Samuel Hurley found success as a co-founder of NOVOS, a company that specializes in SEO support and strategy for e-commerce brands. They take care of SEO from a “strategic & operational perspective across technical, content and digital PR.” NOVOS also operates across continents, from the United States to Europe, including the United Kingdom market.
At NOVOS, Samuel Hurley applied the experience gained at Made.com and Gentleman’s journal to create “processes and frameworks” that have been proven to scale any e-commerce brand. The company focuses solely on “non-brand growth,” as well.
Samuel Hurley works along the ideal of working with a brand that has yet to introduce SEO inhouse, but wants to “grow and scale inline with other channels;” or a brand that’s begun stagnating or declining, and wants to reverse the situation and become competitive again, in hopes of going back to the top.
At the company, Samuel Hurley also leads an experienced team that has substantial working history with Shopify, Magento, Big Commerce, Woocommerce, and other “headless CMS.”
Prior to NOVOS, Samuel Hurley has already shown a knack for business and SEO management. He has founded two enterprises, Statement Group Ltd., and Statement Accessories. For SEO, he has worked as the SEO manager of Made.com, which is based in London. He also served as the Head of SEO at BlueGlass.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Samuel Hurley: My entrepreneurial journey has followed an unexpected path. I started my career working as a strategist at digital agencies in London and soon moved to working in-house at brands. I launched a small eCommerce business as a side hustle which eventually led me to co-found my current eCommerce startup that now employs a team of 15 and is generating over a £1 million in annual revenue.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Samuel Hurley: I was fed up with my job at a previous agency mainly due to poor company culture — it was having a horrific impact on my mental health and well being. I was interviewing aggressively with an element of desperation, applying to anything relevant and would have taken anything offered too. I remember having an interview and thinking I smashed it out of the park and would be offered the role so that I’d finally be able to leave the agency. The company rejected me because I was ‘too experienced’ and I wouldn’t be challenged in the role. I was so shocked that I even offered to take a large pay cut to join, but they were very strong on their company culture and would only hire for the right reasons. I felt deflated after this, condemned to seeing out the year in my current role. I went to Vegas for an event to forget about it and get mentally ready for the rest of the year. When I came back, I got an interview at Made.com, a popular eCom company, to lead their SEO (my dream job at the time). I passed the interview and worked at Made for two years, made them close to £20m via SEO and left to set up my startup. If it weren’t for that rejection, my career would have taken a very different turn, and I doubt I’d have my own company without my eCommerce experience at made.com.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Samuel Hurley: Here’s a funny story, which seemed painful at the time, from my first job. I was a newly hired, fresh graduate working for a digital agency.
For one of the projects, I sourced a freelance journalist through a platform like Fiver. The brief was simple — the client had around 10 pages of content with various quotes and collections of important product information. My agency needed to take this content and build it out with a flow into a mixture of landing page and blog content for the client’s website. The client was a pushy one and wanted the content asap, and I was acting as a middleman between the client and the freelancer. The client would be chasing on skype to get it before the close of business, so I was pushing the freelancer. The freelancer didn’t get the content in time for close of business but did deliver in the evening, which I passed on straight to the client to hit the ‘deadline’ still.
I came in in the morning to a huge skype thread from the client who had been copying and pasting text from the content we delivered, highlighting aggressively how the content had literally been Google translated. The angry client wrote, “would you put this on your agency website?”. I went back to the freelancer and found out that he was a journalist but in Russia and could barely speak English! He had taken the initial quotes provided, Google translated it to Russian so that he could understand what needed to be done. He basically wrote the content in Russian and translated it to English before sending it to me. It was a very painfully embarrassing situation for me and made me realise that I wasn’t in university any more!
It also taught me the importance of fact-checking, asking for references, and interviewing any freelancers I used in the future. I also started to build up a bank of freelancers I could rely on or came recommended by my network moving forward so I wouldn’t need to rely on the platforms.
More importantly, I learned how to set deadlines with freelancers and my team members. Now, whenever I delegate work, I always give the person a deadline which is at least 2–3 days ahead of the actual deadline. This way, there is a buffer of 2–3 days for feedback.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.
- Recruitment: The most important step in delegating is the recruiting process. So you need to know if this candidate can understand the work that you have delegated. How do you do this? Set them a task and have them present the completed task back to you. This way, you see how they interpret it and what they produce. When we are recruiting someone, as a part of the interview process, we ask them to audit a specific website focusing on certain aspects and outcomes.
- Turn your department into a mini-business: Treat yourself and your team as a business. Create your own standardised documents and processes and take them with you to each role.
- Deadlines: Set clear deadlines both for yourself and your team.
- Video: If the process is step-by-step, try making a video of you doing the task first as opposed to written text. It’s much more effective to follow.
- Communication: Be specific — “this is what I expect as an outcome and I need it by X”. Also, write this out in text after the briefing meeting and send in email/slack so that there can be no excuses for ‘miscommunication’. In the briefs, we often specify what the task is, why it’s important and how we expect them to undertake it.
- Feedback: Give honest feedback so that they can improve or replicate the next task that they are delegated.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?
Sam Hurley: It is true but you need to define what ‘right’ is and communicate this to the person you are delegating. If this isn’t done, then the outcome of the task will always be skewed from your perspective, and they will put their spin on the task.
You need to decide if the outcome is actually ‘wrong’ or if it’s just ‘different’ — there is a big difference between these two.
It would be best if you also decided how important is the task vs other tasks you need to do. E.g. if you have 2 hours to work, is it worth you spending an hour on task A and an hour on task B or is task B so important that you should spend that extra 1 hour on it and delegate task A.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Samuel Hurley: I usually post actively on my Linkedin and available for a chat there.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!