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How to get a million-pound client with 85% gross margins

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

An inspiring entrepreneur's short story about his route to success and landing the mythical million-pound client.

When I started my web agency in 2003, it was just me partnering with a web agency in India.

I had worked previously for a national retailer managing an e-commerce service for them for 18 months, but never worked for a web agency let alone tried to start or run one. After hunting around and looking at many business ideas, I saw the opportunity of working with India.

Many of my pals openly admit to this day that they gave the idea little chance of success and many local UK web agencies scoffed at me working with India.

I started small, testing the concept. The first year was fun but astonishingly long hours. I'd be out at networking events breakfast, lunch and dinner time (eating well!) and working with my team in India around those events. At my first networking event, I got three leads who wanted new websites. I met with them and all three of them wanted to go ahead, so the early signs were very encouraging. The proposition was strong, unique and risk free so prospects really would be crazy not to work with us.

The first website I sold was for £400. The Indian designer delivered a great design. Way better than anything you could get designed and built in the UK for that budget.

Bespoke Web Development with Indian Designer
First Website 2003 for £400

I pushed-on hunting down more new business. Networking was fun. It was always interesting to hear about other people’s businesses. After 18 months we'd built 80 'custom built' websites, and the venture was breaking even. The challenge now was could I make this sustainable and profitable. Chasing down the business and dealing with a team in India was exciting but brutal. I was constantly feeding the fire - getting the work in to keep the guys in the India busy.

One of my housemates at the time, I remember, said "what you need is a million-pound website". That thought stuck in my mind!

Now with renewed vigour my focus changed. My solution was to focus on my 8 best clients. The strategy worked. They fortunately valued our work the best, paid the best, and wanted to spend more. The business was taking shape. We built our own project management tool to streamline the work too.

We actually also remarkably built on own email marketing tool - pretty much a replica of the well known Constant Contact. Clients loved it and it took quite a bit of investment even using Indian low-cost web developers. It just turned out to be too costly to get clients and run so after a few years I closed it down. Maybe in hindsight, if we'd stuck with it we could have turned this too into a million pound product. You live and learn and on the whole even today I believe it was the right decision.

It was at that time, that several of my best clients’ businesses were going from strength-to-strength. They were spending more and more, and one in particular needed help. They'd won a big multi-million pound contract but needed a bespoke business critical web system behind their revolutionary entrepreneurial business model. I'd worked with them for a number of years up to that point, since they were a start-up, and always found them fantastic to work with. I researched the solution and detailed the proposal and costs, and the client gave the go ahead without blinking. We built the prototype in 6 weeks, and they were blown away.

But disaster! It was at this point, I was having trouble working with the Indian web agency. On the whole they had been good over the 5 years, but I was paying them to have my own dedicated staff and they were moving staff off my account as and when they wanted. I'd just come in one morning and found X developer was now working for another of their clients. The new developer would then have to spend time learning the codes for days (at my expense) and I'd find they didn't have good enough English to work with. This happened too many times. What an ironic situation? Just at the moment we were developing a major tool for a client the Indian web agency was letting me down.

Fortunately, I found a developer. I'd worked with him before, and he was capable. A good developer with good English. Where he lacked skills, he made up with his level of dedication.

He asked to be paid X. I could have paid that, but I knew he'd always be looking for other work and I wanted him to be 100% focussed on my tasks and be certain we were his number one priority, so I paid him 3 times his request. That fee also reflected the quality of work I was after!

We went on to do great things, especially for the best client who ended up in a relatively short time spending over £1m, with 85% gross margins. To put into perspective at £10k project for a small web agency is a great project, a £100k project is mind blowing, so to get a £1m client is unheard off let alone with an 85% margin. It was a bit of business magic.

The client went on to sell for £20m+ to a multinational and appear in Sunday Times Fast Track 100. And the developer? He was the first person in his family to buy a new car, a family car at that, and a second home, so it was a happy ending for everyone.

My Indian Web Team 2007
My Indian web team during my visit 2007

Read more about my experiences of working with India here.

They say lightening doesn't strike twice but a few years later a client I had worked with from start-up and generated over 10,000 business leads for sold for $18m to a Canadian multinational. This too was highly successful, but a story for another time.

About YourTechnologyDirector

Today I continue to be passionate about helping small and medium sized business grow. I bring all my experience with technology, managing projects and working with India to act as your own affordable flexible in-house technology director, representing your interests. Researching and executing solutions as rapidly as possible, at prices that work and help you get the max out of the technology out there.

"Today it's not just about your website and getting more leads. It's much more than that. It's about getting the maximum out the web technologies available and helping your business streamline, scale, grow and achieve a premium sale price (if you're looking to sell at some point)".

Edward, YourTechnologyDirector

If your business is not delivering on its full potential, why not get in contact. Maybe we can create some business magic!?


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