In the company of...Paul Lyons, MD of Designweb in St Asaph
Written by Martin Williams, Daily Post 11th May 2011. Full Story here
AS a teenager, Paul Lyons had a creative design for life. A pupil at Blessed Edward Jones High School in Rhyl, Paul achieved record-breaking GCSE and A level results (straight As across the board) and was all set for a place on a design course at a top university.
However, an apparent administrative error meant every seat of learning he applied to rejected him.
Rather than sitting back and feeling sorry for himself, Paul changed direction and started again.
Now 34 and managing director of thriving St Asaph firm Designweb, he is making a mark on the world of internet design and technology.
As a youngster Paul dreamed of being an architect, but the dad-of-three insists he is happier than ever owning his own business.
“In truth I would have relished going to a top university, and was asked to apply for the ‘Oxbridge’ exams along with my best friend at school. I rejected the chance and decided to follow a career path in design,” said Paul.
“I believe to this day that the school did not put my UCAS form in on time, meaning someone with the highest grades the school had ever received got rejected from every university they applied to.
“I spoke with UCAS but they were not willing to divulge why I had been rejected by eight universities.”
He added: “I had wanted to work for a firm of architects throughout my teens but after changing my career during my A levels I eventually went to university to study design technology, computer-aided design and graphic design – I planned to work in the design industry.”
After graduating, Paul got a job with an internet marketing firm in North Wales as their design manager.
“I worked there for six months and got very disillusioned by the service supplied to the customer. There were a couple of clients who prompted me to set my own business up with the promise of giving me their contracts if I moved.
“This would allow me a couple of months income before I needed to look for other projects to take on board. I still have these clients today and we have been trading for 12 years.”
Paul’s day-to-day role is pretty hands-on. He is the face of the company, but considers himself very much an equal to the team’s other developers.
Employing three people on St Asaph Business Park, in a unit shared with North Wales Colocation, run by his brother John Lyons, he is now looking to develop the SEO (search engine optimisation) side of the business.
“Over the past year we have increased the SEO side of things and taken on someone with over 10 years in the SEO sector,” he said.
“We are utilising them to further our clients’ website rankings on Google, Yahoo and Bing.”
New contract wins for Designweb include the Marsh Tracks website for the Rhyl BMX and road route on Marsh Road.
“Designweb beat some top creative agencies in the region for the work,” said Paul.
“We are also currently working with one of the internet’s leading online designer glasses retailers SpecSuperstore.com, on both web development and search engine optimisation. There are some exciting projects in the pipeline.”
Paul has no immediate plans to expand, though he is looking to employ a new graphic designer in the near future.
According to the Liverpool FC fan, there was no better feeling than taking on his first member of staff. “There have been many highlights; it’s always nice to have glowing references from clients happy with the service provided, irrespective of their budgets,” said Paul.
“And it was a great day when I took on my first employee, it all felt so real. It’s a thrill that we’re getting larger all the time and moving into bigger offices every three years or so.”
He added: “We’ve had a good run and been successful and the only thing I would change is to spend more time marketing our own business to the extent we do for our clients.
“We put clients’ online marketing to the front of the queue often leaving little time for our own. It is only through better project management that we find regular blocks of time to keep our own site fresh and up to date.
“Obviously the cost, service and experience are important for clients using any company, but if the communication is poor – the others count for nothing.”
Paul and his team have over 50 years’ experience between them in the internet industry and catered for every type of business.
He still has many professional aims, and believes Designweb is on its way to becoming the region’s number one “ethical” firm supplying internet services to companies and agencies of all shapes and sizes.
A keen footballer (he won his half colours at university for the contribution he made to the first team. Being an insulin dependent diabetic, this is one of his proudest achievements to date) Paul believes they have a part to play in North Wales’ economic recovery and says he will work tirelessly to see they don’t get left behind.
“With high street trade suffering, businesses have been turning to the internet for years, but it’s more apparent now,” said Paul.
“It is a battle at times with customers not keen to pay their bills on time, but there’s nothing new there.
“If you are not in a niche industry, you need to be supplying customers with a more polished service.
“We pride ourselves on being able to offer support and guidance in all aspects of the industry from domain names, hosting, website development, e-commerce, content management to SEO.
“We only offer services that we can deliver to a professional level and not dilute the business by offering other marketing services.”