Samuel Hurley quickly disrupted the SEO industry in the United Kingdom after he co-founded NOVOS in 2018. Shortly after the company’s launch, they have already worked with more than “80 eCommerce brands.” Currently, NOVOS has worked with several clients across continents, from the United States to Europe, including the United Kingdom, which generated more than 30 million pounds in “organic growth.”
Prior to founding NOVOS, Samuel Hurley had gained extensive experience in SEO. He was the first SEO employee at boutique SEO agency (Curve), staying there until the company grew to an 8-man operation. Afterward, he joined BlueGlass as head of SEO, before jumping to Made.com as the only SEO guy for two years.
Throughout Samuel Hurley’s tenure at NOVOS, the company has reaped several recognitions and awards from different reputable bodies. These include winning the Best Small SEO Agency prize at the 2020 Global Search Awards; the Best SEO Agency prize at the Global Agency Awards 2020; the Best Use of SEO in eCommerce prize at the 2020 Search Awards; the Most Effective Use of Organic Search at The Drum Awards Digital Industries 2020; becoming the finalist as Startup of the Year at The Drum Awards Agency Business 2020; and winning the Best Use of SEO in eCommerce prize at the UK Search Awards 2020. The company has also been featured in several major media outlets in the UK, such as the BBC, Cosmopolitan, and The Drum.
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Samuel Hurley: We know what we’re good at and stick to that only. We’re very specialised, meaning no one can do what we do to the same level. We put a significant emphasis on employee happiness — tracking it 3 times a week and implementing any feedback we receive from our team monthly.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Samuel Hurley: Take time to assess your mood, work productivity and how you are reacting in day to day scenarios. Ask yourself, is a standard workload causing you stress and anxiety? I usually set aside a time slot of 8–9 am every Friday to check-in with myself. When you take time to reflect and assess yourself, you realise if you are approaching the state of burnout. And if you are, take a long weekend or more frequent breaks.
I had hit a burn out mid this year because like many people I wasn’t taking any holidays. I underrated the stresses of working from home. However, it wasn’t until I finally finished a big project we’d been working on for one and a half years that I eventually crashed and had to took two weeks off.
Now, I’m taking more frequent breaks, e.g. a Thursday afternoon and full Friday day which then gives me nearly 5 days off as opposed to needing to take two weeks due to the burnout.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Samuel Hurley: Yes, I shall always be grateful to my first boss, Oren — the person who hired me straight from the Uni.
I had always lived with my parents deep in the Welsh valleys until I finished the Uni. Trying to get to London was a hard struggle for me, which wasn’t helped by how bad I was at interviewing. I initially took train journeys to London to do the interviews, but after the first two trips, I realised that this was way too expensive so I had switch to cheap but long bus coaches.
I made a few trips to London to meet recruiters and do interviews. Those days often saw me leaving my home at about 4 am to drive to Swansea to get on the 5 am bus — the journey was 5 hours long! Upon reaching London, I’d spend the day doing interviews and catch 9 pm — getting home at about 3 am.
During one of the last trips, I had my second interview with a large established digital agency as well as an interview with Oren, who had just started his agency.
At the time of meeting Oren, he had 1 freelancer and a part-time salesperson working for him, making me his first in-house, full-time employee.
Oren took me for a walk around a Shoreditch park to discuss the role. I don’t remember much about what we chatted about, but I do remember asking him how much the position would pay. He asked how much I would want. My response was “I’d like £20k, but I’d take £18k”. To that, Oren said, “That’s not a good way to negotiate, you should go in with £22k and expect me to knock you down to what you want. I can do £20k and will assume you didn’t say £18k.” This was the first of many life and business lessons I learned from him.
I also recall him saying that he didn’t want to be the fallback guy and asked me to for the other large agency to get back to me, so he gave me a day’s deadline.
On the bus journey home, I had some email exchanges with him and accepted the job.
He was my first exposure to an ‘entrepreneur and business owner’. I knew that I had made the right decision choosing to work for him than the other big company. I’d learn more from him than from an established business which had over 100 people already, and where I’d just be a 1 of many.
So, I arrived back to Wales at 3 am and told my parents, “I met this guy in a park, he offered me the job, and I’ve accepted it” — thinking about it now it must have sounded mad to them, especially considering he didn’t have a website at the time!
It’s by far the best decision I’ve made in life. I worked as Oren’s right-hand man, learning the ups and downs of running a business — it helped me immensely in eventually setting up my own company. Oren and I grew his company to a 6 person agency before selling it and going our separate ways, but we still keep in touch today.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
Samuel Hurley: It’s simple, really. It’s impossible to scale and grow your business to the next level if you do not allow the people you’ve hired to do the work they were hired to do. Why hire them in the first place? Just use freelancers. If you don’t delegate, you’ll easily get too busy. And it’s not fair to the other people who are expecting results from you. You’ll soon start saying to people ‘yes I’ll do this for you by X’ and things will drop, or you won’t do them to the expected standards.
If the above doesn’t resonate with you, as a business owner or a senior manager, one of the best skills you can develop is your self-awareness — understanding what you are good at, bad at and how you are impacting others around you. When hiring, you should be looking to hire people that are better than you at the things you are bad at so you don’t need to do them any more. For example, if you don’t like handling the finances, then you need to hire someone good with numbers so that they can take that over from you
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
Samuel Hurley: There are numerous reasons which mainly come down to the personality type of the individual, their role and the company culture.
- They want to own things themselves; they love the responsibility of being the point of contact or overseeing everything. Typically would have more controlling elements of their personality.
- There would also be scenarios where if you are working in a middle management role you would want to be seen as doing it rather than passing on and just being the middle person between your boss and the people actually doing the work.
- Another personality type that has challenges delegating would be perfectionists. They have a picture in their mind about how a task should be and the level of detail needed to achieve this. If the person they delegate to doesn’t do the task EXACTLY as they would do it, then they won’t accept it. I’d say this personality trait has the hardest time delegating as the delegated individual will never be able to complete the task to the exact same level the person is expecting.
- Again, similar to the above, but it’s when expectations don’t align with output managers, or owners can struggle to delegate in the future. The delegee may produce something perfectly good, but as it doesn’t perfectly match the person delegating expectations, then it’ll get changed or rejected.
- Some often think that it’s time-consuming to delegate, e.g. you would need to spend 30 minutes briefing and training how to do a task whereas it would take you only 5 minutes to do it yourself.
- I’ve also found that if you have a lack of processes or standardisation in your work or deliverables, it can be a challenge for both parties.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
Samuel Hurley: Start using standardised documents. Have your own set of documents and processes that you use to do your job. As you move between jobs, bring these standardised generic templates with you.
Ensure you explain tasks in text form as well as vocalisation to avoid miscommunication or a ‘you said X’ once the task is done.
If you have someone who it’s incredibly challenging to delegate tasks to, you need to figure out WHY and it usually comes down to these 3 things:
- Can’t do
- Won’t do
- Don’t know
I think 9/10 it comes down to ‘don’t know’ which can be solved with training and standard documentation or processes. The ‘can’t do’ maybe something with a limitation for resources, e.g. if there’s a blocker in another team to complete the task — this is where you’d need to support and break down this obstacle. If it’s ‘won’t do’ then it is more worrisome and maybe down to poor hiring.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Samuel Hurley: I usually post actively on my Linkedin and available for a chat there.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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