Business Profile: Fantastic Media's Richard Jones

Meltham-born Richard Jones is helping the continued growth of an award-winning full service marketing agency

Richard Jones, Fantastic Media

He’s been hailed as one of the region’s most influential young business people.

Richard Jones, operations director at Birstall-based Fantastic Media, has won a place in the prestigious 42 Under 42 programme for 2014 – a listing which recognises some of Yorkshire’s “most dynamic and inspiring young entrepreneurs”.

But while Richard is understandably “extremely honoured” by the accolade, he’s not about to let it go to his head.

Instead, he’s focusing on the job in hand – helping to build further a business that has enjoyed year-on-year success since its formation seven years ago.

“We have grown from working solely with small and medium-sized enterprises to having some large-scale FTSE 100 companies wanting our services,” he says.

In the first five years, Fantastic lifted turnover from £300,000 to £1.2m.

Despite the recession, the full service strategic marketing agency posted turnover of £1.25m two years ago and £1.3m last year.

The agency was certainly not without work during the downturn, but the recession provided a bit of “breathing space” for Fantastic to hone its operations, says Richard.

“It gave us time to ensure everything was sorted out,” he says. “Now we can be extremely competitive in price and we have a very efficient way of working.”

While Fantastic offers all that could be expected of a marketing agency – PR, websites, brand identity, advertising, design, e-marketing and e-commerce – it stresses the importance of defining a strategy to ensure clients get a measurable return on their investment.

It’s a way of working that has brought results for a wide range of clients – including familiar local names such as Paxman Coolers, The Pink Link, Brewfitt and Bonmarche,

Richard, 35, was born and raised in Meltham and attended Honley High School, where his main interest was music.

“I got to Grade 8 on the trombone,” he says. “My mum picked the instrument for me when I was in junior school and I stuck with it.”

Later, he studied music technology at Sheffield University’s Barnsley site, which sparked an interest in producing CDs, videos and websites for bands.

He says: “It was always going to be challenging making money in the music business and as a trombonist you would have to be very- very good!”

Focusing on the technology, Richard started a business with a friend from university producing innovative business card interactive CDs.

That led to him working with fellow Huddersfield man Andrew Hobson on a joint venture to produce a CD Rom for PricewaterhouseCoopers – and the duo deciding to set up business for themselves.

As operations director at Fantastic, Richard is responsible for the day-to-day running of the agency – from IT infrastructure and communications systems to overseeing the digital department and creating digital strategies to increase sales and boost efficiency for clients.

Richard also leads the internal research and development programme to ensure Fantastic remains up-to-date with the latest technology and techniques.

More recently, his role has expanded to helping some of the UK’s largest businesses trade online for the first time – helping them integrate online with their core business.

One of its earliest successes in this area was to take Grange Moor-based ladieswear retailer Bonmarche online. For clients already trading online, Richard is helping them increase sales by exploiting multichannel shopping, such as mobile commerce.

At the top of the organisation, Richard and Andrew have proved a winning combination with complementary skills to bring to bear.

Says Richard: “Andy has a creative background and knows everyone! I do the technology! We have the skill sets we need.”

Fantastic has raised its profile through a close involvement with Huddersfield Town and the John Smith’s Stadium.

It started out in the town’s Media Centre and later had offices at New North Road before moving to Birstall to bring it into the orbit of Leeds.

But Richard says: “Huddersfield is still at the heart of everything we do.

“A large chunk of our business is still related to the town. What has also happened over time is that a lot of the friends I went to school with have started their own businesses or are working their way up to decision-making positions in other companies and that it helping to strengthen our links with the local business community.”

Richard says Fantastic’s success is also down to the quality of its 20-strong staff.

“Six years ago, we started taking students on placement every year and we got five permanent full-time employees from that.” The strategy is to develop members of the team doing “work on the ground” into management level posts and bring others in to take their former roles.

With a whole raft of responsibilities, Richard is kept very busy. “We work 12-hour days and we work hard during the week,” he says.

“We think it’s important to keep weekends free – although I always have my phone on and if there is an issue with a website or whatever, we will deal with it.” Richard loves his football and is player-manager of Fantastic FC’s second team. “We are based at a pub in Lockwood,” he says.

“We are getting ready for our end-of-season party at the Fantastic Media Suite at the stadium. I love the game and love playing too much to give it up just yet.”

Cars are another passion. Says Richard: “I’ve got a Range Rover and an Aston Martin – my two dream cars. “I decided to get the Aston while I had the chance – before my wife and I started a family.”

His enthusiasm for fast motors is also reflected in the names of his two cocker spaniels – Rossi and Enzo.

Role: Operations director

Age: 35

Family: Married to Lucy

Holidays: We visited Hawaii and the US following our wedding but also holidayin Europe and the UK

Cars: A Range Rover and an Aston Martin

First job: I worked at the Jacob’s Well in Honley in the cellar and stock-taking

Best thing about the job? Technology is ever-changing and it is still new and exciting

Worst thing about the job? There are times when things get incredibly stressed, but it is always satisfying to resolve an issue and “come out the other side”

Business tip: If the opportunity doesn’t exist – create it

Work: Full service strategic marketing agency

Site: Birstall

Phone: 0845 0176090

Email: rjones@fantasticmedia.co.uk

Web: www. fantasticmedia.co.uk or www.fantastic-mobile.co.uk

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