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From Passion to Profit: Building a Thriving Business with Purpose

In Conversation with Sam Page

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Sam Page, CEO & Co-Fonder at 7DOTS, an Advertising Services Agency located in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. Sam shares his journey, from overcoming challenges like dyslexia to founding 7DOTS and navigating the ever-changing digital landscape. Sam also delves into strategies for crafting connected experiences in digital transformation, emphasizing the need for understanding the audience and integrating technology seamlessly. Throughout the conversation, Sam provides valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and emphasizes the importance of making a positive impact in the digital space. Watch the episode now!

Every touchpoint in the digital space is an opportunity to captivate and engage users, driving them closer to your brand.

Sam Page
CEO & Co-Fonder at 7DOTS

Hey, hi everyone. Welcome to your show, E-coffee with Experts. This is your host, Ranmay here. And today we have Sam Page, who is the co-founder and CEO at 7DOTS with us.

Hi, Ranmay. Thank you very much for having me.

Great. Sam, before we move forward, let’s get to know the human behind the mic. Why don’t you talk us through your journey and how you started 7DOTS? How is it going? What do you guys specialize in? And we take it from there.

Yeah, sure. Sounds great. Very happy to see it. So I guess my journey started at a very young age, as it does for many people. The truth is, as a child, I was very, very shy. I was bullied a bit at school, but I struggled at school. I had a mind full of ideas, but for some reason, getting them out of my mind and onto paper and words just never really worked. I just didn’t feel like I fit in at school in the traditional education system. Two things happened, and this happened in high school for me. One was my dad brought home a computer from work, and this is when personal computers were first coming about and companies were first using them. I was Agric. I was captivated by this thing. I sat down and I found that relatively intuitively, I could write code. All of a sudden, what I started to realize was the ideas I had in my head I could express through code when I couldn’t express them through writing. The reason for that is, in my view, that code’s logical, unlike most languages, which are fairly logical to me, certainly anyway.

That was one brain spark moment. I fell in love with technology. Suddenly, I could do something with it. All of these ideas I’ve had throughout my childhood, which I could never bring to life. I was always trying to start up companies and do stuff. I could suddenly do with code. The other thing is I was diagnosed with dyslexia, and that then made sense of why I’m not very good with What was born from all of this was to help people because I’d really struggled myself, and therefore I saw other people were struggling for similar reasons, a passion for technology, and a passion for business because I saw business as a vehicle to bring ideas to life when you combine it with technology and people. That was the start. The first thing I did was as the internet came around, started building websites, and I built Being Dyslexic, a dyslexia forum, which became one of the biggest in the world at the time. It went on to be a business run by my parents called the Dyslexia Shop, which now sells special educational needs products. I went away to university. I read business management, and when I finished university, I wasn’t quite sure what to do.

This is often the way I randomly met someone who told me they were a project manager at an agency in London, and they delivered digital projects. I, at the time, had no idea what a project manager was. I had no idea what an agency was. But it sounded amazing because it sounded like what I loved doing. It was helping people in business with problems and solving them through the early days of digital. Got back from traveling, and ended up working or applying for jobs and working at an agency in central London. It was brilliant. Amazing agency, still in touch with lots of the people who used to be there. But what wasn’t being ticked for me was this desire to put technology at the heart of things. It was sometimes an afterthought, not always, but it was a bit frustrating. I ended up chatting to my boss at the time. He didn’t own the agency, but he was a senior person. We came up with the idea of starting our agency. The idea was that we wanted to start an agency that put creativity at the heart.

Sorry, technology is at the heart of the solution. Creativity and technology are at the heart of the solution, and the fact there’s creativity in technology to find solutions. That was why we started 7DOTS, and that was the mission we went on with. That brings the online to the Two 7DOTS. 7DOTS is an agency that creates captivating digital experiences for brands who dare to dream bigger. We love working with people and brands who have big ambitions that we can help them solve through the power of digital, especially given that the digital world is moving so fast and they harness it. Our range of services includes digital strategy. We always start with that as a starting point. We have brand strategy and visual identity services. Because to make digital work properly, you’ve got to have the foundations at a brand level to bring it to life. We also design and build websites, apps, and platforms. We have demand generation teams that cover both organic and paid activity. We have data science and house which is all about data intelligence and analytics and includes some of our AI offerings that we’re bringing online. We work on digital activation campaigns, which are about reaching more people for brands through digital.

Lovely. Quite a journey. I must say, Sam.

Yeah, it has been.

You spoke about the ever-changing or evolving landscape and the digital space that we are in. We have been hit through by AI, machine learning, and, all of that, not only our space but overall, our lives. What is your take on AI in general? Where are we headed with all of this change, all of this revolutionary stuff that is happening?

I wish I had a magic ball and I could answer that perfectly. I think there are a few things that are going on at the moment. Some people are running away from AI and burying their heads in the sand. But the point is, it’s been here for a while and it’s here to stay and it’s only going to get more and more powerful. You’ve got other people that are running into it headfirst, and they’re not thinking about what’s the right way to use it, what are the problems they’re trying to solve by using it? I think that’s also a bit of a disaster. I think what we need is clear governance of AI and some frameworks that can be put in place by governments, but then also companies to make sure it’s used to have a positive impact on people. There is no doubt it’s going to completely change the future. We just need to make sure it changes it positively. I do believe it can create a better existence for human beings and a more positive existence if we get all of that right.

Absolutely. Then coming back to the agency life for Stan, We all know how difficult it is. When on an agency, first of all, to start your agencies, scaling it up, has its challenges. How have you been able to, from your journey, balance purpose and growth while leading your successful digital agency? Can you share your philosophy on achieving this balance and how it reflects in your leadership style in your agency at 7DOTS?

Yeah, sure. It’s such a good question, and it’s such a big challenge, as you know, given the journey that you’ve been on. I think arere’s a few principles I try and employ in doing all of this. The first one came at the very beginning of the journey, and that was that we set up the business with a view of it creating a good work-life balance, not just for ourselves as the owners, but for everyone in that business. That doesn’t mean to say we’re not very passionate about what we do and work incredibly hard. Of course, we do. But we do believe this should be a good balance. I’m incredibly passionate about if you follow your passions in life if you follow your purpose, work doesn’t have to feel like work. It doesn’t have to be work and life. It can all be one thing. I think I was following my passion by setting up the agency. I wanted to make it all one thing, and we try and employ that principle for everyone who works in it. Our purpose as an agency is to make space to dream, and that has a threefold meaning.

The first point is we ensure we make space to dream for our employees. We want them to come and work for us, and we want them to live an amazing life. We want them to follow their dreams, both professionally and personally. Whatever role we can play in that, we’re very humbled to do so. We also apply that to our clients. I said at the beginning, we create captivating experiences for people who dare dream bigger. We want to work with clients where we can help them realize their dreams, help them make space to dream, and help them do the things they just imagine they might not ever be able to do. Then last but not least, we do believe that our digital experiences should have that impact on end users, on the people who are at the receiving end of the digital experience, and it should have a positive impact on them and make space for them to dream. That makes It’s a close-to-them stream. That’s really where it all stems from, and that’s the principle of how I try and get through day-to-day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, as you know.

It’s challenging. You’ve got clients who want your attention and who you love giving attention to. But if you can find some balance in all of that, if you can be purposeful, if you can use mindfulness to be present, if you can take small steps towards big dreams, I think that’s the secret of getting that balance.

It is a difficult life. Let’s accept it. While you were saying, I was listening to the number of ifs that were there. With so many ifs, it is quite difficult to achieve the balance. I’m glad you have been able to. We can all take our lessons from people like you. I’ve been able to strike a balance. I’ve been able to strike a decent amount of balance. I would not say that is a perfect balance when you’re trying to do that as an agency owner. That is loads on your head at all times.

Yeah, completely. I think it’s important to say that I’m not always in balance. There are times when it’s mega stressful and I struggle to push myself through the day. I think everyone can relate to that, no matter what job you’re in or what role you’re in. The secret is learning tactics and making sure you’re living up to your purpose to try and help with that to get through it. I just want to say that because I think it’s really easy for people to sit there and think based on what I’ve just said, every day’s easy or every day’s in balance. That’s not the case, but I’m getting better and better at keeping it in balance as time goes on.

Lovely. Sam, could you elaborate on the concept of connected experiences in the context of digital transformation? What strategies do you employ to seamlessly integrate various digital touchpoints? Because like we were talking about in the green room, you take a project, and you add that the buyer journey is quite complex or long. As a brand, you need to have taken care of all the multiple touch points that your consumer can connect with you. To talk us through what journey to ensure that the brand’s message is out its results and then whatever they want to achieve.

Yeah, sure. Absolutely. I think one of the things that’s important to point out here is that the touch point that customers and prospects have with brands is more and more in the digital world. It’s more and more important for brands to get those touch points brilliant and pull those people closer to their brand. I love the saying, and I don’t know who to attribute it to, but every company is a tech company nowadays because they’ve got to create digital as part of it. It’s so true. We create captivating experiences with brands that are going to be bigger. What that means is every touch point a person has with your brand in the digital world, from a prospect through to being a customer, we help create it so it’s captivating and pulls people closer. It’s the right level of friction for us so that people enjoy it, but it doesn’t turn them off and all that stuff. We do that across the journey. We do it for all sorts of different companies, like you said, from startups to global businesses across different sectors. But normally, the commonality in most of our clients is that there’s a considered or complex journey, one or the other because the more of a journey that you can enhance, the better it works effectively.

The thing that’s key here is you have to remember every touch point is important. You’re only as good as your worst touch point. It’s always the thing that people remember. You need to make sure it’s consistent, it’s beautiful, it’s frictionless as possible, and where it should be throughout every single step because the second is a horrible moment. That’s what people remember and that’s where you lose people. The way that starts with, and a lot of people ask me the question, How do you know what good looks like for our audience? That’s the whole point. You have to start by understanding the audience, understanding the prospects and customers, and understanding what they want what they want from a good digital experience, not what they want from something else. What do they want from a good digital experience? Once you’ve done that work, then you can create the digital experience off the back of it. We have a methodology called Whitespace Listening or a framework This is a really exciting project, which we use at the beginning of the project to get behind in understanding everything about the brand, their customers, and the sector, and ultimately to try and find the gaps, the points of difference, things we can use, things we can understand about them to create those amazing experiences across every single touch point.

That’s a blend of quantitative and qualitative. It’s a complete 360 look. What I love about being in an agency is that we can bring perspective to our clients. Clients can have quite a narrow perception. We can come in and we can bring an outside perspective and make sure we can help them see more broadly and see what the opportunity really the problems are that they’ve got to fix. We lodoingdoi I tdoing ultimately what it comes down to is your digital experience across all those touchpoints has to have a positive impact on the end user. If it doesn’t, that’s where you lose them. I’m always looking for that angle. How can we have a positive impact? How can we do something that the user benefits from that will bring them closer to your brand? There are lots of bits to that. It’s got to be consistent, it’s got to be captivating. Ideally, it’s going to be personalized because that’s really where the opportunity is nowadays to personalize the experience, is pull people closer and not turn them into things that are relevant. That’s really where it comes down to for me.

Lovely. You speak about tech so much. I like you mentioned, every company is a tech company these days, which I completely agree with. As technology becomes more advanced, it also becomes more complex. How do you strike a balance between harnessing the latest tech that is there and ensuring a seamless user-friendly experience for clients and their customers?

I think the first thing we always do is start with some principles of what we’re trying to achieve in the experience, and then we match the technology to those principles. I love the very simple framework of goal, problem, and solution. A lot of the time, what people jump to is a solution. They’ll go and buy 10 different tech platforms because they think that’s a solution that will deliver what they need. That doesn’t work. There are so many brands to us and say, We’ve got 40 different SaaS platforms, and we haven’t got a clue how to use any of them. We’re just not using them. I always start with, What’s the goal? What are we trying to achieve here with your digital experience? What problems are getting in the way of that? Therefore, what are the correct solutions? If you take that methodology to it, and then you look at choosing the right technology to solve those problems to achieve your goals, you can end up with the right suit. It is a process of going through that and being experienced in what technology is and how to use it.

Lovely. Sam, give us your favorite client story.

Favorite client story? Wow. There’s There’s so many to choose from. I’m sure. I genuinely love the clients we work with. I think the story that has stood out in recent years for me is a startup that was a couple of years in. It was a business that was born from the passion of meeting a need of customers. They were called the English Vine. The chap who founded it was passionate about taking English wine to a growing market and championing that in the sector. Didn’t have huge budgets. It was a startup with relatively self-funded, but huge ambition, and huge dreams of what we wanted to achieve. What was so beautiful was when we got into that project and we understood the consumer and what they were looking for, and the fact it was a considered purchase, because English wine is typically more expensive than other equivalent wines, but the quality is better. You’ve got to work quite hard. It was all about breaking through the nonsense as well of the wine industry. There was so much pomp around wine and what it’s paired with and what the tasting notes are.

Again, the owner’s vision was, let’s just cut for all of that and let’s say what wine goes with fish and chips because that’s what people cut on a Friday evening when they have the fish and chips. We built this beautiful digital experience that brought the brand to life, helped people find the wines that are relevant to them, and helped the business massively accelerate. We won awards for that project as well, which is nice to be recognized for the growth that we achieved for them. I love that because it has such a nice story to it and helped make a massive difference with the digital experience to deliver a positive impact to people.

Lovely. Sam, you have been in the industry for quite some time now, and your journey has been quite inspiring. For our listeners today, what are some of the advice that you’d want to give to them, especially for the ones who are trying to make a mark in the digital space, or let’s say you’re trying to start their agency or you’re aspiring to be an entrepreneur someday. What are some of the key advice that you’d want them to follow in their path to success?

Yeah, great question. I always start with the phrase Income follows impact. It’s a phrase taken from Robin Sharma, I think his surname is. He wrote a 5 AM Club book, which I’m a massive fan of. I think you’ve got to start at that point. What impact can you have on your clients and what impact can you have them have fits of advise their customers, ultimately? Because if you get that right, everything else really takes care of itself. We’ve grown this business, myself and my business partner, and now the amazing team of people. We have 30% on average year-on-year for the last 15 years. We’ve done it all through that; we’ll of we’ll do a really good job and we’ll have an impact, and we know that everything else will take care of itself. I don’t think it’ll be wrong, some challenges in that. But that’s the basic principle. That’s my advice to anyone, and I was talking to someone yesterday, go out and have an impact and the rest takes care of itself. But there’s a lot of other things in there as well. You’ve got to have the processes to support it. The most important thing is to have an amazing team of people around you.

Multiple minds are so much better than one mind. Getting the right minds around you is just absolutely key to it. Build a good team and have a great impact as a result. That’s the most important thing it might be.

Lovely, Sam. Sam, before I let you go, I’d like to play a quick rapid fire with I hope we are game for it.

Sure. Let’s go for it.

All right. Favorite EPL team?

Favorite what?

If you follow EPL. Favorite Premier League team, if you follow it.

Premier League. Well, I’m not a big football fan, but my football team is in Ipswich town because it’s where I grew up and they might be in the Premier League next year.

All right, lovely. You’re last Google search, Sam.

It was your name and this podcast, so I could watch some previous ones.

All right. For the second time, I’m listening to this, but yeah, been a long time. All right, great. Moving on. What did you do with the first paycheck, Sam? First P-check of your life.

I had so many jobs growing up because I loved working in businesses. I sold Christmas trees at a farm shop. Can imagine that. Yeah, I didn’t wash in a hotel. I loved it. It was not a glamorous job, but I didn’t mind at all because I was there with some great people around me and I got fed, which was amazing. It’s really hard for me to answer that because it was such a long time ago. It was probably when I was doing a paper round as a paper boy and I probably bought a game for the Amiga 500 Plus that I had at the time. That’s going to be my guess, but I don’t know for certain.

All right, no worries. All right, last question, then we’re not going to do anymore. Your celebrity crush?

Celebrity crush. It’s probably Richard Branson. I think what he’s achieved as a businessman is amazing. I think he now leans into trying to do good in the world. I’d love my celebrity crush. I had to pick one.

Lovely, Sam. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us. We appreciate it, man.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.



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