Meet the MD Tim Barlow of Attacat

Meet the MD Tim Barlow of Attacat

After witnessing the demand for SEO, Tim Barlow decided to set up his own digital marketing company, Attacat, in 2003. He talked to BQ about his career.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

As the founder of the business, my focus is on steering the company’s vision, which is to offer great quality work to passion-driven businesses. I’m working hard to bring on people who can deliver that. Recruitment and the development of the team is still a major part of my role - seeing team members grow and develop brings me great satisfaction. I’m also responsible for setting client strategy and keeping an eye on the delivery of those strategies. I’m now less involved in sales and day to day implementation.


What is it the company does?

We work with ambitious £1 to 10 million plus turnover companies who want to use digital marketing to drive their businesses. We start by setting a vision that puts the customer first. We then work with our clients to create and promote online experiences that will be loved by the customer, prospects, and search engines.  Ultimately, it’s all about making the most of your online opportunity to gain and retain the right type of customer, cost effectively and for the long term.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

After university, I joined National Power’s (now npower) graduate training scheme. By accident I got involved with running a website there which opened my eyes to the power of search engines. After I left the scheme, I set up a student letting portal called Pastures New. The portal attracted a lot of traffic but monetising was more challenging. When people started approaching me asking for help to gain traffic, I realised then that there was a big demand for SEO. That’s what led me to set-up Attacat in 2003. A lot has changed since then - Attacat has developed into a full service digital marketing agency. I’m lucky to have found a field where I never stop learning and there are always opportunities to change and improve things.   


What do you believe makes a great leader?

The ability to communicate a vision that everyone can buy into…. then live that vision. I also admire people who lead by passion and are genuinely interested in their teams. Running a successful business is not just about looking after the bottom line.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

We’ve seen an ever escalating battle for talent in our industry.  There just aren’t enough great digital marketing people with experience, so as a result we are always having to work hard to create a vibrant and enjoyable environment that people want to be part of. We are lucky to have a great team spirit but I’m always conscious of not taking it for granted.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Spending time with my family – I call this ‘non-negotiable downtime.’ If it wasn’t for the children, I would probably be a workaholic, so family time gets me away from the strains of running a business.  I also love the great outdoors, particularly the north coast of Scotland. A day spent in the fresh air solves most problems!


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was always one of those people who didn’t really know.  I had a phase of thinking that being a commercial diver would be fun.


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

Being held back by slow decision making and seeing opportunities disappear as a result. I find time pressure is a great way to get round this – setting yourself clear goals within a tight time frame. A friend and I recently set up a new business in under 12 hours – it was refreshing to be in a situation where critical decisions had to be made quickly. It is amazing what can be achieved in this kind of environment.


Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

The current target is to get to £3 million turnover in next 3 years.  I’d like to have built a self- managing team so I can take on more of a chairman role.  I’d love to have the time to pursue other ventures.  In particular, I’d like to have another go at creating a product based business where I could apply all the lessons I’ve learned from all the great people I’ve worked with over the years.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Get started as soon as you can, don’t expect to get it right first time, employ as quickly as possible and make sure you’re doing something you love.