Meet the MD: Helena Hill, 49digital

Meet the MD: Helena Hill, 49digital

Helena decided to leave the classroom and do something completely different, which is how 49digital was created. She tells us how she’s growing the business her and her husband created, why her office pets aren’t her pet hate, and how her passion for architecture has influenced her career.

What is it the company does?

49digital Ltd is primarily a web development company, although we are moving further into user experience (UX) consultancy as part of our growth plans.  So, we not only work with start-ups, small businesses and larger companies who are looking to make changes to their website or web application, to substantially increase turnover. 

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

My role is multi-faceted. I carry out the main day to day running of the business, I bring in business through networking, and presenting on topics such as e-commerce, content creation and user experience.

I love that we work with such a huge variety of clients; from start-ups to large franchise companies. They all work so hard to achieve what they do and it’s a pleasure to be part of that growth. Part of my role is to keep myself educated. I’m constantly learning new things which benefit both our business and our those of our clients.

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

Brief? Right then. Well, in the olden days I started out as a secondary school teacher, teaching music and history. After having some time away to have my daughters I knew I didn’t want to return to the classroom and, after a move to Vancouver, Canada, in 2009 the opportunity was there for my husband and I to do something completely different.

As an airline pilot on a two-year sabbatical, he had plenty of time to learn something that he’d always wanted to do which was coding and website building. So, we both started on a very steep learning curve.

Nearly eight years later 49digital is now an agency with a team of freelance developers! 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

A great leader is someone who can inspire while still growing a business.  They are perceptive, empathetic, excellent communicators and effective in all areas of their job. They also motivate rather than simply manage and that is so important when dealing with staff and clients.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Spreading myself too thin. When you run your own business it’s very easy to fall into the trap of doing absolutely everything yourself. I’ve also learned to say no. It’s impossible to be everywhere at the same time. 

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

Exercise and building Lego Architecture models! 

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

I always wanted to be an architect but my Dad told me I wasn’t good enough at maths. Strangely, all the architects I’ve met along the way have told that they use calculators!

Anyway, I think my love of architecture inspires my websites. I’m fascinated by the way people use and move through websites and this has lead to the launch of my blog, Yuzability, which is all about website design and user experience. 

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

At the moment I work from home but I still have pet hates (although this does not include my labradoodles and persian cat!)

It’s so easy to get distracted by things like the washing, housework or even social media. I’ve started using power hours where I switch off social media, close the office door and set myself tasks to do over a set period of time.

It’s amazing how much more productive you can be when you’re ‘offline’.

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

Oh goodness. This is quite timely because we’ve recently started on a steep growth programme and already I’m seeing huge changes.

In five years time, I hope to have continued to grow our amazing team of developers, be working with national and international brands and have increased our turnover at least ten fold. I know it’s ambitious but I really think that having ambitious goals is so important to being successful.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Start early and just do it. Be consistent with your message, work hard, be inspiring to others and remember who is paying your bills! 

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

You can’t be an expert in everything so don’t try to be! Be prepared to delegate and don’t be afraid to surround yourself by people who are better than you.

I hit forty and this became so obvious to me; I can offer more services and provide better customer experiences if I employ people who can do things that I can’t.

Don’t be precious! 

Are you a business owner or manager working in the North East? The North East Growth Hub provides a wealth of information on finance and funding, business support and events available across the region to help take your business to the next level.

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