The Five by Five team are super proud of our founder Jon Hollenberg having been nominated for the Business News Australia Young Entrepreneur Awards on the Gold Coast taking place in October 2021.
Speaking with Jon, he still proclaims to be “young” at heart despite the fact that he is now largely sporting a head of grey hair and just cracked 40 years old!
Below is an interview with Jon that gives more insights into his journey to date:
Q > What did you do before you started your business and what prompted you to start it?
A > My first job out of university was working for a very small Melbourne based digital agency back in 2001. I was working for a guy called Nick Marvin who has since served some of Australia’s leading sporting icons such Chairman, National Basketball League; Managing Director, Perth Wildcats, Perth Lynx; CEO, World Series Rugby, Western Force. He gave me my first job in the industry and got me interested in web design, direct response marketing, self development and leadership. On the first day of my job, he sent me out on a sales call where I crashed and burned horribly. Nick continued to throw me in the deep end over and over again. I learnt so much in those first few years and laid the foundation for the years to come. This inspired me to want to run my own digital agency and at the age of 25 I took the leap and started my own business.
Q > Tell us about your business. What do you have to offer and to whom?
A > We are Australia’s highest rated Digital Agency specialising in providing a customised digital solution for our clients. Our services range from web design, web development, SEO, Google ads and hosting & support.
Q > Please outline the company’s key highlights in FY21
A > We were busier than ever in 2021, working overtime to help clients navigate a tough couple of years. While many companies were forced to scale back, for us it was the complete opposite.
As we primarily work with clients in ‘hands-on’ services, Covid-19 fundamentally changed how they could do business. They came to us for advice, and we also proactively reached out to them, with ideas on what they could do digitally to not just survive, but thrive through the pandemic.
These companies needed to evolve quickly from a one-dimensional digital presence to using their website as their new shopfront. For example, our clients in the medical sector moved to online consultations, while those in the legal space pivoted to selling products and courses online.
80% of our existing clients came to us needing to do something differently, and quickly – whether it was a simple pop-up to update their customers or a complete overhaul of their website design. We also had a surge in new clients coming to us who had minimal or no digital presence and needed our help. A lot of our year-on-year profit growth came from this influx of new clients looking for a digital solution.
One client story that really stands out is a company called Wild Wood, which creates sustainable wooden chopping boards. We started working with them right as Covid hit. Previously they sold their products in bulk to restaurants, bars and hotels. It was very much a B2B company, but when Covid forced hospitality venues to close, it pretty much wiped out their business. We helped with their SEO and created a shop on their website so consumers could buy their products directly. That completely changed what the business was about – in a short time, the site went from virtually zero traffic to 2,500 visitors a month.
For every client, we want to be their trusted digital partner. Our company motto is ‘Sharing Your Magic’, so we see ourselves as part of any business we work with. This begins with a 4-5 hour consultation with a new client to better understand their story, company culture and unique selling proposition (USP). We then take an audit of what they’re already doing digitally, conduct research on their industry, then reconvene for a second meeting to discuss the plan of attack.
Another key factor in our success last year was local knowledge. Gold Coasters like to work with Gold Coasters – for example, clients trust us to recommend the services of other like-minded local businesses. People work very hard here, but it’s still got that laid back, family-centric vibe. We know the market inside out and understand that unique balance so we’re professional but not overly corporate.
Most of the new builder clients we’ve taken on are Queensland-based, for example. One of the new and innovative websites we’ve developed is for Coral Homes, a national company with its head office here on the Gold Coast. During Covid, display homes were shut, so people looking for a home couldn’t see them in person. For their website, we built in the same experience you would have in person at a display home. You can essentially build your house virtually, including your chosen facade, extras package, colours and so much more. At the end you can create a custom quote for your new house. Coral Homes achieved 50% more leads and enquiries from this ‘build your own quote’ process than they were receiving previously.
After we build these unique features for our clients, they’ve now got them long-term. It’s an added benefit for their sales team and saves time at every step. The challenges of last year presented a real opportunity for us to help clients reinvent how they do business for the better.
When we made the switch from thinking of ourselves as a web design company to a complete digital partner, we developed a new marketing strategy around the visual of the ‘burger with the lot’.
It comes from the idea that elsewhere you can get an unexciting plain burger that you might enjoy – but when you get the burger with the lot, you get to really enjoy the beetroot, the egg, the cheese and so on. This is how we visually represent our service – when you come to us, you don’t just get the patty and the bun. You get the lot! And for us that means you also get extras like logo and branding, photography and video, copywriting, search engine optimisation, hosting and support.
We call it a proven 12-month recipe for digital success. It’s a fun way of visualising for potential clients that they’re not just getting a website redesign from us.
The video and photography component is a crucial part of what we offer. It’s hard to communicate what a business is through stock imagery, so we go out to a company’s office and do a 90-second brand video with them and a three-hour photo shoot for quality headshots and action shots. This visual element allows the client to build trust with anyone who visits their website.
We have a client here on the Gold Coast who creates blinds and shutters. After doing the photo and video shoot, the client raved about how good it was for his business. Now when he goes out to do measurements, their customer will warmly say, “Oh hi, Adam!” They’ve already seen his face all over the website, so the rapport is already there in real life.
We also have a network of trusted partners on the Gold Coast, such as Gravitate Digital (predominantly paid traffic) and Tara James at Small & Mighty (strategy). We’re relaxed about these referral relationships. For us, it’s not about chasing commissions or aggressively marketing our services. We are currently building what we call our Collab Community, a one-stop shop for all our partners to create a referral network.
The majority of our new clients come via our own website – that’s our SEO expertise working! We also have over 180 five-star Google reviews, and when we’re onboarding new clients, they usually mention the reviews. It’s important that we have a friendly face – when a new client comes onboard, they can come into our office, which is a renovated factory that has the feel of a coworking space. The client is always greeted warmly and meets the team.
A lot of our new clients in 2020 were entrepreneurs from professional backgrounds who’d decided to go out on their own. One of our clients left a law firm to set up her own office. When she came to us to start a website for her own business, she didn’t have any of her own clients and was working from home. We did the ‘burger with the lot’: her logo, branding, visuals and SEO, and advised on her Google ads. Eight months later we did a call with her, and she dialled in from her brand new office that she’d just secured and introduced us to her first two employees. For our team, it was amazing to see her vision come to life because of the support we were able to give to her digital presence.
We’re very proud of these success stories, and they show other businesses what we can achieve for them.
Q > What are your plans and strategies for the remainder of 2021 and beyond?
A > A key plan for the remainder of 2021 is what we call building our ‘flywheel’. There’s been a lot of change and evolution for the business and our clients over the last 12 months, so we’re coming out of that period with a clear strategy in place. We’re on track to some kind of normality again.
Going forward, we want our department heads to run their departments as if they are their own businesses. The vision is to create six business owners under the banner of Five by Five. We’re going from the mindset of being one entity to being six thriving businesses under one roof.
In this process, we will continue to grow the team (perhaps even outgrowing our current office space!) and service more clients. By the end of 2021, we’re also on track for the same revenue and profit percentage increases as we’ve done the past two years.
We’re seeing the most uptick in our paid ads component of the business, which goes back to that guiding principle of offering ‘the burger with the lot’. It’s our job – and our passion – to keep researching and refining how we can help our client’s grow.
We plan annually as a business in November, then review these plans quarterly with the leadership team, share our vision and mission with the broader team, and create their cascading goals.