Alan Fraser Fair.



What is your business called?

Contact (officially, Contact Online Ltd).

Where is it based?

Glasgow City Centre.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We offer a range of digital marketing services, from customer-focused websites all the way to marketing them through multiple digital channels like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Pay Per Click etc. We are also problem-solvers.

To whom does it sell?

A wide range of businesses from one-man bands to long-established corporates. Most of our work comes by way of referrals, word of mouth: if you can excite a customer, they tend to tell their business contacts about the quality of the work you have done. Usually they are businesses which are doing quite well despite their website not really performing and which want to take the next step in growth online.

What is its turnover?


How many employees?

Three, however we are now looking to grow the team.

When was it formed?

I was a sole proprietor from 2004 and turned the business into a limited company in 2012.

Why did you take the plunge?

In 2003 I decided to start a business, but it was a different idea by the time the company started in 2004. At first, I wanted to operate a gaming café that had a side focus on digital art and which would have run tutorials on using digital techniques like photo or video editing, gaming tournaments.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was an IT manager in a paper and polythene business. For me, the plunge really happened when a high school friend and I were in the pub talking; he asked, if I had no limitations, what would I want to do? I told him about my Digital Art Café idea and he simply responded, “why don’t you?” Those words echoed in my head and I couldn’t answer him with a reason not to, so I started on my path.

That idea has evolved over the years and is still something I want to do. I don’t want to say precisely what it has evolved into but the digital art/gaming and café are still core components of the idea. I was a little too ambitious back then for my skills, resources and technology available, but with the way things are going, I’ll be doing something about it in the next two to three years or sooner.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I managed to get a grant of £1,000 from Business Gateway and was then awarded a £4,000 loan from PSYBT.

What was your biggest break?

I had a chance meeting with an elderly man at a bus stop on the southside of Glasgow; the buses were late as usual, and the rain was pouring down, so we got talking. Doesn’t every conversation in Scotland start with the weather? I didn’t get his name, but he gave me some of the best advice I had ever received.

I was working from home, so the business address was a flat number, specifically Flat 1-1; he told me to refer to it as unit 1-1. That advice alone landed me a job with BP worth £6,000 which was more than an entire year’s earnings before that. That one contract led to another £40,000 of work from BP, Accenture and Wolseley PLC, which allowed me to finally pay a wage and take on staff to grow the company.

What was your worst moment?

Having confidence in your ability to make, and stick with, the right business decision is vital. I learned this hard but necessary lesson not long after starting-up. I had a signed contract but didn’t have the confidence to stand my ground when a customer failed to pay me for the work I had done. By not enforcing the contract terms I ended-up out of pocket. This experience weighed heavily on me and I determined then that I would never again let this happen. And to date it never has.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Building a business is all about doing the best work you’re capable of and hoping satisfied customers will tell others about your contribution. It’s the best feeling there is. The web is changing at an unprecedented pace and we move with it.

What are your ambitions for the business?

I want to double our numbers and grow turnover by around three times over the next 18 months. We have some great ideas on some SAAS (Software as a Service) applications that could help get us there; we just need the resources and time to build them.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

The Scottish government is helping by making digital development loans available to Scottish business. These are interest-free, and repayment can be spread over five years.

However more could be done to support smaller businesses especially round hiring new staff and helping firms understand their responsibilities.

There are some good schemes out there, but they need to be marketed better.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Things are easier with a team of people; even if it takes time to build, the right team makes it worth it. In the early days I struggled in areas in which I had no experience, so it took longer and often went wrong. By hiring good people, I have been able focus more on my strengths.

How do you relax?

This is something I’ve been bad at and need to work on, mainly because what I do, I enjoy, so it doesn’t really feel like work. When I take time out I like to be with friends and family, catching up on life, occasionally going to badminton or the cinema. I need to find a hobby that’s not sitting at a computer.