The word ‘digital native’ is often thrown around… but what about the minds who leapt into the heady, early days of the web – and are now total experts? Take Chris Buckley (pictured above left, with Matt Hartley). Having started out as a web designer in 1998, he’s more of a ‘digital chameleon’, evolving alongside the internet. Now, he’s Founder and CEO of award-winning B2B digital agency, Pixel Kicks and a Huckletree Ancoats founding member.
When he’s not sweating it out at our in-house HIIT sessions, you’ll find Chris and the Pixel Kicks team optimising your PPC, creating killer sites for fellow Manchester pioneers and sharing an expert view on the latest trends in SEO and web design.
We caught up with Chris for his perspective on Manchester’s rich digital scene, how to sustainably scale your team and why coworking brings value for clients.
ON THE PIXEL KICKS STORY
“I’ve been a web designer & developer since I was 18, and for the first ten years of my career, I worked in-house for other companies. Eventually, I reached a point where I decided to go freelance and work for myself, quickly learning the benefits as well as drawbacks of this decision. Lots of freedom, but with it comes the importance of being strict with yourself each day. Having to learn the business side was challenging, with accounting, tax, invoicing, as well as finding a continued supply of work taking up a lot of time.
Luckily for me, my area of expertise was in high demand, and it quickly became apparent that I could do with some help. After taking up an office at The Sharp Project in 2010, I found an apprentice who was young and eager to learn, and threw herself into everything wholeheartedly with a great deal of quality. Another apprentice followed to help out with digital marketing, followed by more recruits in development, branding and sales.
Initially, we focused on website builds entirely, but halfway through our journey, we started to push our digital marketing talents, offering clients search, social media and pay-per-click services. The company quickly & steadily grew from this point forward and on average we recruited a new person each year until today where we stand at 12 full-time members of staff.
A move into Ancoats followed, and now we stand here in 2020 excitedly ready for what lies ahead this year. Location-wise I couldn’t think of anywhere better to be with our office being easily accessible by car, metro and train for all staff and clients.”
ON THE NORTHERN SPIRIT OF COLLABORATION
“I’m honestly always surprised at the amount of talent here in Manchester, and together with that comes a bunch of truly great people. Personalities and characters. Everyone I’ve met has always been more than happy to help & assist each other, and I think Manchester as a whole benefits from this.
The digital scene up here is so rich. Sharing knowledge and helping others is what the internet should be about. It’s an exciting time and there’s certainly much more to come.
We like to publish a lot of in-depth articles on our website covering all the services we offer. Anything that our clients want to know, we’ll try and write about. Also our regular investment in apprentices keeps us on our toes, with the internet constantly changing and bringing new technologies it’s important that we keep up with the latest trends.”
ON THE RIGHT WAY TO SCALE YOUR TEAM
“My best advice would be to grow steadily – don’t jump before you can run. Make sure the people you hire are people that you’d go out for a beer with. We spend most of our life working, so I think it’s important that we enjoy it as much as possible.
Growth is also never going to come as a constant. For the first 7 years of Pixel Kicks we hadn’t lost a single member of staff, but in 2018 and 2019 around 4 members of our team changed. Scaling down gives an opportunity to reassess things, and this, in turn, can give more financial stability along with an opportunity for better growth ahead.
Definitely recruit people who are good at dealing with people. Communication is by far the most important aspect of running a digital agency.”
ON THE POWER OF COWORKING
“We spent the first 5 years of our life in a coworking environment before venturing into the city centre, so we knew it suited us down to the ground. We still have our own private space but the ability to network and interact with others on a daily basis is something that isn’t taken for granted. The work that Huckletree has done to the Express Building in Manchester is stunning, and it makes you feel proud to work there. It feels like you’re truly at the cutting-edge of the city and everything it has to offer.
Our skills lie in website creation and digital marketing, but we have close and trusted contacts for video production, animation, PR, and lots of other areas. Knowing others who can assist us means we can offer even more value to our clients.
All of us are excited to see what 2020 brings (a long hot summer would be nice), and with the amount of weekly events planned by Huckletree, we’ll be throwing ourselves deep, looking to become an active part of the community.”
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