Jamie Irwin of Straight Up Search on running his business

Flexible working, family policies, government support – we find out how this social marketing company is handling them.

jamie irwin running a small business


We always love to highlight forward-thinking small and medium-sized businesses on the site. Here, SME founder and father Jamie Irwin tells Working Dads how he manages his business, search marketing firm Straight Up Search.

What was the inspiration for starting the business?

For a few years, I’ve balanced freelance consultancy alongside working full-time. Then came the end of furlough during the pandemic and my employer decided to let me go. This was the encouragement I needed to pivot my side hustle into a full-time endeavour and create a business. This works well for me as I’m extremely passionate about helping business owners solve their online problems, particularly organic traffic (SEO) problems and drive more ROI out of this channel.

How do you work flexibly with a young family?

My work is entirely remote and I’m my own manager. This means that as long as the work gets done, I can do it on my terms. I am in the middle of developing a strong team of competent employees and have a lot of talent contracts I often work with. This will allow me to take a step back from the doing.

Admittedly, with my business being in that start-up phase, I do find it difficult to achieve that work-life balance as I’m currently working most evenings and often at the weekends.

My partner and I appreciate that this is not going to be my working pattern forever as I will be able to scale up and take on more employees soon.

What more could the government do for entrepreneurs like you?

Thankfully, the government has given me the green-light for the Kickstarter Scheme. This allows me to advertise for two more digital marketing assistants to help with day-to-day operations.

However, the government could facilitate a better link between university graduates and start-ups. This would solve two problems at the same time. My logic is, university graduates, especially in marketing disciplines, possess a lot of research-based skills that typically translate well into digital marketing strengths. And sometimes, with no professional work experience to rely on, it’s difficult for graduates to find employment (speaking from my own personal experience, seven or eight years ago).

straightup search running a small business

You obviously started off small and are growing. How have you found that transition and what do you think helped you achieve that?

The most difficult problem I’ve had to deal with is how to efficiently manage my time and prioritise. For example, I frequently have to decline various client prospects in order to concentrate on growing my business at a sustainable rate. My number one business priority is ensuring that all of my current clients are satisfied with performance before taking on additional sales opportunities – thereby maximising client LTV (lifetime value). I also use certain tools like Trello and Slack, both of which help me prioritise tasks by due dates.

It is this disciplined approach that helps create a strong business foundation.

As for growing, I have several key clients in the pipeline who are potentially looking to work with me over the next one to two years (and beyond). This should give me enough runway to hire employees and scale my business effectively while maintaining client satisfaction.

Companies are notoriously bad and/or slow at coming up with family-friendly policies. Are you bucking that trend? How are you attacking that side of your business?

Fortunately, my business is small enough to where it doesn’t require a formalised family-friendly policy. But I’m in the middle of using a HR contractor who is helping me with this aspect, for when the time comes.

My previous employment gave the standard two-week parental leave windows and I didn’t feel like this was adequate. I will be bucking the trend by allowing more flexibility with regard to this e.g. working from home opportunities and extended parental leave.

I understand that time is money, especially in a business. No one is going to get the best out of a team if they’re spending more time worrying about childcare or whether there’s been an emergency with their child.

That said, I need to make sure my clients receive the level of service they’ve come to expect from me – even when I’m unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances. So it’s all about balancing these aspects together and reaching a compromise – we’re all human and life is unpredictable.

Read more:

One dad highlights impressive parental policies at Inmarsat

How one man is trying to revolutionise teacher recruitment

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