Meet the MD: Nikki Gatenby of Propellernet

PUBLISHED: 12:27 22 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:12 20 February 2013

Meet the MD: Nikki Gatenby of Propellernet

Meet the MD: Nikki Gatenby of Propellernet

Nikki Gatenby was brought up in Worthing. Now she's back in Sussex via London and Paris, and the Managing Director of search marketing agency Propellernet

I moved back to Worthing after working in London and Paris. I had a fantastic marketing lecturer who introduced me to one of his friends, a guy called John Watford. I didnt know him at the time but he ran a really successful agency called WWAV. They were based in Bayswater and then in Hammersmith. I was there for nearly eight years, then I moved to TMW in Chelsea, at the time when it was becoming more of a digital agency. I spent 10 years there and it was where I grew up, really. I went out to Paris to set up an agency there, and when I left there were 40 of us. It was an experience, I have to say I lived in Paris for just over a year, and when you dont speak French, thats a bit tough.

Propellernet is a search marketing agency, so basically we help clients to gain exposure to Google. We tell clients that although Google is a search engine, it is also a cash register. That is quite a compelling proposition for a lot of brands.

Jack Hubbard and Jim Sandford, our founders, started the company in 2003 from Jacks bedroom. We moved to our funky current offices in Brightons Castle Square in January 2010. We have 32 staff now, so from small beginnings in Jacks bedroom, weve come a long way.

As an environment this is very tech-led but search is also very creative and PR-related. If it was purely technical, I wouldnt be here! What we do has so many different facets. We need to be creative in terms of the content that drives people to the website, so its actually a really interesting mix.

In my position as MD, people fascinate me. Im really interested by different types of people, personalities and interactions. We have very distinct disciplines at the company some people are very technical while some are from a PR background and very outspoken. I find those different skill sets and personalities absolutely fascinating.

We are very privileged to work in the industry we do. It is a constant voyage of discovery. That is quite a new mindset for a lot of people. Some people still expect things to stay the same.

At Propellernet, we think the world is our oyster. Weve got a five year plan, we want to go national and take on more staff really vibrant, curious people. The whole world feels like its talking itself down, with the Greek issues and the AAA ratings being downgraded. I would like to hold the spark for a bit of optimism. There is some great stuff going on and we need to celebrate it.

Getting to know you

Facebook, Twitter or Google+?
I use Facebook but thats just for mucking about with friends really, isnt it? I think its quite dangerous for businesses to think they have a right to invade Facebook. That can make people turn off, which is the opposite of what youre trying to do from a social media perspective.

Im active on Twitter, mainly from an agency perspective. Its great, because people are following you for a reason. Its great from a marketing perspective, for us, and its kind of lowered the barriers with communication. Of all social networks, LinkedIn is the most accessible. The minute that somebody asks you for a recommendation you know theyre looking for a job and if its the sort of person you want on board you can go hell for leather to attract them.

What do you do in your spare time?
My husband and I travel a lot. We were in Egypt scuba-diving in February and we had a ski trip in March. Ive joined a gym. I hadnt been to the gym for years!

When I first started at Propellernet I joked with Jack that it was such a change from working in London and that I should get a jet ski to work. He said, come on, lets do it. So we actually did it one day, we went down to Shoreham and got a couple of jetskis. It made me think this is really where I want to be. Im an outdoor freak!

Whats the best advice youve ever been given?
Listen. You hear a lot more if youre not talking. Some people, normally the most profound, dont say much unless they are invited. They really wont fight to be heard. I want to make sure that everybody at the company has a voice.

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