort of went by the by, but it started back then, Simon. In terms of… I set a plan and I said, “I’m going to do this for the next few years.”
And then when I did Al Fresco, that was always a plan for a number of years. That was always something that was never going to be forever. I then got into Reload in 2008 and I said to Craig, “Mate, let’s go on a 14-year journey. Let’s go on a journey here that is mapped out for us. And if it works, it works. Brilliant. If it doesn’t, then we’ll go and do something else.” But you know, let’s not put too much pressure on this, but let’s create something that is equity-based. Let’s create something that we can work towards.
And we did that in Auckland Harbour in 2010. So, you know, 6 years later after that, when I’d been there for 10 years, another 10-year sprint if you can call it that, I then went, “Mate, it’s all yours.” He came back from the UK and said, “What are you going to do, Mr Jury? What are you up to?” And I went, “Mate, it’s all yours. You can have it.”
Like, honestly, I’ve done my 10 years. I’m going to go and do some other stuff now. I’ll be chair and I’ll be the governance of the board, and I’ll do all that. I really have a lot of interest in it, but I really want to go up that next level and go and do some other stuff.
And it’s worked out brilliantly. And then Sprint came along, mate, and to answer your question in a roundabout way: Yes, there is a plan. And this one involves kids. This one involves: What’s the next 30 years of creating something more than just wealth, something that I can hand my kids through, say, a trust and say: Here is a vehicle for you and a platform that allows you to do something.
And it basically is something that’s deeper from a social responsibility point of view to hand to the next generation. So, I’m in that sort of – looking at the next 10 to 20 years as something I can hand over. Of course, I don’t want to make trust fund kids. That’s not my aim. And you’ll look at the second investment that we’ve done. We’re investing in some pretty cool solar technology company called Radian.
And our first investment was in Halo, which is aged care software, communication software. So, we’re trying to make a difference and I’m trying to instil that for the next generation. And you’re right, it’s like a 10-year roadmap that I want to take, sprint out to 30 years until I’m on a…
Simon Dell: I think that kind of highlights the big difference between you and I. For people that potentially listen to this that know both of us, and even the people that don’t know either of us, there’s you kind of at 12 years old with that plan, right? And I hear, of all the people I’ve spoken to on this podcast over the years, that’s a very common theme, is that they kind of realized early on… Justin Dry at Vinomofo was into wine at an early age.
He knew that was all he ever wanted to do. So, a lot of those successful entrepreneurs have kind of realized it really early on, but the lightbulb came on, obviously, it’s changed over the years and things like that. I think the big difference between you and I is that you learned that at 12 years old and I think I learned that at 43, you know.
Llew Jury: Don’t undermine yourself, mate. I mean, you’ve been very successful with your businesses.
Simon Dell: Well, my 101st podcast, because this is 98, is going to be me actually recounting my journey, which I’ve never really done publicly. And I look back on it now and go, “Yeah.” There was a lot of mistakes, and I go – and I think what I wanted to say out of that was I wanted to say to people who are listening to this, who are sitting there, who are maybe 43 now and going, “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life” or you know, “I’ve been working for someone else for 20 years, 30 years, whatever it might be.”
Some people are lucky. Some people realise it at 12 years old. Some people realize it at 43, but it doesn’t really matter when you realize it – it’s then the action that you take once you kind of realize what it is that you’re going to do.
Llew Jury: Yeah. And look, that’s right, but you’ve been doing that as well mate. I mean, all the businesses you’ve got… And it’s very similar to me. I think having a plan is good, but sometimes, you need to be as flexible outside of that plan and you need to be making sure – you have an eye on the prize, but you learn from all the bits and pieces that you do and accumulate.
And I’ve got a sort of a motto there: fail fast, fail cheaply, fail internally, and fail quietly. Just do it internally and keep it on the down-low and learn from that, and then just keep going. And you look at Cemoh now for you mate, and you know you can see how you’ve built it out of 2 cents, and all the other things you’ve done over the years as well.
So, mate, I put you into that same category as I’m starting to interview you now, which is great. This is also the first time ever, I’m sure, I’ve flipped it.
Simon Dell: I was going to say, I have no idea why there’s not a Llew Jury podcast because there should be.
Llew Jury: Oh, thanks mate. But you know, it’d be more like Joe Rogan, I reckon it would be. It would get out of control, let’s just say that.
Simon Dell: Very, very quickly, yeah. Alright, so I guess the other two things that I really admired from the Reload days was: Number one was the process. It seemed to me that Reload had a process for everything. Everything was kind of documented, and I remember you telling me one year about people re-signing contracts and how that process went, and all those kinds of things. It just seemed to me like it was very automated. Was that the case?
Llew Jury: Yeah, it’s a good observation, Simon. And back to the 10 years ago, when we were sort of trying to commercialize SEO and all the sort of things that have been done in a darkened bedroom with guys listening to Marilyn Manson and Ghost Heron, that was the SEO industry, right?
And we tried to make it professional. We tried to bring it out of the bedroom and put a tie on. At the time, Craig and I used to go out and see people with a suit and a shirt and tie on. And you know, we tried to then do processes. And I think we try to systemize services. I think that’s probably a good way to describe it. And I think that really helped us scale and grow.
Because at the time, back then, and if listeners remember, companies used to offer page 1 guarantee, we’ll get you to the top of Google. And what that was was great content and changing a title tag at midnight as you’re working on an account. You’d wake up the next morning, it’s number one because you just change your title tag. So, it was a very different game back 10, 12 years ago.
So, what we did was we wanted to make sure that it was a professional industry, digital marketing. It wasn’t a cottage industry. And what we did was really make sure that as we scaled, we were forced into having to do processes. When you’re acquiring a couple hundred new clients a year and growing at 100% year-on-year in terms of your numbers, you really need to have it all systemized.
I can tell you though, back in about 2015, 2016, Craig, as I said, came back from the UK and we actually decoupled processes. He actually came back and took his learnings from the UK and actually went, “You know what? We’re actually going to strip this back and remove a lot of the process.”
And what you see now with Reload, the scale that they’ve gone through in the last four years, and especially around 2020 in terms of direct-to-consumer with e-commerce growth, that’s all because of that decoupling in process. So, very interesting, yeah.
Simon Dell: The other thing that I always admired was you seem to have – and again, correct me if I’m wrong, you always used to win a lot of awards. You are always getting up on a stage somewhere receiving some sort of glass block about something.
Llew Jury: Yeah, and I’ve got them all in my office here. And they’re all gathering dust at the moment, so yeah.
Simon Dell: I remember you saying to me that you had actually employed – or Reload had actually employed people specifically within the organization to go and win you awards. And I don’t mean it like that, but there was people that were there in the marketing team within Reload that were dedicated to try and get you in the news, get your smiley face in the news and all those kinds of things. Did I dream that or was that actually the case?
Llew Jury: Well, we didn’t employ anybody as a dedicated award writer. I mean, that’s actually not a bad one. I wouldn’t mind seeing that on Seek, right? You know, see if there’s anybody actually a dedicated award writer. But look, it was certainly a strategy and it is for a number of organizations. And the listeners out there, especially marketing managers and small business owners would understand this: It’s part of your PR strategy.
It’s part of your growth strategy, and it’s telling a narrative around where you’re heading and what you’re doing. And you’ve got to celebrate the wins. I’ve learned that from the Al Fresco days. We didn’t really do a lot of awards. I think we did those Deloitte ones, the Fast 500 in Asia and the fast whatever. But I learned from that…
And when I popped up at Reload and we were showing some growth, it actually allowed us to create opportunities from that. And I’ll give you one example. I won the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards awarding in the Young Person of the Year, funnily enough, and then they changed the category the next year. They reduced the age because they went, “How did he do that?”
Anyway, I won the Youngest…
Simon Dell: He’s got no hair. He’s not allowed to win an award.
Llew Jury: That’s what it was. And John Aitken, the CEO of Brisbane Marketing said, “We’re going to reduce it about 5 years if Llew got there.” In 2012, Young Business Person of the Year because it’s celebrating innovation and all that sort of stuff.
And I went up on the stage and I bumped into a guy who, I think he presented the award to me, called Simon Holt. And he was the editor of Brisbane News. And he said, “Why don’t you pop in and have a coffee, and we’ll just have a bit of a…
What happened out of that was I wrote for Brisbane News for about 2 years as the technology writer. Whenever I wanted to, I just sent him an article and he’d throw it up. But what happened there was that got syndicated to Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, et cetera. And suddenly, the profile from that one award is allowing me to sort of have greater visibility.
So, this is an example of using awards for PR. But look, the other thing is, using awards for the right reason of where you want to take your business. And it’s not all about the marketing side. So, I applied to … in 2014, and I was offline going up to 6,000 meters and coming back down.
And I picked up my phone back in the town and we’d won the National Customer Services Institute of Australia – Best of the Best Customer Service Award. And Reload had beaten American Express and iiNet, and Melbourne Airport and all these others for offering the best customer services.
And that’s probably my proudest award because we’re not going up against other marketing companies. We’re not going up to be the best technology product-led company. But we actually set out a vision to be the best customer intimacy company. We wanted to be the best at customer relationships and driving growth through that mechanism.
That was a bit of a pat on the back, and that was an award for the staff. So, that’s another reason why you do awards, is for them.
Simon Dell: And presumably, there would’ve been someone within your organization that was looking. I mean, most people would never have heard of that award. And I’m sure it’s a prestigious award, but most people would not know where to start looking for things like this. Do you think, if that’s the sort of thing if you want to follow the kind of reload model, that…
Llew Jury: A perfect example, mate. You’ve hit the nail in the head. So, we set out in about 2011 to be the best at customer service for our industry. And we had no idea about customer service awards, you know. We were going after the Fast 100’s, and the BIW’s, and the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards, and Brisbane Business Awards and all that, right?
And so, it’s a more competitive sort of landscape, but that was important, yes. But really, we wanted to be known for the best customer service. So, when you set a strategic vision and a purpose within the organization, and that permeates the values in the organization, you then naturally start acquiring, and looking around and going, “Oh, I reckon that award is built for us.”
Because you know, it comes across your desk on Twitter or wherever it comes in. And you’re like, “I reckon next year, we should give that a crack.” Because I think we might shape this up a bit. And that’s what we did. We actually shook that up because we’re little Reload coming in against these massive operations, and these were the ones we’re putting in call centres and all that sort of stuff.
And every year, the same large enterprises would go for it. But little Reload SME came in and we just did things differently, and that’s why we got the pat in the back.
Simon Dell: If you were talking to someone that was starting an agency today or they’d be running an agency for a couple of years, what’s the one lesson for you that you would say to them, “Here’s how you grow the business.” Was there a particular channel that you found you got more customers through than others, or was it just a bit of everything?
Llew Jury: Mate, I mean, I just had about 50 things I could’ve said – I can say now, but look, in no order at all, partnerships are massive. We know that relationships in Australia are the number one reason why people do business with you. And out of that is the trust factor.
So, you’re referred to someone because they trust you. Now, back in 2006, we were competing in the web design game with Al Fresco with Emu, and Crew, and Speedwell and all those sorts of guys, right? So, those businesses are still around today, but ICEMEDIA as well was another one.
And F5. There was a company called F5 that used to do a huge amount of good stuff as well. So, I basically rang all of those people and said, “Let’s…” Because they’re mainly males, “Can I have a coffee? I’ve been banned from building websites by my wife because she doesn’t want me on that treadmill anymore. But I’m going to do this thing called SEO.”
“And when you finish your website, hand them to me and Reload and I’ll make sure they can be optimized for the internet.” And back then, it was changing title tags and getting them all ready, and we’ll actually help you out as well. So, my lead generation was 50% of my leads between sort of 2008 and 2010 were partners.
And that was my former competitors. So, someone had said, “You’ll never do business with your former competitors.” Actually, relationships are trust. They said to me, all of them, “Well, actually, we trust you because you’re not going to compete with us anymore, but you did websites at the same level that we did, and therefore we’ll flick that to you.”
“Let’s have a relationship and a partnership.” And look, that’s an example of partnerships that are massive in Australia, especially. And I know overseas it’s important, but in Australia for sure. That’s how we do business, and that’s really important.
The other big thing is, just thinking out loud of why we did well, I suppose, is we watched cash. Cash was everything. We made sure we got pre-payments for things like campaigns, make sure you get paid upfront so you don’t come up stuck and become like a media bank and have to get insurance against that. That was another big one.
And a lot of companies, especially in the digital agency game, wearing a lot of risk from that point of view, and it’s a lot more risky when you’re smaller. You can wear a bit more risk when you’re larger. And I suppose the other thing is, it’s about great humans.
As you’ve always done, Simon, you’ve always employed great people around you. And I think the great people that I put around me were way better than I was. I was good for doing the relationships things I just said, but I put in humans that were way better at specific things than I was. And Craig was one of those, who’s 14 years younger than me but actually running and transforming businesses is a skill that he’s way beyond me.
Simon Dell: And with your customers and your client base at Reload, if you had to give them advice aside from buying more of your services, which is obviously what you recommend, is there anything… And you and I both know there’s no magic bullet when it comes to growing the business, but what have you seen? Of all the clients that you’ve worked with over the years, what have you seen work the best for them?
Llew Jury: Right. So, it’s when they’re totally integrated with the agency. Long gone are the days where the agency staff lean on the water cooler in the tea room and have a good bitch session around the client, right? It’s gone completely 180.
And that’s the old ad agency model that just is to be decimated, and hopefully, it’s gone. I’ll give you an example. A lot of the Reload clients are actually in the internal Slack channel of Reload’s Slack channel for themselves. So, they’re actually embedded inside the organization. There are hot desks set up at Reload that they can come in and work out of and plug into.
They become part of the staff. So, if you’ve got 10 people on an account, you’ll have the two clients, the marketing managers, inside the actual Slack channel. There’s no hiding anything anymore, and this has been the Reload way for the last – the whole time we’ve been going. But transparency is everything, and it’s part of our value.
So look, I’d say coming back in from a client relationship level, embed yourself inside the agency that you’re working with, the supply that you’re working with, and build that trust with them. It’s like investing in startups. You’re in the trenches for a couple of years. You can’t bounce around all the time and go from agency to agency, which is a bit of a red flag by the way to us in the agency world if someone is bouncing around.
It’s similar to someone who’s on their LinkedIn profile only lasting 6 months in jobs, you know. It’s very similar. So, from a client perspective, build those long-term relationships with the agency and you’re going to get way bigger bang for buck. They’re going to go the extra mile to deliver really cracking results for you.
So, yeah, I think just – and I think a lot of clients, a lot of larger organizations are seeing that, and there’s a lot of great relationships being formed.
Simon Dell: I want to touch on search because obviously, you’ve been embedded in search for years. And I know you’ve moved out of that now, but I know one of the things Reload does very well is search.
Is it still such a big deal in 2020 as perhaps it was back in 2012, 2013, and certainly over the last 10 years – but is that still important for a small business, or any business of any size, that they think about search? And then obviously, I’ll throw the voice search into this. Where is that whole industry at the moment?
Llew Jury: It’s a very good question because it’s very quickly transitioning into digital transformation. So, if you go into an ad agency these days, you don’t really have an SEO department anymore. You don’t have a lot of technical people sitting there doing a lot of techy things. It’s much more – It’s like your agency, Simon, at Cemoh. It’s led by content and led by a different interface if you like, which is content marketing-led, which is relationship-led, which is a very different way of doing it than 10 years ago, as I said.
So, absolutely. There’s companies and SMEs still coming in and going, “Hi, I’d like some SEO.” And they’re often the ones that don’t actually do SEO with you, but they might do variations on the themes. So, they might do content marketing. They might do social media. They might do performance media by – they might do digital transformation, customer journey workshops and persona development and things like that.
So, I think it still is a lead into an agency, but the good agencies out there, like the Reload agency, is what they’re doing instead of unpacking things back to business strategy, the values of that actual customer, and then saying, “Right, we think you actually need these things for phase one. And ongoing, these are the other areas that you need.” And as I said, the old school sort of compartmentalising SEO and PPC and all that is sort of maybe totally integrated rather than thrown down people’s throats, so to speak.
Because I think what happened – and many companies would’ve seen this. SEO got a bit of a bad reputation, probably five years ago, because it was a low barrier to entry to come in. You could get out of uni or do whatever you were doing, and one day hang a shingle out and say, “I’m an SEO-er” and charge exorbitant fees, take all the money, and end up on those Whirlpool Forums about ripping people off.
And there’s plenty of stories out there about that. And you know, you can see some carnage. So, I think people, clients, organizations have sort of been a bit wary and they want to make sure that there’s an end-to-end process behind what they’re doing. With digital being now the heavyweight, it’s come from below the line and risen up where budgets have been appropriated from traditional spends in the digital spends, it’s actually got the eye of the board, eye of the SEO and they’re attending those conversations and agency catch-ups from the digital interface.
And so, it’s become a digital transformation chat rather than just a pure SEO and PPC chat.
Simon Dell: I still see the small businesses being – and probably the only word I can use here is defrauded out of money. I saw one two months ago. She was paying $400-500 a month and I just said to her, “You’re throwing the money away.” To an agency, and I use down in Sydney.
And I think the two flags that I would say to people in an SEO space… And again, we’re looking at more the smaller side of things where businesses are perhaps paying for SEO but they don’t have anyone internally doing their marketing. So, they don’t really know what’s happening. I think the two red flags for me would be – the keywords that people are saying they’re going to get you to page one of Google for, blah blah, is whether people actually search on them, if there is any traffic on them or they have just been plucked out of somewhere because they were easy to get you ranking on.
And the second thing is whether they’re giving you a report on your search traffic back to day one. Because the red flag I see is where the agency says, “Well, here was your traffic in November, here’s your traffic in December.” And then in January, they say, “Here’s your traffic in December and here’s your traffic in January.”
Those month-to-month fluctuations can be very ambiguous. What you should be looking at is where your business is over 12 months of a campaign like that. Are those the two things that you’ve perhaps seen yourself?
Llew Jury: Yeah, I have, mate. And I like that second one that you just talked about. You know, actually having visibility from a helicopter view about your analytics and your data, and it’s just beyond some makeup that some person’s outsourced and trying to get you over the line from the sales level.
And you know, there is still a little bit of that happening, mate, absolutely. I think the clients that Reload is partnering with, even if they’re SMEs… Reload has a number of SMEs, clients, not just big ones, but I think they’re the ones that have sort of educated themselves around all those things you just said, and they understand the numbers about true both return on investment but return on ad spend as well, when they’re doing the performance side of things.
So they’re actually saying, “Look, we’re not going to be ripped off here. We’re maybe being educated, if you like, in the past.” But I think the big thing for that is SMEs and small businesses need to understand that there is a lot of free stuff. Agencies will help educate you for free. They’ll give you an understanding of truly what the transparency of the industry is.
So, don’t, if you’re feeling like you are this – something’s not right and you’re not getting any results, which is actually money in your bank. Not just leads, or clients potentially calling you and things like that. You actually want money in your bank from any digital marketing activity, whether it’s SEO or whatever you do, right?
If you’re not getting any of that, not just a bad vibe or a bad feeling, you’ve got the right to move and you’ve got the right to go and attend events, meet ups, and talk to myself, or Simon, or whoever, an agency. And basically, they’ll give you, in five minutes, a true read of the land even if you don’t use them in the future. It’s important that the industry keeps educating and keeps making sure that there’s not those diminishes out there.
We get rid of those diminishes and they hopefully over time all fall off a truck. Because I think you’re right, there’s still a number going on, probably predominantly in the southern states, Simon. I would say that.
Simon Dell: I mean, I’ve seen – there’s a fairly famous agency that lasted I think two or three years here in Brisbane.
Llew Jury: Oh, the one that sponsored the Porsche?
Simon Dell: Yeah, the one that sponsored the Porsche, yeah. Everyone still talks about it to this day, you know.
Llew Jury: You can go into Whirlpool. It’s all over that one. It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Simon Dell: It’s amazing how they pulled the wall over so many people’s eyes and presumably took a lot of money and didn’t… I mean, I hear they’ve never paid any rent and all those kind of things.
Llew Jury: Yeah, look, it’s some borderline Ponzi scheme stuff. I call it living on deposits. Basically, what they’re doing is taking three months auto-debited off your credit card, baking that money and then using that to go the next step. Which is actually a pyramid scheme, you know, and then they close up shop and they pop up somewhere else.
That has, a bit like the building industry, that has enlighted I think. And put the noses around… quite rightly of a number of organizations over time. And I think companies that we’re talking about here that are incredible, and transparent, and purpose-driven are trying to, I suppose, build a bit of that credibility, right?
Simon Dell: Yeah, and I often say to clients: If someone’s going to charge you $400 for SEO, you are wasting the money because you’re not going to get any value from $400. And I know a lot of small businesses, again, they see that silver bullet and they go, “Well, I can afford $400 a month because that’s $100 a week and I can afford that, and it’s going to give me all these great results.”
But they see the silver bullet, and they think it’s a silver bullet, and they’re prepared to wait 3 months, and then they’re prepared to wait 6 months, and all of a sudden they’re spent $3,500 and had no results and then the agency moves on.
And often, some of them are too scared to say no or say, “I’m going to cancel you.” They get solved this – “Oh look, that keyword’s gone up 10 places. Look at the results we’re starting to get.”
Llew Jury: Yeah, and that’s a very good point. The point that I would sort of make sure, if you’re in that position right now, and you’re not getting the bang for buck – because as Simon says, you do need a lot of fuel on the tank, a lot of investment of time from an agency, and that costs money. That will cost more than a couple hundred bucks a month.
Take it to a lawyer. Take those terms and conditions that try to screw you down and lock you into 12 months and things like that. Reload, many years ago, moved to month-to-month. So, if you’re doing a program at work with someone who’s like a principle like Simon, and it’s a 12-month agreement that you’re going to be doing rolling phases of work, that’s absolutely fine.
If it’s just a 12-month contract, you’re auto-debited money from a person that you never speak to or see, and touch, and feel, then go and see a lawyer because it’s better to spend a couple hundred bucks or a thousand bucks getting out of that than wasting even more on poor results and feeling like you’re locked into a contract.
I would fight those contracts and I would recommend that you go, get out of them, and talk to someone else.
Simon Dell: To kind of finish up today, I want to find out a little bit more about Sprint Ventures. You’ve got a very specific area for investment, so tell us what you guys are looking for when it comes to investment?
Llew Jury: Yeah, sure. So, Sprint Ventures is a company that’s been going for 12 months, and we’re closing off our first sovereign fund, which is a fund that’s investing in technology-led startups. And we call them scale-ups, because they’re the ones that are high margin, going global, led by great founders and teams, and they need some capital to grow.
So generally, they’re a couple years old, these startups. We see about 600 pitch decks a year. We have about 100 pictures and presentations. We had three last Wednesday night for example. We mentor a lot of the startups in the startup lab and ecosystems, and then we invest in a handful, 3 or 4, 4 or 5 this year.
In our sovereign fund, we’ll have about 12 to 15 mid to end-next year, and we’re going to raise some more funds. So, what we do is we cut checks that sort of go into a raise round. So, other venture capital firms will cut the same sort of check, and these companies might be raising $1.5 million with two or three venture capital firms backing them in.
We normally own between 5 and 10% of the company, so a minority, but we bring a huge anti-stick mentality. We bring the carrot, right? So, what we’re doing is really deep-level mentoring. It’s like being on the board but you’re actually rolling the sleeves up and you’re helping them out wherever you can. So, a good example… And if you want to check out Sprint Ventures, which is a completely different thing to digital marketing.
But actually, I do SEO. So if you type in VC Brisbane, mate, we do rank pretty highly. But anyway, once an SEO-er, always an SEO-er, right? So, Sprint.vc is the URL. On there, there’s a company called Halo. And so, to give you an example of the value that we provide, one of our investment analysts, Max, has been helping with the recruitment of a marketing manager, helping out, doing some LinkedIn checks and things like that with one of our portfolio teams.
And you don’t charge for any of that, but what you’re doing is because you’ve already got an investment in the company, you’re there to help them globally scale. Halo are partnering with Reload. And once they are allowed out of Melbourne, they’re going to go and hot desk out of the Reload London office, and go and say g’day to those guys about European expansion.
So, this is the circular economy of how we’re building Sprint, and it’s great fun, mate. It’s actually reinvigorating in terms of – you know when you first start a company and you start to get that little bit of success, and you start going, “Wow, people like this and there’s something going on here.” We’re just getting that feeling towards the end of this year, writing those tailwinds.
People, investors out there who we target are called wholesale sophisticated investors, and they’re ones that have commercial property, or they’ve generally done pretty well in life. They’ve got their money parked in cash, which is giving them nothing.
And so, we’ve actually become quite… Our alternative high-risk venture capital world has become quite an interesting and attractive space for them. So look, mate, the VC game I think has been cleaned up as well. VC, venture capital, got a bit of a bad name out of Silicon Valley about really putting terms on teams, on founders, and the businesses that weren’t very favourable to the founders.
So, we’ve gone full transparency, this is what we’re doing, here’s some terms that are way more favourable, and let’s roll the sleeves up together and go for a 3 to 5-year spring.
Simon Dell: You don’t ever feel the urge to sneak into a darkened room and do a bit of web developing at any point, do you now?
Llew Jury: Oh mate, no. I use Squarespace and I use all my tools and things like that these days. So look, I do a bit of SEO on my wife’s HR business and I do Sprint just to sort of have the visibility out there. And you know, as I said, once an SEO-er, it’s always in the blood, mate. So yeah, all good.
Simon Dell: You ever give your wife any advice on how to run a business?
Llew Jury: No, you know what it’s like, mate. You know what it’s like. Look, she does very well from an HR point of view. She’s got some good take about compliance for human resources. So look, I’ve helped her out with that and there’s been advice there, and I’m a director of that company. But generally speaking, she’s the one that’s helped me over the last 15, 20 years in terms of giving me advice about the HR and workforce planning thing.
So, I’ve learned to listen. That’s probably something that I didn’t do very well when I was young. And mate, again, the benefit of a bit more maturity and hindsight.
Simon Dell: Hindsight. Hindsight’s the only exact science as my father says.
Llew Jury: Good comment, mate.
Simon Dell: So, alright, so last thing, last question: Outside of all of this, outside of the work, what keeps you going? What do you do to entertain yourself? And family aside, business aside, what do you do to chill out and relax?
Llew Jury: Well, I bought a jet ski last year, Simon.
Simon Dell: Oh, Christ. That’s real mid-life crisis stuff.
Llew Jury: It’s the fastest on the market. It’s called a Sea-Doo 300 RXT, 300 horse power, and I got it just before… Apparently now with COVID, they’ve become hot property. I was up at Noosa in the river there, and I’ve pulled up, and a bloke walked up and went, “Hi, I’m a fly-in fly-out. Would you like to sell me your jet ski?” on the shore.
So, you know, it’s become hot and all that sort of thing. But look, going out with my daughter and her friend, last holidays, off Noosa, we saw dolphins, turtles, and a whale with her calf just off of Teewah following around, slapping its pectoral fin. And you know you have to be about 300 meters away, but you just killed the engine, you sit out there and just the smile on their faces- and just sitting out there in the ocean going, “this is life”.
You know, like we’ve got this so good, especially we live in Brisbane and we’ve got that on our doorstep. But just clearing the air and going away for a week, and just having a great time, that’s what I do, mate. I’ve learned again over the years to stop looking at my Slack, to put my autoresponders on my email, and just go and clear your head because you need those moments, clarity, that’ll benefit when you come back into your business setting.
So, taking breaks is really important and holidays. Look, mate, I’ve got a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old, so that’s a lot of sport and a lot of school stuff. I’m enjoying that for the next few years because that will be over very fast. And look, I’m sure there’s plenty more golf and escaping to the coast once they’re doing their own thing in 5 years’ time, so yeah mate. That’s me at the moment, loving life.
Simon Dell: I’m going to ask you one other question. I’ve given you all this credit for the last 41 minutes. Tell us your worst habit, worst business habit. What’s something that you still look at yourself and just go, “I wish I could stop doing that.”
Llew Jury: Worst business habit? Oh. That’s a very good question. I think probably taking too long on one specific task. I bounce. I have multiple windows open on my Chrome, right? So, I’ll have five email addresses open in five tabs, and I’ll have massive amounts of working documents.
Simon Dell: I’ve gone three open here, yeah.
Llew Jury: Right, so I tend to bounce all day between all of those tabs and I would love to be able to be one of those persons that’s called into …, which is one of the Myers-Briggs and LSI and Hogan and all that. They call them completer-finishes, and I am the opposite to a completer-finisher.
I’m a resource investigator, so I’m really good at sales, right? As probably what you’ve been gathering.
Simon Dell: Yeah, you and I are the same.
Llew Jury: You’re right, we’re the same. But completer-finishers are the ones that stick to the task, stick to that one tab, and they get it done, and it’s perfect, and they send it off, and job done, and they can move onto the next task. I bounce all day between tasks, and I reckon – it’s just probably my worst habit. And of course, there’s always news open and Twitter open, and you get distracted on what the US election’s doing, or COVID, or… So, there you go, mate. There’s a bit of my inside world.
In maybe 10 years’ time, Simon, I’ll be a completer-finisher, there you go. I doubt it.
Simon Dell: I have the same issue and I try and do a lot of writing, you know, both for work and for – fiction and things like that. And I was sitting on Twitter the other day, and there was an author guy called Hugh Howey who wrote a series, the Wool series. It’s a science fiction series. I think it’s going to be made into a TV show or something, and he was unpacking. He did one of those unpacking videos, a product called Freewrite. It’s a smart typewriter.
And it’s just the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. It’s a regression from a laptop to what would’ve been a traditional typewriter, but sort of somewhere in between the two.
Llew Jury: And repurposed for the modern age, and with Bluetooth enabled and all of that.
Simon Dell: It’s synced with Google Docs, and Microsoft stuff, and things like that, but you can’t do anything else on it other than type. So, I sat there and saw that and just went, “I’m getting me one of those.” I’m counting the days for it to arrive so that I can shut the laptop. I can leave the phone somewhere and just sit there, and I am then forced to write because that’s the only thing that the machine does.
Llew Jury: I’ve just logged on and I can see you can get an American one or an international one.
Simon Dell: The American one, you can’t get in Australia at the moment for some reason, but the keyboard layout is virtually the same.
Llew Jury: Yeah. And look, I mean, this is the thing, isn’t it? It’s about sitting down and dedicating time to a specific task. With how busy we all are, and I think everybody would be feeling the same… yeah, but just making that time to get it done.
Simon Dell: And I think there’s business and opportunities in there in helping people do that, because people like you and me are too distracted by other things that are happening around us. And where there is an opportunity to perhaps teach people, or train people, or deliver them a piece of software, or deliver them a tool that helps them focus and helps them concentrate, that’s…
Llew Jury: There you go. There’s a whole industry. Someone out there listening, Simon, needs to come up and become the world’s first distraction coach. And invent a whole end-to-end – strategize a type lean canvas model and come on. I want to see that. I’ll be your first client.
Simon Dell: There’s a huge market in that. A huge market. Anyway, mate, thank you very much for being on the show today. It’s always fun chatting to you, and look, we’ll no doubt catch up somewhere at some networking thing where we bump into each other again.
Llew Jury: Sounds great. Thanks for having me mate, cheers.