Behind The Business: The Go To Agency

Behind The Business:  The Go To Agency

My name is Gillian Dick and I run The Go To Agency. We are a boutique agency, specialising in digital marketing and social media, but due to the nature of our highly personalised service for clients, our services extend to include traditional marketing, OOH (out of home) advertising and even PR!

The business is based in Glasgow, (I live in Bearsden) and I work closely with a team of local freelance specialists in order to meet the needs of our clients.

 What made you decide to start your own business?

Having worked in advertising for more than a decade, I absolutely loved what I did and I was good at it, but the day came when I had one too many rubbish bosses. I was working at Yellow Pages and my current boss was running late to accompany me into a customer appointment. The training and nature of my job, had provided me with an excellent understanding of various industries and made me very disciplined. I had often thought about running my own business and whilst sitting in my car waiting for my boss that day an advert for Business Gateway came on the radio – I bit the bullet and made an appointment to speak to a business adviser.  The rest as they say is history.

In 2009 I left a well paid job to set up my first business – ‘Find Me Glasgow’.  With my own money/available credit and resources I channelled everything into my online directory.  The business model was fundamentally selling advertising, but I needed to ensure that I had the volume of web traffic and engagement to convince businesses to advertise and this is where ‘social media’ came in.

Fast forward to the following year and my business had earned two awards, including the Glasgow Business Award for Best Use of Social Media.

This was a pivotal moment for me as I was beginning to gain traction, but my current business model required serious money and resource to scale and at that point people started to come to me asking if I would provide social media training and consultancy for their business. In the early days of starting my business I attended a lot of networking opportunities, because not only was it important to tell my business story but also to surround myself with like-minded people. This investment of time began to pay off and whilst I continued to run my website, I began to pick up a number of digital marketing clients, including the opportunity to create and deliver specialist workshops for 5 local Business Gateway authorities.

I became the ‘go-to’ person in those early days and thus The Go To Agency was born!

Starting and running my own businesses is by far the most character-building thing I have ever done - I wouldn’t change it but I could write a book about it!

If anyone reading this is thinking about becoming their own boss, this is my advice for the early days:

Engage with Business Gateway – free and impartial/potential access to funding.
Network – in person or online. People ‘buy people’ before they buy anything else. Be known and trusted – reputation is everything!
Learn – register for a relevant weekly webinar or read – every day is a school day and you will need to know everything from making tax digital, to GDPR, marketing and more.
Isolation – be prepared to be lonely at times on your business journey, this is why a trusted business network is essential, as with the best will in the world sometimes friends and family just don’t get it.
Manage your time – between working ‘on the business’ and ‘in the business’ – have a dream but chances are you will need to sell something, don’t hide behind tasks or sit on LinkedIn, a business needs to be viable or it’s simply a hobby.
Accountability – set weekly goals and measure your progress, consider partnering up with another business owner to help each other.
Promotion – people don’t necessarily want to be ‘sold to’ but seize genuine opportunities to share your business story/journey as word travels. I remember giving a talk at a local Rotary Club (don’t even ask) and my second year English teacher was in the audience, even in my 30s her feedback mattered and experiences like this help you perfect your ‘pitch’.
Business Awards – put your business forward for any which you believe you have a strong chance of winning/becoming a finalists. The benefits of business awards to huge – from raising awareness, free PR, positive sentiment, a morale boost to credibility, the time you invest in an application/interview process can really pay off.  I/we earned 6 business awards in the early days and they just made people’s doors open that bit easier – companies that I had been keen to speak with were more than happy to sit down with me.
Get a Mentor – there are free schemes available, I initially went down this route and eventually decided to reach out to someone in the business community who I respected and asked if they would consider being my mentor. The ability to have a regular meeting and a wise ear is invaluable and really focusses your mindset.
Enjoy the journey - there will be highs and lows but it’s all learning!


How was life in lockdown for you and how did you adapt during this time?

Back in 2012 I had trialled webinar delivery for Business Gateway and in anticipation of the first lockdown we had already been working on switching all training to online, via Zoom and Teams. The transition wasn’t an issue for us but we were very busy helping clients adapt quickly to the changes, and for those whose social media accounts we manage, the appetite for updates and fresh content was at an all time high!

Despite having to work from home, juggle home-schooling and meeting the needs of my then 4 and 6 year old, the business grew and a number of new clients reached out to me via LinkedIn and client recommendations.  The days were long and bitty, and achieving any sort of stride when it came to work was practically impossible, but we settled into a routine and it was fine.  I was a little envious of those people who found themselves with lots of time on their hands due to lockdown, as it was the exact opposite for me, however since we have returned to the new norm, my business has continued to grow, which I know is a great position to be in.

There have been a number of positives from lockdown which I have tried to keep in place, from minimising travel to meetings to doing more online, it has definitely helped with the ‘working smarter’ ethos.


What trends are you most excited about in your industry at the moment?

When I first started consulting, I remember speaking to an accountant at a networking event.  Having introduced my business and talking about how we helped businesses with their social media management, his opening line was… “well I have a serious business”. Attitudes towards digital and social media have changed and even those people who thought it was all “fluff” are now appreciating the importance of an online presence and strategy. Covid accelerated digital adopters and thankfully I don’t see businesses reverting back to completely pre-covid ways of working.  

The digital landscape is ever evolving and demand for our experience is at an all-time high. I love the variety of sectors I am now working with and every day provides fresh challenges and opportunities.


What does a typical working day look like for you?

I don’t really have a ‘typical day’ but my working week is quite structured in terms of where I spend my time.  Mondays are generally spent at our clinical research client’s offices, where I manage all of the group marketing activities. Today for this particular client I was overseeing a press release and co-ordinating their social platforms to maximise all coverage.  They are also in the process of getting a new website and I was involved in meetings with the developers.  I then had a management meeting to review their Facebook Ads performance and other business KPIs. This client used to work with lots of individual suppliers but recognised the need to consolidate and bring things in-house for a better return.  I have a number of clients who do not require a full-time member of staff and they contract me/us to provide a set number of hours each month dedicated to ‘marketing activities/what needs done’ -  effectively plugging-in as part of their team.

Tuesday – Thursday are typically a combination of meeting with other clients, catching up with the rest of the team and actually getting down to some work.

Another arm of the business we offer is taxi advertising in Glasgow and Edinburgh. In addition to the taxi artwork/wrap installation, we create bespoke campaigns for clients based on their specific needs. At the moment we are finalising the next campaign for St James’ Quarter in Edinburgh – there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to put these things together. We have also recently been approached to work with a women’s football club managing their sponsorship, which is something I am really passionate about.

On a Friday I will often deliver a Business Gateway webinar or a workshop for the City of Glasgow College.

Often I get to a Friday and think, what an amazing week! I get to work with lots of different businesses and no two weeks are ever exactly the same – it’s just trying to fit it all in and make sure you always deliver!

I try and keep Friday afternoons for working on other business interests or just getting a couple of hours to myself before picking up the kids.


How do you structure work / life / play? Do you find it easy to switch off and if so how?

During the week is full-on, between the kids itineraries and my work schedule.  I don’t really watch TV anymore (unless it’s relevant for work) and try not to spend too much time personally on social media but I do end up staying up far too late -just to have some quiet time!

Weekends are all about the kids – taking them to parties and football games.

I’m not very good at switching off but I don’t think you ever fully do when you ‘work for yourself’.  I wouldn’t change it though, I love what I do!  We can go on holiday anytime we want and in theory I can work from anywhere. Toronto is my ‘happy place’, they are 5 hours behind us and over the summer when we were there I was able to get up early and do some work before everyone else woke up. Holidays are important and the ability to make memories and have experiences is what I value the most. If the kids need me I can be there and I am thankful that I made the transition to running my own business before having a family.


Please share some of your favourite books, blogs, Instagram accounts.

I love the 4-hour work week by Tim Ferriss and I generally love any kind of ‘productivity’ type book. I listen to a lot of business podcasts and audio books in the car as this is the easiest way for me to consume content, but a perfect afternoon would be in a bookshop with a good coffee – you’ll find me in the ‘self-help’ section!

When it comes to Instagram I generally use it to source places to go/things to do when I am planning a trip – hashtags are a great way for making great discoveries.  I spend enough time on the platform for work but never post as myself, as it’s not best use of my time.


What is your favourite cake and why?

You can’t beat a Victoria sponge – it’s a classic and fit for a Queen!


New website is coming soon, but you can connect with me on the following:

Twitter: @gilliandick