Johnathan Thirkill is the managing director of customer engagement platform, Boostify. He talk to BQ about his role, his career so far and his plans for the future of the business.
What is it the company does?
Boostify is an online customer engagement platform, providing the quickest way for businesses to supercharge their website's conversion rate. Users can access in-depth visitor behaviour insights, traffic segmentation and our suite of customisable widgets, to boost site conversion and optimise visitor engagement – all in minutes, not weeks.
We’re not just a tech business though – we provide our clients with dedicated account management, plus goal-originated strategy and technical support, to help them turn site visitors into revenue.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Officially, I’m the firm’s managing director, but being at the helm of a fast-moving start-up requires me to get my hands dirty with every aspect of the business on a daily basis. I’m involved with all activities and processes – from marketing through to HR – so I’m always up-to-speed with what’s happening.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Having been passionate about web development from a young age, I left school at 16 and started working at an internet marketing company in Leeds, which fuelled my passion for all things digital even more.
After building up my work experience portfolio, I then moved to retirement specialist Age Partnership, where I helped develop their website and marketing communications. Then after just two and a half years, I went on to head up the web development team, channelling my strengths to drive innovation and conversion improvements. After seeing the positive impact on the firm’s conversion rate, I really wanted to focus my attention towards growing Boostify, so I moved into one of the company’s consultancy roles, giving me more time to dedicate to my own business venture.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
To me, a great leader is kind, a good listener and respectful. They’re never afraid to admit they were wrong and always praise people for their good work.
I also feel strongly that they are someone who mentors colleagues – providing them with support, knowledge and guidance to help them to succeed. In my eyes, a leader with these qualities will go on to be more successful themselves.
I personally try to follow these rules in my day-to-day role too, taking inspiration from successful leaders such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Letting go! As founder of a start-up, every business decision comes to me, so it can be tough to share out responsibilities.
At first, I found it difficult letting others take over tasks which I’d previously done myself. I foolishly thought it was better for me to do it – as I believed it would save time – but I’ve learnt that this type of thinking is counter-intuitive and actually stunts company growth.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I have a work cut-off at 8pm in an evening, which allows me to de-stress and spend time with my partner Emily and our puppy Charlie. We enjoy going nice evening walks or binge-watching a new series on Netflix.
A stable work-life balance is really important to me, although it is extremely difficult to get right – especially when running a tech start-up.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to set up my own company and be my own boss – it’s rooted in my DNA. I come from a business background, with my father having owned and run many firms since his early 20s, so I’ve grown up wanting to do the same.
At the age of 13, I taught myself how to build websites so that I could earn some spare pocket money. I did this for teachers and friends, and I soon realised that I wanted to pursue a career in technology once I left school.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
For me it’s a lack of initiative – within a start-up, a lot of the processes, rules and ways of working are fluid and open to being changed. I love people who challenge these routine procedures and provide alternative methods which could yield better results – this type of thinking is so important in achieving an optimised business model. That’s why I always encourage colleagues to input in business activities and meetings, as this not only gives them the confidence to believe in their contributions, but it also allows them to truly own their role.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Boostify is committed to helping clients worldwide reach their full potential in an increasingly competitive digital landscape – a mission that will continue as we expand over the next five years.
With our digital tools and passionate team of forward-thinking conversion specialists, I see Boostify going on to be a market-leader in conversion rate optimisation – both in the UK and overseas.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Don’t give up! It’s taken years for Boostify to grow from a live chat start-up to providing our current product offering, and I’ve invested heavily – both financially and time-wise – to achieve this. At many points along the way, it would have been far easier to give up, but I urge people to pursue their vision – all you need is a little bit of perseverance and support from those around you.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Everything takes twice as long as you expect and also requires double the effort – but as the saying goes, it’s all worth it in the end. Establishing your own business is filled with ups and downs and sometimes success can seem like a distant dream, but once you pull through the other side, it’s an incredible feeling.
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