Man turned $275 into $12 million
FOUR years ago, Fady Hanna forked out $275 to print some business cards and set up a website - everything he needed to "look like a proper company".
The former music company marketer had an idea for a different approach to the branding and communications business. Recently out of work and with no new job lined up, he decided to give it a shot.
"I started it as a transition to something else," the 30-year-old said. "I was doing it out of my home. I spoke to a bunch of people that had full-time jobs already who offered to send me work after-hours."
Today, Flagship Digital is raking in annual profit of $3 million and has been named one of the country's fastest growing businesses with clients including Coca-Cola, Telstra and Adidas, while Mr Hanna has been named Gold Coast's Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Mr Hanna says his approach is to "help organisations understand what people are buying as opposed to what a company is selling", recalling a recent example of a conversation with someone about their favourite cafe.
"Is is the best coffee in town? The best service? The greatest location? 'No. No. No.' So why do you go back every day? He started thinking. 'I work there every day, I have access to a power socket.' So what you're buying is access to a power socket. What are they selling? 'Coffee - the coffee's trash.'"
Mr Hanna said Flagship Digital's approach is to first understand the customer group being targeted, then to profile individuals within that group, and then to create a communications strategy to target them.
"It can be everything from an advertising campaign all the way through to an organisational change of the entire business - the strategy, the look, feel, logos, everything," Mr Hanna said.
"We've worked with Adidas, BMW, Citibank, Harcourts, all of that bigger stuff, but I think the most rewarding stuff is start-ups - we worked with Jetts Fitness to take them from eight to 200 locations."
The native Queenslander studied music at university but found himself in a "marketing job on the side to pay rent and buy some instruments". Working a major bank, he felt the way they approached their marketing "made very little sense", but at the time he wasn't in a position to change anything.
"Through that I went down the rabbit hole of marketing jobs and became marketing director of a multinational music company," he said. "We needed a new brand strategy, we had an unlimited budget, but everyone [we talked to externally] was just talking about logos and colours and fonts - so I put my own team on it."
That experience made him realise there was an opportunity in the market. "At first I definitely didn't focus on revenue," he said.
"I think too many people focus on just trying to pay the bills. For me it was, what can we change or sell or create in order to show value? Revenue is a by-product of showing someone value. My focus was, what do we need to do that's either different or better than what's out there?"
He got the business off the ground by contacting clients directly and offering to provide them services at cost price, on the condition they would then tell others if they had good results. "I knew we were only going to land that work by showing them something they hadn't seen before," he said.
Mr Hanna's advice to young entrepreneurs is to "dream big but think small". "It's really important to have grand dreams of where you want to go but it has to be backed up by small steps today and tomorrow," he said.
But he admits in the first few years "we were finding our feet and got it wrong". "We were trying to be the same agency as everyone else," he said. "[But] no one cares about colours and logos, they care about return on investment."
Flagship Digital, which operates on a pay-per-lead model, promises clients that for every dollar they spend they will see an ROI of $3.50.
"I know it's been said a million times before but that value proposition is key," Mr Hanna said. "Actually doing something in a way nobody has before, in a much more relevant way to suit the objectives of the customer you're trying to target."