5 Questions with Serial Entrepreneur Nick Bell

In the space of eight years and with an initial capital investment of AUD400, Australian YPO member Nick Bell has grown a digital empire from the ground up.

Bell launched WME Group in 2008  – an award-winning digital services agency that has been dubbed one of Australia’s fastest growing tech companies by SmartCompany and BRW – after seizing an opportunity to turn SEO (search engine optimization) into a marketable and consumer-driven product. The success of WME served as a springboard for a multitude of cross-functional companies offering web design and development (Nothing But Web), mobile app creation and marketing (Appscore), live chat services (Lead Chat) and web hosting (Hosting Australia). In addition, Bell established WME sister agencies throughout Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

Today, Bell’s group of multi-national companies helps thousands of businesses across the world increase their bottom line and boost brand recognition, catering to myriad of needs in the perpetually evolving world of modern marketing.

How does a university dropout become a highly successful entrepreneur of several different global companies?

Two reasons: opportunity and necessity. Essentially, this is what drove me to where I am today. After four months studying business at Victoria University, I decided university wasn’t for me and started up an online skincare business instead. When this didn’t work out as planned, I had two choices – go and work for someone else, or get innovative. I saw a business opportunity in the world of SEO and I basically took it and ran with it.

What kind of qualities have landed you where you are today?

  • Thick skin – WME began when I started cold-calling prospective clients from my office-converted bedroom. I’d built up a resilience to rejection, which is an integral facet of entrepreneurialism; failures are inevitable in life and can often be the best lessons.
  • Confidence in your abilities – Although I believe you need to be prepared to embrace failure, you also need to back yourself when it comes to business. I always maintained confidence that I was going to achieve the goals I set out for myself. Self-doubt will get you nowhere.
  • Determination to overcome obstacles – I live by a certain motto: “There’s always a way to overcome a challenge and there’s always an angle that you haven’t yet explored.” I don’t waste my time over-analysing situations; I think it’s important to understand the objective, carve out a plan of action, get in the trenches and make it happen.

What is the most difficult leadership lesson you have learned?

You absolutely need to nail your niche. There were periods where I invested in industries that I hadn’t researched correctly and I ended up losing a substantial amount of money. It helped me realize that true success in business lies in sticking to what you know, and from there, becoming an expert in every single crevice of it. You need to investigate it from a granular level; to pick apart the tapestry and continually find new threads to explore.

What are three business leadership insights you would like to share?

  1. Evolution in business nowadays is paramount to success. Take Apple – it’s one of the most successful companies in the world, largely due to its abilities to continue churning out new and innovative ideas.
  2. Invest in the right people for your company. They drive your business. They are the cogs that keep the wheels turning.
  3. Avoid succumbing to a complacent workplace culture. It’s really easy to follow in the footsteps of places like Google, where sleeping pods and table tennis are all the rage, but to me, they are just gimmicks. I find other ways to strike a healthy balance between having fun and getting it done.

How can business leaders cater to the Gen-Y workplace attitude?

There’s definitely a whole new approach towards the workplace these days and it’s one they don’t really teach you in business school. My office chairs are mainly occupied by young, vibrant millennials who have essentially grown up with the digital age, and they are constantly looking for ways to satiate their growing curiosity. Business leaders should acknowledge this and ensure their employees are given the appropriate avenues to channel their energy. In my companies, no one remains stagnant: people move across departments, continually adding new tools to their skill sets and unlocking new doors for opportunity.

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