Meet the CEO of Webgains
Mr Richard Dennys, you are known for being one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs and business growth experts, but who is the man behind the business?
Just a normal if slightly hyper, 48-year-old, grammar school educated, married father of two who has been around the block once or twice. I love nice wine, sailing in warm seas and being with my lovely family at home in the green hills and meadows of North Somerset.
You have held many Senior Management positions over the years, including at the BBC, TechCity UK, Moonfruit, Nokia, to name a few. Was this always the dream or did your vision change over time?
I've also lived and worked in the UK, US, France, Italy, Germany & Croatia (when it was still Yugoslavia). My original dream was to follow my father into the music business, then I nearly went in to Banking in the City after my A-levels, but instead chose to teach windsurfing on a beach in Devon (!) Then finally knuckled down, went to Manchester University to study marketing and business and realised I loved how businesses worked.
Since then it's always been about the people I work with and for. I am lucky to have worked myself into a position where I often get to 'choose my boss' and can only ever follow someone who I can learn from; my personal motto is "Never Stop Learning". I specialise in re-energising or recovering teams and business models so this is often quite short term, high burn assignments. I am fortunate at Webgains that the people around me have a similar long term view and belief and are prepared to invest in our vision and each other for the future of performance marketing.
Now, tell me about Webgains, one of the leading European performance networks.
Webgains is a high performance affiliate marketing network. Our work is about empowering publishers and advertisers to reach their peak performance, allowing advertiser to reach as wide an audience as possible while enabling publishers to monetise their content effectively. We work with publishers, bloggers and advertisers to help get brands seen by the right audiences online, while also helping our online publishers monetise their online content.
We operate in 14 markets internationally and our advertising network includes more than 2,000 brands including Nike, Samsung and Hertz, while our publisher network is made up of more than 250,000 sites.
With your experience in scaling and advising performance driven businesses. What advice would you give to start-ups ready to scale?
First of all, have a viable plan in place, and then put everything in place for that plan to succeed, whether it’s making sure your business is ready to be scaled, to ensuring you have the right team in place to run the business while you focus on growth.
You should be prepared to outsource non-core responsibilities. You’ll need experience during any scale-up and having all these skills in place in-house, as a start-up, is unlikely, and outsourcing could be more cost effective. Similarly, you should be looking at every chance to automate business processes during this period. You will have enough to deal with without worrying about managing processes which can be easily automated to be more efficient.
Also, and this is something many businesses fall down on, be prepared to spend on marketing. This is a time when you need to be shouting about your business, so don’t shut the door to the department that will get your name and news out there.
How do you think entrepreneurs can build businesses now, that will benefit the future?
At Webgains we’ve been doing a lot of research into this issue, looking at how businesses being built today are going to be sustainable in the future. The big challenge businesses face is the changing nature of the workplace, and modern employees’ desire for a more flexible and entrepreneurial workplace.
The businesses that are going to benefit the future workforce are those which can break down the traditional, rigid business practices and embrace a more modern attitude to working.
Webgains Academy launched with the mission to educate the masses. How do you think this launch will change the face of affiliate marketing?
The Webgains Academy is much more about educating the market to ensure people have the digital skills and experience they need to make an impact in the industry. Whilst this will no doubt benefit the affiliate marketing industry, the academy has a much broader purpose and will be a benefit to anyone who wants to increase their digital skills while learning in a modern business environment.
Internal training is becoming a much more important aspect of business today, especially with the skills gap making it harder to find qualified external talent, so having an Academy at out disposal is going to be a major benefit in the years to come.
As a mentor, how should entrepreneurs approach a potential mentor?
Do your homework.
If you ask someone to be a mentor, particularly for your business, one of the main questions they are going to want you to answer is why them? What is it about them and what they’ve done that makes you want them to mentor you.
You also need to do your homework on your business. If you’re asking someone to invest their time in helping you, you need to be able to demonstrate that it’s worth their time and effort. Showing you know your business and industry as well as you possibly can, is a good way of showing your potential mentor that you value their time.
What habits do you think helped you to become successful?
Understanding how to get the best out of the teams I’ve worked with and having enough trust in the team to do the job without looking over their shoulder all the time. We’ve worked hard in the last 12 months building that level of trust at Webgains so that everyone feels like they have the freedom to get on with their work, and it’s definitely proving to be a successful attitude.
How do you fend off or deal with those moments of doubt that every entrepreneur struggles with?
Just treat is as a passing feeling and not get troubled. Everyone has doubts at some point, and with the growth and development we’ve had at Webgains in the last year there have been a few moments when we weren’t sure if things would work out, but you just have to have trust in the team around you that you can make things work.
How do you think A.I will affect how we do business over the next 10 years?
We’re already seeing the early signs of how AI is impacting businesses with the emergence of chatbots and predictive analytics, so it is likely we are going to see these things – which are still relatively on the fringe – moving more into the mainstream.
From an affiliate marketing perspective AI presents an exciting opportunity to create much more personalised campaigns and tailor content more towards specific audiences. Some of this technology is already is use and companies are becoming much more creative at getting in front of customers through mobile apps.
The only real barrier to AI at the moment is that it is still new as a business tool and brands are still trying to work out how best to use the technology and the platform to benefit them and their customers.
What plans do you have for Webgains over the coming 12 months?
Talking about AI leads nicely into the future plans for Webgains as bringing this technology into our offering is going to be a big part of what we’re doing here in the next year. We’ve been working closely with IBM to develop our own AI platform to improve the service we can offer not only our advertising clients – getting them in front of more relevant audiences – but also our publishing network by making it easier for them to make money with their online content by matching them with the best advertisers.
Coupled with this, we maintain an aggressive and ambitious growth plan for the business, and then in a more industry wide focus we obviously have the incoming data regulations like GDPR coming through which is something the whole sector will have to deal with.