Ross Testa launched his social media advertising agency whilst at university in what turned out to be the start of what is becoming an incredible family business journey. Dad, Roy and sister Jodie are now heavily involved too. Paul Andrews spoke to Roy to find out more.
As Roy explained, “I have a marketing background and over the years have run newspapers, magazines and websites so have always been involved in the sector. My son, Ross was at university and started his business venture and won a few clients such that toward his final year he asked me whether he should finish the course or continue to build the business.”
“As any father in the same situation will tell you, this was not an easy decision but education is important and he had come so far that I told him to complete the course and then focus on the business. It was at that point, December 2017 that we set up the business together and began in a small basement office with no windows around 6 m sq, just Ross and a freelance friend and the business started to grow.”
As Roy adds, “I was always involved but due to an existing position that I was tied to for a period of time, I was not publicly involved at the start. I was the sounding board and offered guidance and together our roles and responsibilities were being determined, something that has helped on the journey to date and is important when working closely with friends and family. I officially join the business during the first pandemic lockdown.”
This is clearly an entrepreneurial family and one that works well together with plenty of communication and conversation. As Roy continues, “I have always been in business and the family has always been involved in one way or another and so the dinner table was often filled with business talk. Now that we are a working family business, we have not changed anything but far from the business taking over at home, we all actually appreciate the need for a work-life balance and we know when not to talk about the business too. There is an unwritten rule that if we are with people that are not involved in the business then it is not the topic of conversation either.”
It is often a fine line but many families in business cross the line and the conversations take over but Roy and the family have found a balance that works for them, and is something that others would do well to follow. Clear roles and responsibilities also help maintain the balance too.
As Roy adds, “Over the years in my own career I have really enjoyed employing people and with coaching and mentoring seeing them grow into competent individuals. Now, working with my own flesh and blood it is even more rewarding to see them develop and in the short time that we have been working together they have already come on leaps and bounds and to see them holding their own and delivering to really experienced brands is fantastic. My role is to oversee and steer the ship, supporting Ross, Jodie and the wider team as the business grows, drawing from my experiences and pulling things together.”
Since starting out the business has grown, they have moved into a new, bigger office space and now employ 12 people. “We are a creative agency and need space and despite the pandemic found the office helped people to work together and bounce ideas,” he continues.
“As a business our people are really important and they need to feel valued and we have worked hard to create a good environment in which to work, and to recognise and reward success too. Roles are clearly defined and it helps that as a family we all have different, and complimentary skills too. Ross is the networker, actively pursuing leads and business development whilst being the champion of social media and driver of growth. Jodie is responsible for the logistics and operations is organised and works well with clients and staff and Roy is all about the commerciality of the business and driving resources and structures as the business grows.”
As a business they have an excellent client bank, many driven through referrals and recommendations, something that has come as a result of hard work, determination and a stroke of luck. The agency’s work was spotted early on by Lord Sugar and resulted in Ross being hired to create some video content for one of his businesses. Other clients followed included Chelsea Football Club, Volvo, Silverstone and others. Not bad for a business that was created in the final year of a university course and now continues to grow.
This is clearly a close-kinit family who get along, something that proved vital as Jodie and Ross still live at home and as a family they were together a lot during lockdown!
“We all have a lot of respect for each other and get along so whilst others may have found it a challenge, we were driven. We are driven to create something together and put in the hours we need to – as I am sure anyone else working in a family business will tell you, it is never simply nine to five!”
Driven, determined and with a real sense of purpose, this is a business to watch in the years to come.
As Roy confirms, “First and foremost we are a business but we love coming up with solutions for our clients and to enjoy what we do. We truly value all of our staff and despite sounding ‘corny’ treat them as an extension of our family. We value them and part of our strength as a business is our people and we are proud to tell everyone that we are a family business. It’s who we are and defines what we do. However, we are forward thinking and want to grow and recognise the need to develop our people and offer them opportunities.”
“We might be a small team but our team comes from all over the world and if their ambitions are to follow their own dreams in the future, we will encourage them and who knows we could be creating the family business leaders of tomorrow too,” adds Roy.
For now, this family business is set to flourish, building on the individual strengths and capabilities of the management team, bringing in new skills as required, focusing on the values that matter and introducing frameworks and responsibilities as the business evolves. There is a palpable buzz and energy when you speak to the team which will stand them in good stead as they move forward too.
But, as Roy concludes, “We work hard as a business and as a family and there is no letting up. Being a family business is no different to any other, as long as you treat family members the same as everyone else and there is certainly no ‘golden ticket’ just because you are family. But the fact that we work hard is not an issue. Working together as a family in a growing business is a dream come true for me and to help shape, mentor and see my kids flourish is a real joy. And above all, it makes a difference, something that our clients see, not just in terms of who we are and the culture we have created, but the quality of our work too.”
The journey may only be a few years old but it is clear that there is a long road ahead as this entrepreneurial family business continues to move forward.
Visit their website here to find out more.