Building websites may seem a world away from surveying buildings but Phil Storey made the switch and never looked back.
The founder of Leeds-based web maintenance agency Glow never really wanted to become a building surveyor to be fair.
“When I was 18, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do,” he says. “I didn’t really want to go to university.”
Instead, at his parents behest, he followed his brother to university and did a degree in building surveying at the then Leeds Metropolitan University.
“I graduated and very quickly realised this is not what I wanted to do at all,” Mr Storey said.
He returned back to his hometown of Blackpool after graduating in 2009 and spent four years there.
“I started working for my brother at the time who had an estate agency,” Mr Storey says. “It was just a way of paying the bills.”
The entrepreneur taught himself coding a decade ago after a friend floated the idea of building websites.
Mr Storey said: “Prior to that phone call I had never considered web development or digital generally as a career. It just gave me the inspiration.
“I thought that’s an exciting industry, obviously fast growing, it might be an interesting one to look into for a bit more detail.
“I would work for my brother full-time during the week and then every night I would come home, sit down and do two or three hours studying coding.”
Mr Storey studied until he got to a stage where he was “competent enough to start helping local businesses in Blackpool with their websites”.
A desire for a change of scene as well as the fact that Leeds was thriving attracted him back to the city.
“There was lots going on from a social perspective but then from the business perspective there was a lot more happening,” Mr Storey says.
However, when he returned to Yorkshire in 2013, Mr Storey realised that he would have to rebuild relationships from the ground up as a lot of his university friends had left the city.
That led him to the importance of networking – something that he still values highly having gone through the ups and downs of running his own business.
It was at one of these networking events that Mr Storey met someone who would become his business partner in 2015.
Mr Storey said: “Basically their business was complementary in the fact that they were offering digital marketing services whereas we were focused entirely on web development and maintenance.
“We got on well at the start. We thought we could work quite well together so we decided to pool our resources and create a new company with all of our clients, resources and staff combined into one.”
But three years later things soured and left Mr Storey wanting out of the business that he had established.
He doesn’t wish to go into detail about the split, which was less than amicable and led to legal battles.
However, Mr Storey does say that it was the “most stressful time” of his life as he sought to take control of his own destiny.
“A big part of it was feeling like I no longer had the kind of direction in my life that I wanted because I had a business partner, who was consuming 50 per cent of my business,” he said.
Mr Storey added: “I remember going away on holiday and coming back and thinking I don’t want to go back to work. I don’t want to be there.
“Having worked so hard to get clients on board and build the business, for me to then feel like I didn’t want to go to work was horrendous.
“I can imagine how I might have felt like that had I been in a dead-end job for ten years but when it was my business it was horrible.”
Eventually, he got his way in 2019 and set about focusing on his strengths – website maintenance and security.
Glow was launched at the height of the first lockdown in 2020 but surprisingly for Mr Storey the business got off to a flying start.
Not only had his clients come across to the new business but the lockdown, which saw millions of business owners and decision makers confined to their homes, played into the Leeds-based firm’s hands.
Mr Storey is mindful about coming across as jubilant at a time when many others have not had the best of times but he admits that the lockdown “helped us get in touch with people that we wanted to get in touch with because all of a sudden they were all at home”.
He added: “One of our target audiences is marketing agencies. If you’re a marketing agency, you can open a reseller account with Glow whereby you sell our app to your clients.
“It’s a big route to market for us. Of course, normally getting all the marketing agency owners and decision makers is difficult because they are in the office, they’re super busy, there’s loads going on.
“But now all of a sudden with the pandemic they were all at home. We were able to onboard quite a lot of marketing agencies far quicker than I thought we were going to be able to.”
The importance of maintaining websites and making sure they are secure has also grown in these Covid-19 months.
The rapid rise of Glow, which employs three full-time staff supplemented by an “army of outsourced professionals”, has seen it gain recognition on the awards circuit as well.
While it’s still early days, Mr Storey ultimately hopes to sell the business on to a big tech firm.
“I have got a personal timescale,” he said. “I’m 34-years-old and I want to have sold Glow by the time I get to 40. The plan is to turn it into a multi-million pound turnover business.
“I guess the ultimate aim for me is to get it into a position where if I do sell it, it’s valuable enough that it pays me enough to not have to worry about money again for the rest of my life.”
After experiencing dark times in his previous business, Mr Storey is glowing with enthusiasm about his current venture.
It has given him what he felt he had lost previously. The opportunity to shape a business in his vision.
You could say that it has given him his glow back.
Job title: Founder of web maintenance agency, Glow
Date of birth: 16.09.1986
Education: Degree level
First job: Paperboy
Favourite holiday destination: California
Favourite film: Interstellar
Favourite song: Arabella, Arctic Monkeys
Last book read: Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Car driven: Don’t need a car at the moment
Most proud of: My brothers
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