Meet the MD: Gabrielle Hadley of ExtraMile Communications
What is it the company does?
ExtraMile works with local, national and global companies to produce single language or multilingual responsive design websites, Search Engine Optimisation campaigns and multilingual email marketing. In addition, we offer branding, PR, design and print for companies inside and outside of the UK.
What does your role involve?
Our business is my baby… As Captain of the Ship I ‘steer’ the company towards achieving our goals. I keep a hand in pretty much every department to ensure staff are happy, challenged and motivated enough to hit the wider business targets.
My personal passion within the business and an area which characterises our whole philosophy is attention to detail. We have processes in place that ensure our customers get exactly what they ask for and I am forever flying the flag for quality control.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Variety is what motivates me and looking at my career timeline it’s definitely been diverse. I started out as a Police Officer in Cambridgeshire, which was my dream career for some time. In the late 80s I made the tough decision to leave, after realising I would have to move further away from the role I loved in order to move up the ranks. I then moved into the security sector (working in private investigation and senior roles), but after 10 years of seeing the worst side of people every day I knew it was time for a change. My husband Nick (an ex-teacher, tech lover and marketing whizz) was making noises about starting our own business within the online research industry, so SurveyDigital was born, primarily serving the education sector. In 2010 we changed the company name, changed its entity, moved away from online research and focussed on digital marketing, employed more talented staff and ExtraMile Communications was born.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I’m a firm believer in an open-door policy. Our people are crucial to the growth and success of our business and I encourage all staff to voice any concerns or feedback, either in regular reviews or just through a casual chat with me or one of our other directors. Nurturing the team to realise their potential and not ‘keeping them in their box’ is high on my agenda. Staff are the bedrock of our company, that’s why we’re aiming for Gold Investors in People. We recognise we have a long way to go as we’ve only achieved the Core Standard, but we’ll do it.
I think it’s so important to cultivate a fun workplace too: after all, we spend a large majority of our life at work. We employ for personality fit as well as skill and try to have something social on the calendar on a regular basis.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Back in 2012, asking myself “what have you actually achieved?” I challenged myself to climbing Kilimanjaro. Apart from the fact that it nearly killed me, being away from the business for ten days without any communication and without the people in place to cover my role, took a month to unravel the guess-work others had done in my absence. I fixed that shortly after my return, so when I carried out another challenge in 2015 (rowing from London to Paris) I had everything in place to cope with my absence.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I have a very patient personal trainer with whom I train twice a week. It’s the only time I don’t think about work. The rest of the time I’ll admit, it is hard to switch off. When the company is your baby, it doesn’t let you rest very much!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An ice-skater. I knew nothing about ice-skating. I’d never ice-skated, but I’d read a book and thought it looked the best thing to do. Then of course, I focused on being a copper – that was me trying to make the world a better place.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
When people leave the kitchen in a mess and I have to remind folks they’re not students any more. I also cannot cope with people who cannot admit they have fouled up – we have a culture of putting our hands up when things go wrong. That’s for ourselves and to our clients. There’s little point in being credited with ISO9001 if we don’t constantly learn and improve our processes.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We’re growing fast and I’m excited by the team, clients, projects and potential we have at the moment. We always have our eye on the bigger picture and in order to meet our ambitious growth targets, we’ll be looking to recruit even more skilled staff to join our team (we anticipate we’ll be 50-80 people strong by 2020). We’re rapidly outgrowing our Eccleshall HQ so office expansion is definitely on the cards and we’re already increasing our client base to address a more world-wide market. We now have clients in the US, France and potentially Latin America and the Sales team are continually reaching out to all corners of the globe.
The ultimate objective is that ExtraMile will become a multi-million pound, internationally-recognised, full service marketing agency.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Be passionate. It’s so important to believe in your vision and ensure your team are bought into the idea too, otherwise you’re fighting an uphill battle from the start. Be resilient too. There will be people along the way who will challenge you and that’s where self-doubt can creep in. If you believe in your business you’ll always fight for it and it will help you believe in yourself.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
That I would eat, sleep and breathe our business 24/7, but that the blood, sweat and tears are worth it all. Today is SurveyDigital/ExtraMile’s 17th anniversary. I expect ExtraMile to continue for a further 17 years, maybe with me taking a back seat.
Published: 10 May 2017