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When there’s a will there’s a way: founder of WME, Australia’s largest digital marketing agency rises from failure to $45 million

You either have it or you don’t – entrepreneurial drive is either etched in our genes or instilled at an early age according to a host of research. For some, it’s a gene that refuses to stop them from trying and for others, its absence is what holds them back. Selling his homemade sandwiches at school before he even knew what ‘business’ meant, Dynamic Business speaks to entrepreneur, Nick Bell who is living proof of this very theory.

“I was looking for ways to achieve bigger and better things, long before ever entering a university classroom, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Nick.

And so it may come as no surprise that Nick’s entry into business was more about ambition than it was success; ambition that compelled him to drop out of university to start his first venture in skincare. But that was not meant to be. After running into supply chain difficulties and down to his last $400, Nick decided to call it quits. For the time being at least – as that entrepreneurial gene wasn’t going anywhere.

Nick said “in 2007, while still running my online skincare business, I taught myself basic SEO in order to streamline targeted traffic to the website and drive revenue. As time went on, my knowledge and passion for SEO deepened, and ultimately I decided this was a service I could offer brands myself.”

So he did. Initially launching WME as an SEO agency with only $400 to his name, the business has since morphed into the largest digital marketing agency in Australia with offices worldwide.

“I learnt a lot of valuable lessons while running my online skincare business and I believe WME was born from its ashes.

“I believe the mark of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to identify when something no longer serves you, and to be able move on to the next,” said Nick.

Learning from his own failures and now CEO of a global digital marketing agency turning over $45 million, Nick has some wisdom to impart to others who might have global expansion in their sights.

Consistency and efficiency across all international operations is key, Nick told Dynamic Business. International team members at WME are regularly flown to Melbourne for “training in tech, account management and other essential skills to ensure they receive the same opportunities and resources as our Melbourne office,” he said.

But there’s one aspect of WME’s operation that really sets it apart from other global players. A characteristic perhaps inherited from the founder himself, WME has rebutted the trend and decided not to grow its brand name globally; instead independently and distinctly branding itself in each country they have entered.

“There is no one road to success, and what works for someone, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Creating a single brand strategy and then simply trying to retrofit this into completely different global markets just doesn’t make good business sense.

“A more personalised branding message that works for each country we operate in has made far more business sense for WME,” said Nick.

Developing an alternative business name and branding for each office has allowed WME to target each individual marketplace with a powerful and tailored brand message, according to Nick. Perhaps not yet achieving the benchmark for global success per se; for WME, Nick said “it’s a welcomed casualty of smarter business decisions and ultimately, sustainable and long-term success.”

And if you thought the story was told and the lessons were divulged, you should remember:

For some, it’s the gene that refuses to stop them from trying.

Nick said “I want to continue to be open to opportunities that arise; in particular working with new start-ups that I can see something in, with a ‘little bit of love.’”

As an entrepreneur chasing his next big challenge, Nick sees investment as an opportunity to explore personal interests while helping others achieve wins. From digital and renewable energy, to the more unexpected such as an organic restaurant in Hong Kong, Nick continues to be motivated by his desire to explore and overcome the unknown.

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Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs was editor of Dynamic Business.

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