National Business Awards SME finalist Focus: John Readman & Search Laboratory

Tell us about your business
We’re a search engine marketing agency based in Leeds and London. We manage search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns for our clients, who include ASOS, River Island and Wilkos, both in the UK and internationally. We specialise in multilingual search marketing and have an in-house team of mother-tongue linguists so a lot of our work is on a global scale.

How did you fund your business?
We were lucky in the fact that there were low start-up costs and our founder and CEO Ian Harris signed up a client straight away so we hit the ground running in that respect and have grown from there with no external investment.

What is the biggest challenge SMEs are currently facing?
I can’t answer for other companies, but for our business the biggest challenge is the continuous recruitment of experienced, skilled candidates for industry-specific managerial positions.

Can you give any advice to others starting up businesses?
Plan as if you expect to succeed and don’t be scared to put in long-term building blocks at an early stage. Don’t become fixated with the core product or service of your business to the detriment of your HR, marketing and sales departments. You also need to get your recruitment right – a company is built by the people it employs.

How do you foster innovation throughout your business?
We have a dedicated development team, whose jobs it is to work on the development of our in-house proprietary technology systems – in the past year we’ve taken on a Chief Technology Officer to oversee this part of the business. As well as this though, we also actively encourage our staff to bring their own ideas for innovation to the table and hold monthly meetings where these are proposed and discussed.