Interview: James Towning, CEO, Overthrow Digital

James Towning gives Talk Business an insight into his company, Overthrow Digital, explaining his secrets to keeping clients happy whilst improving their businesses.

Jim InterviewCould you explain who you are, and what your business does?

Overthrow Digital is a business development agency that helps our clients grow using strategy, creativity and technology.

We work with an exciting and eclectic range companies to help them develop more cohesive and effective uses of creativity and technology. We offer an end-to-end service, which mixes consultancy and strategy with creative and tech services. We simplify, demystify and harness digital technology and creativity to help businesses grow.

Our clients are generally independent SME companies or funded start-ups who want our help to ensure they are making the most of digital technology. It normally all starts with a discovery phase and the creation of a digital strategy to identify and define how we achieve some of your business goals. We then work on or across; branding, web, apps, systems, marketing, support and data to help implement the strategy.

What inspired you to start Overthrow Digital?

I think if I could pin it down to one thing it would be the experience and atmosphere I encountered when I was at university. Subconsciously an element of me starting an agency was to recreate the buzzy, exciting and innovative atmosphere that happens when you mix a bunch of enthusiastic, experimental and proactive people and give them a purpose to create around. What inspires me today has evolved somewhat but innovation and creativity remain at the core.

How important is design for SMEs?

In the sense of look and feel, i.e. branding, communications or advertising it is very important. We are told things like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ when in fact that is what our brain is hard wired to do. People make snap judgements whether they like it or not. Having a clear, coherent brand and creative, well-targeted marketing and advertising help improve these initial judgments and build ‘professional confidence’.

I think design as a process, however, is essential to SME businesses and often not considered anywhere near enough. Design is not just making things look nice, it’s using creative and analytical thinking to solve a problem or improve something. Design is required to create a strategy or business model, to draft your annual assumptions and budget, to create improved internal processes or even to create the environment that your team want to work in. It goes much deeper than look and feel; ignore the value of design at your peril!

What is the most important thing you need from a client to get the right design?

Problems, challenges, goals and limitations. When starting from this point it is much easier and faster to create a meaningful result.

What do you do to make yourselves stand out from the crowd?

We practice what we preach and use a range of digital and traditional marketing and advertising channels to make people aware of us and what we do, we also win a lot of work on reputation and client referrals. We like to work with clients who value digital, and are willing to be brave, but that need help making it work for them. We have built up an amazing portfolio of clients, many of whom have worked with us for years, by delivering results.

What is the most difficult thing about creating digital strategies for clients?

Creating something that can fit in to a business and its culture. There are so many innovations and digital marketing solutions for your business but all too often SME businesses don’t have the resources to do everything they want to do immediately. Often the first step is to limit expectations and master a few channels or platforms first and build on top of a solid foundation. We are in it for the long game with our clients and whilst we all want results as fast as possible we work to achieve sustainable growth and help transfer skills in to clients businesses.

Why is online integral for SMEs and their success?

We are living in exciting times and every technological shift and evolution offers new opportunities. Business models have been revolutionised and traditions trashed. The abundant opportunities offered by digital are evident. I can’t think of one sector or business type that couldn’t either increase brand awareness, improve customer service, boost sales or drive efficiency by using or creating a digital technology. The key is working out how you can benefit from it and apply it to your business or life.

You have a number of big name clients, how do you keep them all happy?

Being proactive, professional, personable and doing a great job. Whilst digital offers many new ways of doing things some values remain constant.

With so many talented people out there, how do you find the right people to work for you?

We work hard to find talented team members who fit our culture. We are a reasonably small team and, whilst talent is a must, creating a team who care, are passionate about what they do and who want to help each other progress and create more than just a work environment is vital. We find increasingly that talent is attracted by this environment as well as our interesting work and clients.

Over the last twelve months we have been supporting the Mayor’s Fund For London and digital apprenticeship scheme, Tech Up Nation, with their work in providing further education to young individuals. This has led us to hire five apprentices of our own, allowing us to actively invest in the UK’s youth.

What do you think is the future for SMEs online?

There is no single online solution that will benefit all businesses but all business can benefit from online innovation, strategic thinking and applying creativity. How you do that is down to your making and design, unless you think you need a hand and if so you know who to contact…