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Forbes 30U30 Founder shares how he navigates feast & famine | EP03: Bobby Idogho, Radically Digital

Updated: Mar 9

Bobby Idogho is a Forbes 30U30 and Founder of Radically Digital. Bobby shares how he developed his resilience muscle, how he navigates the “feast & famine” cycle of agency life, and how his background helped propel him further in life.

Watch the full episode here, subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or keep reading for the full interview of the founder who has recently secured 2.5 million in funding during one of the hardest times ever to raise venture capital.

SM: So let's rewind the clock.. tell us about your your journey as a young boy from Nigeria to where you are now let's kind of go back to the early days!

BI: I was born in Nigeria and lived there until the age of seven. After that, my family decided to move. Initially, the plan was to relocate to the UK, but in the early 2000s, the UK was becoming more challenging for migration. Ireland, on the other hand, was opening its borders. Consequently, we settled in Ireland, specifically in a town called Dundalk. I grew up there, experiencing a bit of culture shock initially, but, overall, the Irish people were incredibly welcoming. I had a great time and upbringing there.

As I got older, after graduating from Trinity in Dublin, I felt the need for something more fast-paced and a broader range of clients. I was working at Deloitte at the time, so London made a lot of sense. It's a common path for Trinity graduates, especially moving from Dublin to London. I already had many friends based here, making the transition quite seamless.

SM: I don't know if it's because I now know you grew up in Ireland, but I sense a bit of Irish in your accent, which is amusing since you weren't born there. It's a fascinating mix.

BI: Yes, many people often mistake my accent for American, but there's indeed a hint of Irish. I can turn it up, but it's generally more neutral.

SM: You can turn it off or dial it down accordingly. This reminds me of something we touched upon – code-switching. We'll delve into that later. There's much I want to explore with you, and I know you have an intriguing story. On a similar note, I love the quote by Gary V about having the advantage of adversity. Your philosophy on not having the upper hand in life is also compelling. Can you share more about that?

BI: Yeah, when we first spoke before the podcast, I talked a bit about this part of my mind. One of my mantras is, if something is wrong, the first thing I ask myself is, "Can I do something about it?" If I can, I'll do everything to make it right. If I can't, there's no point stressing about it; move on to the next challenge. This approach helps avoid unnecessary stress, especially considering the challenges entrepreneurs face. The second philosophy focuses on avoiding a victim mindset. We all have advantages and disadvantages in life. Some might argue that being a black founder sets me back, but I could also argue that being male brings certain privileges. It depends on your mindset and whether you wait for the world to be completely fair or take action to create the world you want to see, putting adversity aside and leveraging the privileges you have.

SM: I completely agree. It's a sensitive topic, but it's interesting. I wonder whether it's social media, Gen Z's attitude, or work culture, but the positive aspect is feeling seen, heard, and validated. There are labels for everything, good and bad, but it's ultimately your choice what you want to do with that. I agree that it's easier to wallow in victimhood than to accept it, make it work for you, or take action. I know there are sensitivities with this topic, and as I say it, I feel it's easier said than done.

BI: Something Stephen Bartlett has mentioned in his podcast is the privilege of mindset. Having a growth mindset or a mindset that says, "This is bad, but we'll move past it and keep going" is crucial. Many entrepreneurs share the mindset of tackling challenges head-on, even when everything seems to be on fire. Others may wallow in the imperfections of life or unfairness holding them back. It's not fair, but it depends on how you react to it.

SM: Sure. How much of your mindset do you think is innate versus nurtured? Is it nature or nurture? While I agree with you on the mindset thing, for me, it doesn't always stop the anxiety. I know I can't change it, but I'm still lying awake at night. Where do you think your mindset comes from?

BI: It's a great question. I believe it's a mix of nature and nurture. Even though I grew up mostly in Ireland, I was raised by Nigerian parents with Nigerian philosophies. In Nigeria, there's not much of a safety net or social welfare. You either work hard and succeed or struggle and rely on family support. The hustle culture is ingrained in Nigerian culture, where everyone has a side business or multiple things going on. There's a mindset of acknowledging suffering, struggle, and poverty, but also believing in the power to change that. You need to go out there and do it, basically.

"The hustle culture is ingrained in Nigerian culture, where everyone has a side business or multiple things going on. "

SM: I love that.

BI: So, I think some of that has definitely been ingrained and passed on. You know, my parents didn't grow up wealthy at all. My dad grew up with like nine siblings - I haven't met them all, but yeah, nine siblings. The same with my mom, actually, about nine or ten siblings. They grew up in a village in Nigeria and then moved to one of the big cities. They had to work incredibly hard to afford to go to university, then graduate, get good jobs, and create a much more comfortable life. I've been privileged to live that life, but that second hand fear of poverty, especially with my dad, I only realised when I was older. My siblings and I just talked a bit more about that. His big fear in life is going back to being poor, and you kind of see it rearing its head in certain ways - how he assesses things or how he brought us up. There was always this focus on success comes first and then everything else. I'm not saying it's a healthy way to approach life at all, and it's not for everyone, but I do think it has been a big part of the mindset I've grown up to have. We're very entrepreneurial in my family - everyone kind of works hard, has good jobs, or runs businesses.

SM: That makes a lot of sense. You've grown up with that truth around you that either you work hard and make something of yourself or you don't, and there's no safety net. Then you've got that closer influence with your own father, which obviously hits home a bit more. You mentioned hustle culture. Now, I am a recovering hustler - I went to the school of Gary V. I used to really look up to him, and again, it's kind of become another swear word these days. I'd love to get your thoughts on how we marry the idea of hustle culture and entrepreneurship because, for me, I don't think one can exist without the other.

BI: Yeah, I mean, I don't know if I'd definitely say I agree with hustle culture in the way that it's portrayed by some of the online speakers. I don't feel like you need to be working 24 hours of the day, waking up at 4 a.m., and having a cold shower to be successful. I don't do any of that. I like sleeping in for as long as I can. I feel like it's more about making the most out of the hours dedicated to work. I try to stick to between nine, latest I will generally work is like seven. Yeah, but most days I'm done by like half five. Weekends, I really keep free. They're busy in a different way, and socially, there's always a birthday or something, but it's rare that I'll work on the weekend unless there's something very important—a deadline or fundraising conversation. So, I don't feel like you need to give up your entire life to hustle culture to be successful. But I do think you need to be willing to go further than most people probably will for your business when the time does demand it. But that's not sustainable long-term, so I do try to strike that balance between clocking out at the end of the day and then clocking back in in the morning.

"I don't feel like you need to be working 24 hours of the day, waking up at 4 a.m., and having a cold shower to be successful."

SM: Very sensible. I'm very glad to hear that. I totally agree. Just before moving on, you know, sticking for a second with this idea of overcoming setbacks, you shared a really interesting thing that your mom actually said to you when you were younger that's really stuck with you in terms of having to work hard. Do you remember that quote?

BI: Yeah, so my mom sat me down after I think it was an incident with my older sister or possibly older sister and older brother where they were walking home from school, and someone shouted something racist at them. I was, I think, eight at the time, and my mom sat me down and just said, "To get the same recognition that your white friends get, you're always gonna have to work twice as hard." I just turned around and, even as an eight-year-old, said, "Cool, I'll work twice as hard, then." I think that's a moment that I still remember now because it's not that I didn't believe her—I fully did, based on the sincerity with how she said it, and you know it's something she truly felt. But at the same time, it just made me more determined to be like, "Cool, I'll prove them wrong. I'll work twice as hard if that's what it takes." But as I mean twice as long in terms of hustle culture hours, it just means making sure that the time I am working is focused and driving value, putting your all into the business during the hours dedicated to that.

SM: This is a testament to your nature versus nurture, linking it back to that question because that moment in your childhood has stuck with you so much. Even that reaction you had as an eight-year-old demonstrates you're like, 'cool, okay.' It is what it is, you know. Accept it; that's the reality. Cool, alright, that's what I'm gonna have to do to be successful.

BI: Yeah, actually, I think there's a big part of it that is nature. I think part of it is also, so I was actually a very hyper child—like super hyperactive. I just talked to my mom about this recently, went on a family holiday, and she's saying, "Yeah, pretty sure you had ADHD, pretty sure you still have ADHD. You just focus it all on your company now." So, I grew up incredibly hyper, running around all over the place. Only when we moved to Ireland did the culture shock actually make me incredibly calm. I became a lot more introspective, if that's the word, and more observing of what's going on before reacting. So, I think there is that element of always just being quite calm. Even if everything's on fire in the background, I think everyone in the company knows that, no matter what's going on, I don't raise my voice. It's always calm, always collected. You know, my brain might be going a million miles an hour, but it's always like a calm, considered response generally.

SM: And so, going back to this point in time, you grew up in Ireland, you graduated from Trinity; it's amazing. Then you came to London to start your career. You came from more of a corporate background.

BI: Yeah, so I started off in Deloitte in Ireland, actually, for a couple of years working in advanced analytics and information management team, more in the data space. Then moved into a consultancy in London, more in the digital space, as an agile delivery lead. So, during that time, I got a real feel for what it's like to—I mean, to be honest, a lot of our job and methodologies and philosophies already resonated with how I lived my life anyway and my approach to things. It's really about community, bringing people together, experimenting, short feedback loops. I'm not a big planner in that I'd rather learn by doing. So, quick plan, quick do, test, and then iterate kind of thing. So, when I started learning more about agile methodologies, I was like, "Well, this is just common sense because that's how I'd always operated." So, I became very quickly a senior agile delivery manager, worked with a variety of different clients, everything from helping build folks and GQs new websites around the world, working with an insurance firm, etc. So, I learned a lot there around challenges that businesses struggle with when it comes to agility and how to scale, especially scaling their tech teams and their tech products as well. So, I hit a point where I realised I could either keep working in the company I was in. I was 25 at the time, had just been promoted. I think it was two weeks after I got promoted the last time that I realised if I get one more promotion, I'll get so comfortable I'll never quit. Then I'll be 30, 40, 50 just working in different companies and never have taken the risk because at that point, I'll have kids and be tied down. I mean, I'm 30 now, and I still don't have kids, but in my mind, I was like, "Yeah, by the time I'm 30, I'll have kids." So, I decided to just hand in my notice then. I didn't have anything concrete lined up. Knew I wanted to build my own consulting firm, and then, yeah, just kind of took a bit of a leap of faith. And then four years later, here we are.

"I realised if I got one more promotion, I'll get so comfortable I'll never quit."

SM: That answers the next question I was going to ask, which was leaving the safety net of not only employment but what sounds like fairly cushty employment at these corporate roles. So, it's funny hearing that the threat of getting too comfortable is what pushed you into entrepreneurship.

BI: So actually, I never thought about it that way, but the same way my dad's biggest fear is going back to a life of poverty or being poor, I think my biggest fear is almost the opposite. It's getting complacent and never seeing if I've pushed myself as far as I can. I don't know if that's healthy; probably need to talk to someone about that. But it's a real fear of knowing I could have done more and not having done more. I like every day when I finish at the end of the day, knowing I've done what I could for that day and not looking back and thinking, "Oh, what if I had taken that bigger risk? What if I'd done that?" So, I don't spend a lot of time with regrets or looking backward because there is much to look ahead and deal with. But also because, you know, I take the risks as they come. So, I think that is another part of - I don't know whether it comes from nature or nurture, probably a mix of both again- but the element of not wanting to be complacent has kind of always been there since I was quite young.

SM: Yeah, same; that totally resonates. And something else that's how she resonates having run my own business for a good few years, again kind of agency model, is, of course, the feast and famine cycle that we invariably go through. Entrepreneurship already feels like a roller coaster at the best of times, let alone doing it in this sort of way. So, I know that you've had some real highs and lows. Can you talk us through some of the low points you've had at Radically Digital and how you navigate them?

BI: So, I think with any business, especially consultancy, it is exactly as you say—there's feast, there's famines. You'll have times where a large client will come in, and then everything's great. You're like, "Oh, amazing, we'll hire more people," and suddenly a client you've had for a while runs out of money and decides to ramp down. And you're like, "Okay, now we've got lots more people, and we don't have any projects for them. They're sitting on the bench, and we have to pay their salaries." So, there can be stressful months where you're not quite sure where the next client's going to come from or how to kind of balance the bench element of things. So, I think one of the things I've learned this year as 2023 has been an incredibly tough year for consulting. I know most consultancies I speak to are saying the exact same thing where it's being a lot worse than the lockdown years or the pandemic years in general.

SM: Definitely.

BI: Yeah, so 2023 has been quite tough in terms of just a lot of uncertainty and a lot of delays and clients signing for certain deals as well. So, it's very hard to predict and manage your workforce or your team because you don't want to ramp down the entire team, and then when a project comes in, you don't have anyone available. But yeah.

Radically Digital

SM: Is most of your work at Radically Digital project-based?

BI: It is; we tend to work in long relationships with our clients. We've got clients who've been working with us for three years, and then we have other clients that are newer, but we've been working with them for six months, seven months, eight months. It tends to be more of a tech partnership rather than a specific project, but we do have projects as well. So it can sometimes be projects. But I think one of the things I learned the hard way this year was, as 2023 went along, and as with most consultancies, the tough months came towards the middle of the year where clients were just few and far between in terms of closing deals. So we had to do our first round of redundancies ever. It wasn't a huge number of people; it was six people. But considering our business is about 70-something people, it's still a decent size part of the team. Many in our operational team, not our Consulting team, but because we built a community within the company that was very, very close-knit, we've built a very strong culture as a business. It was very painful not just personally, because it was, but also for the wider team as well because it felt like their best friends had been let go. I had to remind some of them like they're still on WhatsApp; you can still message them; they're not gone forever. But yeah, it did definitely have a bit of an impact on the company as well. I think during those times when you're going through a bit of a down year as a business or where the economy rather is going through a bit of a downturn and in general, it can be incredibly tough as a founder. I think one of the things I learned is one, actually being very transparent with the team was a lot more beneficial than I thought. I mean, it sounds like common sense, but to the point where you have to be quite vulnerable. And I don't necessarily naturally like that. So I had to go outside of my comfort zone, had to be quite vulnerable and quite transparent all the way through. So I sat the team down at a town hall; we walked through all of our financials, we walked through all the deals we had on the board, talked through every single deal on the stage it was in, and you know where we expected to close or not close, etc. And then we talked about my plans for what we were doing moving forward, the exciting things coming up, the challenges that we're gonna face in the next, you know, few weeks until a few projects luckily closed, and we're in a much, much better place now. But those few weeks where things aren't going well are really where you learn the most as a founder, not just about how to run a company, but about yourself as well. And I think I realised for me, there was always this fear that if I had to do redundancies or if I had to shrink the team at any point because we've gone four years without ever having to shrink the team, which is quite relatively rare for consultancy, that I'd failed. And then I realised, actually, after I did it, that it actually was something that had to happen. And as much as I'm trying to avoid it as much as I can, it may happen again in the future where you realise actually the team needs to change or the business has changed or your client demands have changed, and you need to be willing to make changes to your business to reflect that. And it shouldn't be seen as a bad word necessarily because, you know, we did it as humanely and as nicely as possible. We made sure we gave immense support to people that left as well to help them find new roles. But it is a really challenging thing to do and something I think it's hard to become comfortable with as a founder as well.

"I think one of the things I learned is one, actually being very transparent with the team was a lot more beneficial than I thought"

SM: As much as it's part of the natural evolution, it still hurts, particularly where you strongly value community and you've built a great culture. So kudos to you for rebuilding the morale, re-establishing trust through transparency, being really open with the financials, communication with the teams. I think listeners can kind of take that away with them. I'm curious; you're obviously a young entrepreneur. Obviously, age hasn't gotten in the way of all your amazing success, but navigating these things for the first time, yeah, I can imagine you're coming up against a lot of things for the first time. So do you have any advisors, or do you work with a business coach at all to help advise in some of these tricky situations?

BI: So one of the things I did over the last year and a bit was I've actually built an advisory board. So we've got some very experienced people. In my case, I think everyone builds their advisory board slightly differently. Most of my advisory board is a bit of a mix of people I've met along the way. So I met one of my advisors on a flight to Birmingham; he's a partner in EY. Started chatting over how terrible the food was, and then just really hit it off. And then started explaining what the company did, and he was like, "I'd love to get involved," and we've been talking together every week for the last year, basically. So it's been a real mix in terms of how I've come across them, but it's grown organically and grown with people who are actually really passionate, not just about RAD being successful but really invested in me personally as well and want to make sure that I'm successful alongside the business as well under I'm okay as well as these difficult decisions have to be made. So that's been incredibly helpful in terms of your mental health as a founder as well as having someone to bounce ideas around and roll ideas around when you're making these bigger decisions as well. Then what I did more recently as well that's been incredibly helpful and just freeing up a lot of my mental spaces bringing in a fractional CFO one day a week, which is very expensive to get a good one but absolutely worth the money in the long run in that as much as yes, he's done certain things with the finances that means that we freed up cash here or we've applied for grants there that I didn't know we could have gone for, etc. and you know that is what they're there to do a big part of the benefit he's actually brought is the fact that it's just taken all the space in your brain as an entrepreneur as a founder that's filled up with worrying about finances, money, cash flow, invoices, late invoices when clients are paying all of those things and just taking that almost all away so I can just focus on growth and where we're going and the next plans and next offerings and you know winning those bigger client accounts as well so that's been a really huge help in the last few months as well.

SM: And how did you find them?

BI: In my case, it was actually an introduction from a PE we were chatting with. But he comes from the CFO centre, and importantly, I think why he's worked so well for us is that, despite being a fractional CFO, he's actually really invested in the business and what we do. So he's really passionate about making sure that we grow as a business as well. Rather than just being there to fill a role or just to tick off a one day a week. And also, the way he structures it is not actually one day a week; it's going to spread out across the week. If I did encounter any issues, I can call him up. So yeah, being really helpful as well.

SM: Fantastic. And what are your decision-making processes when it does come to those tough decisions? So if you're looking at, okay, like the pipeline is drying up, these clients are paying late, these things are kind of winding down, and you're like, right, okay, we're going to have to start looking at redundancies, is there any decision-making framework there? What's the process you go through? And I guess how much do you lean on those experts around you to navigate those tough times?

BI: So I think how I personally make the bigger decisions is normally I have a reasonable idea of what I think is the right direction to go, but I will roll it around with each of the advisory board members because we have a catch-up weekly on different days of the week. And then they'll each have a slightly different lens that they look at the decision from. Then I will speak to my leadership team as well internally if it's something that involves that, you know, they should be kept abreast of. And then, based on the different pieces of advice, I then come to my own decision. So I tend not to necessarily make decisions just because someone has told me to do it because I don't think it's necessarily the best way to run a business. You still have to have your own mind and your own ideas of where you see the vision of the company going. But it's definitely helpful getting these different pieces of advice that then piece together a bigger puzzle. So each of my advisors kind of covers a slightly different area. One of them is an ex-KPMG head of sales; another one is a senior people business partner in a large fintech, so more about the people side of the business. Another one is more focused on an ex-CFO, more on the financial side and growth and fundraising and things like that. So they'll all have slightly different lenses they look at the same challenge from, where one might look at it purely from the numbers point of view, as, you know, yep, numbers make sense, make that decision. But then the others will look at it from a people point of view with the impact on morale might be like and try to balance it. But a lot of the time, they more just help you get to the decision that you already know is the right answer by just asking the right questions to kind of pull out what your motivations are and what actually is important to you.

SM: Sure, so it adds more confidence to what your intuition was maybe telling you. This advisory board reminds me of what Scott Galloway calls the kitchen cabinet, and I'm curious about this as well. I've never had an advisory board myself, which I'm also curious about, but in business, there are so many different things you could invest your money into. I presume they've got salaries, is that how it works?

BI: I think one of them we do pay, and then the rest actually just do it because, again, they're very invested in me and in the success of RAD. I voluntarily decided I'm going to give them all shares, but that's not something they asked for, but I don't think that's necessarily the norm. I think generally you do pay your advisors.

"I voluntarily decided I'm going to give them all shares"

SM: Yeah, this is what I was wondering because whenever I did look into it very briefly, I think like the going rate was like 20-30K for that minimal amount of time. Not to say it's not high quality, but like the day a week or day a month, whatever, to attend the meetings and stuff. So it's all these things that, you know, what are necessary versus the nice-to-haves when you've really got to keep your eye. And I think when you're keeping the eye on the ball with the finances, another tricky balance that I'd love to get your views on as well is being lean and making sure you're looking after the runway, and the people that you are holding onto, you're able to pay their salaries at the end of the month. So taking more of that conservative view versus sometimes you've got to spend money to make money. Sometimes you've got to take a bit of a punt. Sometimes you can't work out an accurate ROI on what this thing will be, but sometimes you've just got to take some of those chances. So how do you balance that?

BI: That's a very good question. A lot of it comes down to your risk appetite. I think, first of all, just on the advisor piece, I think you could go down the route of hiring professional advisors, and they, I'm sure they're absolutely amazing and add a lot of value. But it's very underestimated or underrated, rather, you've got probably advisors around you already. It could be family members that are essentially you go to for advice. It could be friends who are running their own businesses that you may not think are related to yours, but they might just be a few years ahead and have already dealt with the same challenges. It could be someone you meet at the weekend for drinks that you always kind of bounce your ideas off of. Why not just formalise that relationship a little bit more and have it as a weekly catch-up? You can still do it over drinks, doesn't have to be super formal. That's the difference between where it's like a non-executive director or a NED and where it's an advisory board. So the advisory board is a lot more informal, can be whatever you want it to be. They can input or not input as much as you want them to as well. So that's the structure that I feel works best for me at the moment. I will need to build a more formal board as the company is now growing to a point where we're going to need to have a lot more of that governance structure in place. But on to your second question around how do you balance that risk/reward challenge. I think that is the fundamental question of entrepreneurship, right? It's all about risk reward and how much risk to take for how much reward and when to make the right move. So it's not an easy thing to answer, but I think for me personally, in the past, I'd say the first three years of the company, it was very much a grow, grow, grow mindset, which is perfectly fine when the economy was kind of not booming because we did have pandemics and lockdowns and all that. But generally, people had businesses and money to spend. And then this last 12 months has been more of a need to button down the hatches, go a lot leaner. So I've had to learn how to run a business in a down economy time, which is a very different skill set and a very different risk/reward mindset you have to have as well, where everything now requires a lot more upside before I'll make the risk. But I think it's actually a question I've asked recently as well. I've had a couple of opportunities come up where, you know, one of them is with like an SEO agency, and the other one was putting some money into, I think, Gartner or something, where it's like, okay, yes, we could get lots of reward for this, but do I want to take the risk? Whereas, you know, two years ago, I mean, like, yeah, cool, good reward, let's do it, quick decision-making. I think it's forced me to slow down that decision-making process, which has its benefits for sure. And that we're now a lot leaner and in a much better place financially, profitability-wise, etc., going forward and much more stable and sustainable in the long run. But if we want to keep that growth going, we're also going to go back to taking more risks as the economy starts to open up again. So it's not one that I think I've found the perfect balance for. I think your answer to it will change based off of things outside of your business as well, like what's happening in the market or industry that you're in. Right now, I'm having to be a lot more risk-conscious. Three months from now, I might be back into grow, grow, grow mode and like let's go out and hire.

Bobby Idogho Radically Digital

"A lot of it comes down to your risk appetite"

SM: Yeah, so you modulate accordingly. So now you're in a leaner position, but that wasn't always the case. Tell us about your expensive experiment where I think you hired a ton of SDRs, was it?

BI: Yeah, so I mean there's been a couple, but yeah, built a whole, you know, built a sales team around our then-head of sales. So ran for anywhere between 6 to 8 months, etc. Realised - sorry, there are a couple of iterations of that team, but overall was maybe like a year or more of different salespeople within the sales team. Realised actually that, in a very expensive way after paying all the salaries, actually, for our industry and for consulting, the best people to actually sell are the founder and then, two, the senior delivery people within the organisation who actually can understand the challenges and the technical elements as well as empathise with clients as well. So it's much easier to have a conversation where you can actually find solutions on the fly and almost solve the challenges as you're going rather than a salesperson that then needs to bring it back in, and it takes a much longer process. So salespeople absolutely definitely still needed but to help facilitate the conversations and open doors and start those conversations but definitely in partnership with someone with the consultative experience to be able to bring some without expertise into the conversation as well. So we've had to change our entire approach to sales actually back to what it was in the early days of the company, which is quite interesting. There's a lot of things that we've maybe experimented with along the way and then gone back to actually we had it right in the first place. So I'm more involved now in the selling process, our head of build, our head of delivery, etc., and that's where we're seeing a lot of our clients coming through now. But we do have an enterprise sales manager who's great, who is also starting to open up some new doors into new clients as well.

SM: Do you use any particular tools in the sales process to help you, especially with more of the colder outreach which I don't think anyone really enjoys doing but like you've got to do so your service base B2B business like what are some of your tricks and tips that you've learned over the years with that?

BI: So again, that's one of those areas where do you invest in one of the hundreds of platforms, I promise you, to get you 10 qualified leads a week ready to buy. But you know if they all worked then there wouldn't be a hundred of them, or do you just carry on with what you're doing. So in the very early days of RAD, we dabbled with one, and I guess got burned a little bit. Essentially, they didn't really turn around the leads they promised, and the ones they did turn around weren't very high quality. They were either way too early, weren't actually interested in buying, etc. So we've avoided that since. But that's not to say that they would not be useful. So what we do use right now is just generally the standard stuff like we just use HubSpot for CRM management. We do have ZoomInfo, but we haven't actually gotten that much value out of it to date. We also use LinkedIn, of course. But actually, what I find is most effective is actually just being out and meeting people, having a conversation with someone at a dinner or an event or even just out at the pub has gotten us a lot more clients than anything we've done with like online tools or where we're spending thousands or in some cases like tens of thousands on platforms and things to help facilitate those.

SM: So, follow-up question to that. This is really interesting at least for me selfishly anyway, so this is great. How do you manage your own energy then when it comes to that? So we touched a little bit before on you know we don't prescribe to the Hustle culture idea of getting up at 4 am, for a cold shower, late nights, and everything else so maximise the time that you are awake and working do that - but very similar to you I also go to networking events, I attend dinners and all the rest of it and now the whole event calendar is like opening back up again. So it's something again selfishly I kind of struggle with because you want to bring your A-game to that as well right you want to you want to be well-rested well-slept as a woman as well I think you want to be presentable which takes some time and energy to you know put on a nice face of makeup and stuff I think that's a real truth like between the genders ultimately you want to show up as your best self to these things but then the reality is we've got the day job you've got all this other stuff that's waiting for you you don't get to your partner or whatever it's eating into the evening time so any like tips lessons around that I'd love to hear.

BI: So that's a very good point because actually when I said earlier I clock off at like five or half five I wasn't actually factoring in evening networking events but don't really think of them as work necessarily lots of really good points where you know at least one or two evenings a week there's something on - last week was an EY entrepreneurs dinner this week there's another couple of things on as well so yeah but I mean in my mind if they're giving you free food and alcohol it's not work yeah so if you sell great if you don't you don't.

SM: So does that affect that shift in your mindset then of just kind of like well I'm out socialising I'm having a good time?

BI: Yeah, you're meeting interesting people, and also, I think it's, I have learned to have to be a lot more selective about which events I go to depending on obviously who else is going to be there, um, what type of event it is, etc.

SM: So what's your criteria? What's your checklist there where you're like, right, I've got three invites tonight, I'm feeling a bit like I'm flagging, I've got to get up in the morning as well for an early call, what's my top criteria for the event I'm going to say yes to?

BI: So... one is, people that I'll see all the time anyway, you know, already existing partners as in business Consulting Partners and things like that in which case I can maybe catch up another time if there's another high-profile event. Two is who's actually sponsoring the event or what's the likelihood that they've actually brought a crowd, so I'm sure everyone's had this where you arrive at an event, you're pretty tired, you arrive, and no one else is really there, and you're like I could have just skipped this. And then I think the third is essentially what's the likelihood that it might actually lead to a relationship or something that in the future becomes a client or helpful partnership basically.

SM: It's hard to anticipate though beforehand if it's an event you've not been to or so I guess is it looking at it's just like a famous brand or...

BI: To some extent, but I think some of it is also, for example, if it's an event that's just for early-stage startup founders, and I'm not necessarily speaking at it, I might decide the event where it's for retail brands across London might be slightly high priority because those are actually prospective clients who can afford our services right now. We do work with startup brands as well, of course, but you've got to kind of do the trade-off of could I bump into startup founders in other ways, you know, I'm a member of Curve club, which you are as well, so I meet a lot of startup founders there or other events, whereas it might not always be an opportunity for me to bump into, I don't know, the CEO of John Lewis and these larger brands, so that's a harder group of people to break into or to meet casually. I guess it's how far outside of my normal network are the people that are going to be attending this event.

SM: That's a good litmus test. And do you ever divide and Conquer these things? Do you have a right-hand or woman that goes along with you?

BI: Yes! Lately, the team will tell you because you get invited to a lot of these events, I just ping them in a Slack channel going like who wants to go to this, who wants to go to this, I need someone else to join for this because yeah, there's no way you can attend all of them, and yeah, we definitely need to divide and conquer. So I've got a really great head of people, Lily, I've got a head of delivery, Shane, head of build, Wayne, and then we also try to encourage the wider team to go to events, but actually, I don't know you've seen this, but what I found is compared to pre-covid where going to networking events that had like free pizza and drinks and things like that was really exciting as an employee now it's almost like additional work, so it's much harder to get people excited about going out and interacting with the wider community or industry that they're in or without incentivising or yeah in some way making it more appealing for them to go whereas when I was an employee because I started a company right before covid I was always like quite if you had a few friends going it was exciting to pop in and see what I don't know Amazon was doing or what Microsoft was doing whoever might be and also get some free pizza and beer and whatever.

Bobby Idogho - Radically Digital

SM: Yeah, I have a sneaky suspicion that's more down to the personalities of entrepreneurs. I think we always kind of have that. So, as the founder of a consultancy, a B2B service provider, you not only have your own business journey, but of course, you witness the experiences of others, especially startup clients and founders, and what they go through. I guess the two-part question here is, first, what's the typical situation they find themselves in when they come to you? Because I can imagine the same problems arise. And, secondly, what are the biggest patterns that you see? In your position, dealing with lots of different clients as a consultancy, are there any commonalities or patterns that you observe with your clients?

BI: Sure. I think one of the most common things we see with our clients that come to us is they're normally at a point of stress. So, in most instances, they've (specific to our industry) they've gone offshore or they've gotten a cheap agency in to build a product for them or as their tech partner thinking that because the day rate was lowered that it meant that they were saving money, but suddenly it's taken three or four times as long as planned for it to be delivered and it still doesn't work or it's falling down and keeps, you know, the infrastructure falls down every time 10 people log in or every time they want to make a change they have to refactor everything or they've been left with this platform and they've no idea how to manage it or how to make any changes because they're not technical on the team they got into build it didn't really give them any documentation so normally they're coming to us with a lot of stress and from a place of worry. So we're so used to this now that we've kind of, you know, you have to pretend like you're surprised that it didn't work out, but we've seen it not work out so many times that yeah, generally go in and we're aware that one of the first things we need to obviously do is just reassure the client that that is why we literally exist as a business, we can, we can fix this, we can make it better, and then that's why we tend to have these long partnerships with clients is because we've taken them from a point of high stress, high worry about the fact that, you know, they're spending lots of money with this team that's not performing, so we can either blend in alongside that team for a while and then assess whether or not what they're doing is actually right, and then if it's not, well then obviously feed that back to the client. We can come in and do tech audits where we actually look at the entire code stock and give a report of what's the quality of the code or we can come in and just decide what elements need to be rebuilt and what elements can be kept to make sure that's actually scalable with the product as well. So this tends to be a lot more with obviously earlier stage founders where the instinct is to save money, so go for the cheapest possible Development Team where unless you are very technical yourself or you've experience of actually running development teams even highly experienced people will tell you it is very tough to actually manage like a scrum team or engineering team and get high value and like high-quality work out of it as well so I would generally avoid advice against it unless you have a very technical person that can kind of advise you on how to get the most out of your offshore team 'cause we have, you know, we can work in that structure as well where the local tech partner from a Strategy perspective and then the development is done offshore by, you know, the client's existing team. So I think that's one aspect of it.

I think another is that a thing we tend to see in the market right now is obviously a lot of early-stage companies struggling with funding. So we have had instances, you know, where clients' funding gets pulled where an investor had committed and then suddenly they get either spooked or run out of money in other places or need to pull out the Investment they were planning so we've had to find ways to kind of still make it work with those companies whether that's through taking equity investments and some of the companies we work with as well or just working with the founder to try and make sure we're delivering enough value that gets them to a point where they unlock additional funding or that they unlock new client contracts for example as well so that's something that we're seeing more frequently we're having to do with earlier stage companies but the majority of our client base is more in that Enterprise space ft 50 etc but working with the early stages generally where the exciting or innovative things are happening of course as well.

SM: The innovation as well as all the drama and stress entrepreneurship so for your own sanity, it's great that you've got a mix of clients at radically digital - was that an intentional decision to make sure you had like the bigger brands as well as startups?

BI: So in the early days, it was very much whoever can pay, we go for it. But as we've gotten bigger, we've actually just done a whole brand repositioning. Our website is completely different now, which launched about two weeks ago. For anyone who has seen it before, you'll notice it's a very different brand colour identity, etc. This has been a very conscious exercise over the course of this year to move the brand into more alignment with where we are now as a business. Also, over the last probably 18 months, there has been a conscious shift towards it's very difficult to market yourself as a business to both startups as well as scale-ups as well as large Enterprise. So, as a conscious decision to move more towards the focus being on the larger Enterprises where we can help them be more disruptive and innovative. But we still work with a lot of startups and scale-ups who will come to us as a business regardless because they want that premium tier support, and we can obviously find ways that we can work with them as well. Because our people tend to be quite entrepreneurial as well, they love when we give them opportunities to practice and hone their skills and work with earlier stage businesses as well. And that's great for bringing that innovation into larger Enterprise as well.

SM: Yeah, fantastic. Well, kudos to you. This is amazing. You're still standing. You've been through rough times and you've come out stronger, which is fantastic. So the last question I always ask my guests is the theme of the podcast called strategy and tragedies centred around one of the main beliefs that sometimes the biggest lessons or the best lessons come from the biggest mistakes. So we have really touched on some of the downtimes and how you navigated these low points, but is there a particular kind of hiccup or tragedy that happened to you that's really taught you an unforgettable mistake that you're carrying forwards with you now?

BI: Trying to choose one from the many options...

I think it was at the end of 2021, the start of 2022 when we were talking to this client based out in Italy in the home-building space, and conversations were going incredibly positively. They were super enthusiastic. If anything, we were the ones being slow. Like, they were like, "Yeah, we're ready to go." It was going to be a huge deal. We needed to hire like 10 more people, including people in our bench just to service this client. So they were like, "Yeah, yeah, let's just scope this out already to go. We'll kick it off in January. Budgets sound fine, etc." So, we started hiring. We built up our additional people into our bench thinking that this project was going to close. Then January came along, and the client had gone completely quiet. We were like, "Okay, maybe it's just holidays." We were waiting a while, messaging like, "Hey, you know, still here ready to go. Where are you?" Then we realised after a few weeks, I think the client came back and told us that actually, they hadn't gotten budget sign-off from their boss within the business. So we thought the entire time that they were the budget holder because that's how it kind of been put across to us. Then we realised actually no, they didn't necessarily have full authority to sign off the budget for this. When it went back to the CEO or the investors or something, it had been vetoed. So we had ramped up a big bench. We then had all these people around because we knew we'd have to move quickly, and as soon as the project started, we needed to be ready to go because that's how it'd been kind of communicated. So, I think the big learning there, which I still do today, is until there are signatures on paper, we're not going to ramp up the team, and I'm a lot more sceptical about when a deal is like closed essentially because sometimes even when there are signatures on paper, clients will still try and back out. So, yeah, I think that's been one of the big learnings because that was not an easy one to unpick. We had to go out and do lots of selling. We managed to bring clients in that then meant the bench wasn't an issue because they all got onto projects, but it was a challenging time for sure.

SM: Well, amazing you managed to turn that around. It sounds like you almost created more of this desperate situation that got you landed with all these new clients is when you have to get it, yeah, there is no alternative. That's crazy, but again, you came out better, and you learned a good lesson from it. So congratulations!

Bobby, thank you so much. This has been really interesting. Thank you for sharing the ups and the downs. I've loved the practical tips and tools and lessons that you've taken, and well done again. It sounds like you're really doing well for yourself, so congratulations!

BI: Thank you!

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Strategy & Tragedy: CEO Stories with Steph Melodia is the fresh business podcast that showcases authentic founder stories - including the ups & downs!

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