In some ways it feels like only yesterday that we threw open the doors to Digital 51, and started on our journey to offer partnership driven talent solutions to organisations looking to grow across Product, Creative, and Technology.

We have achieved so much in the past year, we have smashed our targets, and we have established ourselves as a genuine recruitment partner with a purpose, vision, and something different to say.

It’s funny though, it’s the things we have not done, or I think we could have done better which play on my mind as I look back over the past 12 months. Do you do that? Why do we do that?! There were 5 things I wanted to achieve in the first year, we have achieved 4 things from that list whilst also achieving a whole host of things I did not even plan for. However, it’s the one thing we have not achieved that I focus on. I must get better with that. Yes, it’s good to aim for perfection, and yes it’s good to have high standards, but the reality is we have achieved so much more than I could have ever hoped for.

‘It’s the proudest thing I have done in my working career, bringing this team together.’

This is what I said 12 months ago on the day we launched Digital 51. A lot has happened since that day, however I still stand by what I said. When I reflect on the past 12 months, the highs, the lows, the challenges, the wins, the opportunities, it all comes back to the team. That makes me proud. The team and what they have done is our biggest success; whether it be Adrienne building a market leading Product community which drives our business, Craig’s versatility and constant positivity, or Lauren’s unwavering support at all times. They are the real success story of Digital 51.

So, what have I learned in the past year? What have I realised during what has been one of the most exciting, but challenging years of my professional career?

  1. This is SO much harder than I thought it would be.

I won’t lie this really caught me off guard. I feel so naive to say this, but I had run two recruitment businesses previously, surely ‘running Digital 51’ would be the easy part of the last 12 months? WRONG! Honestly, being a Managing Director is a walk in the park compared to running your own business. We are a boutique business, 5 people right now, that means I am all things to everyone. I also don’t have a job description, I am not good enough at setting my own goal, and this means I spend lots of time wondering if I am succeeding or not. There is always something to do, always something that can be worked on, always something which we can do better, always something for me to do.

  1. I did not plan enough before we opened.

I thought we had a really strong plan when we opened the business. I knew what services we wanted to offer, who we wanted to offer it to, and how we wanted to deliver it. However, in reality I did not plan enough for what we should do when we started to achieve the goals we had set. This was a mistake, led to confusion for me and the team, and made us reactive to things as they happened. Planning, process, and more planning really is important.

  1. Our identity is so important.

Digital 51 just works as a brand, as a business, and as an offering. That is one of the biggest successes we’ve experienced during the last 12 months. At times it really does not feel like running or working within a start-up, it feels like Digital 51 is an established business. The colours, the name, the values, they are all so important to the identity of the business. This I have realised is really important to me, it provides me with a sense of purpose, a purpose to do the best for the brand.

  1. I need to enjoy the journey more.

I just do not give myself time to sit back, even if just for a minute to enjoy what we have achieved. Looking ahead and having big ambitions is good, but that for me comes at the cost of the here and now. I really would like to change that.

  1. Recruitment has changed A LOT

On the day Digital 51 opened I went back to the job of Recruitment Consultant, a job I last did in 2008. I have continued to work in recruitment since 2008, so was aware that the world ‘on desk’ as we call it had changed, but boy has it changed! The role itself is not what it used to be. The job of recruiter is more akin to marketing in the modern world I believe. Throw into the mix a global health pandemic, automation, a suppressed hiring market over 2020, followed by the strongest demand for talent I have ever seen, and the role of recruiter is sits right at the heart of all of it. Marketeer or magician is how I would summarise it most days!

The last 12 months have been a hell of a ride. Have I enjoyed it? Yes, but being honest, not as much as I thought I would. I put too much pressure on myself and that stops me enjoying it. Am I still excited by the challenge everyday? Hell yes! We have secured our second office, we now have the London space I have craved for so long. Building the team there is the hardest challenge I have faced since opening the business, but I can see how it will change us, and that excites me.

Now I best get back to the day job, magic tricks don’t work without a magician you see.

This article was written by Simon Brown, Founder of Digital 51. To speak with Simon about Digital 51, our growth, the plans we have for London, or how we can support you please e-mail