After more than a decade in marketing, Simon Dell has picked up a trick or two, and he’s sharing that knowledge in his new role as a mentor with the Brisbane Business Hub.
Simon is the co-founder and CEO of Cemoh (pronounced ‘See-moh’, derived from the ‘CMO’ acronym for ‘Chief Marketing Officer’), a hybrid marketing agency and recruitment company. The innovative Brisbane-based business recruits, trains and monitors marketing strategists, consultations and implementation experts, and supplies them to businesses who need marketing staff – either to support existing teams, or to drive implementation on their own.
“I never thought I’d be running a labour hire agency,” Simon laughs. “It’s not something that was at the top of my list. I planned to be an air traffic controller when I was a kid. I don’t know why I planned to do that, but I did. Then I planned to be a lawyer, until I got to university and realised how hard Law actually was. Then I planned to run nightclubs, which I did, for a while. I did sales for a long time, and then I transitioned into marketing – honestly, I just sort of fell into it.
“I’ve been running marketing agencies in one form or another for about 12 years. But this business model… I arrived at it fortuitously. I was running a marketing agency, and one of our clients got in touch with us because their marketing manager had left them high and dry. They basically borrowed one of our staffers for a while. That set off a lightbulb moment as we realised this was actually something a lot of small businesses needed, and we built the model out from there.”
Simon took the long way round to his current role as the CEO of Cemoh and the host of the popular Cemoh Marketing Podcast. In his time running marketing agencies TwoCents and Paper Planes, he touched on virtually every marketing discipline while building brands, running social campaigns, directing videos and even creating a TV show.
It’s been quite the journey, and in retrospect, he regrets that there was nobody to guide him through it.
“I never really had a mentor, and I wish I did,” he says now. “I’m still looking out for a decent mentor for myself, honestly. But I think it’s an absolute must to find someone that you can talk to – someone who isn’t necessarily in your business – about how your business is performing and where you want to take it.”
In his capacity as a mentor with the Brisbane Business Hub, Simon is now filling that role for other entrepreneurs on the way up, advising them on marketing and branding. He’s drawing on what’s worked over the course of his 13-year marketing career, as well as sharing his learnings from what didn’t work.
He’s open about the fact that TwoCents – the agency he founded in 2009 and eventually sold in 2016 – had its struggles. He admits the agency employed too many people too quickly, and failing to turn a significant profit in his time there despite producing great digital and creative work for clients.
“The thing I took from that experience is that you can have all the best branding and the best people and the best website and the best business model and blah blah blah, you can have all the best things in the world, but if you haven’t got good cash flow, you haven’t got a business,” he says.
“Everything is fueled by cash. Everything needs cash. It has to be the centrepoint of your business. The one thing you should be focusing on is how much cash you have in the bank. It’s a cliché that ‘cash is king’, but it’s 110 percent correct. It’s a cliché for a reason.”
Another cliché is that teaching someone else is the best way to learn – and in his role as a mentor, Simon has learned that there’s truth to that one, too.
“Oh, absolutely,” he says. “I learn a huge amount from the people I mentor. That’s one of my main sources of learning. It’s a great educational platform for myself, and a fantastic opportunity to learn while helping other people.”
To request a free mentoring session with Simon Dell, or any of the other business experts and industry thought leaders who are available to help you build your business across every industry and sector, visit businessinbrisbane.com.au/mentoring.