James Hall is the Creative Director of HeX Productions and has over 15 years experience working in the web industry and the public sector. As a self-confessed geek, he is passionate about all things web from working on small independent projects to large local government sites. Developing mobile and social strategies to enable easy access to information on the move. James is a footy fan and plays 5-aside in between fits of laughter. A smiley guy with bags of knowledge.
Tell us about yourself and how you got to where you are now:
“I’m the Creative Director for HeX Productions, I’ve been in web for what feels like since day dot. At school I started using Microsoft Front Page, which is now regarded as one of the worst programs in the world, it’s still around now, but if you mentioned you made websites with Front Page you’d get thrown out! I built my first website at 13 or 14, which is when horlix.com was born.
My passion for web followed into college where I was a Student Web Developer and looked after the student zone and built that up. At university I studied E-commerce technology and my dissertation involved turning an offline business into an online one, in which I built an online coffee bean ordering system for a local coffee shop where I was a part-time barista. When I left university, it was incredibly difficult to get into web, so I worked for the Tech Guys (now known as Know How) for a year to get experience.
I finally got the opportunity at Broxtowe Borough Council to be their Assistant Webmaster where I built and implemented a new Content Management System (CMS). Gedling Borough Council then saw the need for a web team and hired me to start there, we got a designer and an apprentice and started designing and developing sites for Gedling Borough Council, then Rushcliffe Borough Council and Newark and Sherwood Borough Council. All the while, I was freelancing, and Gedling allowed me to reduce my hours and work on HeX, I finally took the plunge and started up HeX Productions.
Knowing I needed to progress out of my home office, I got an office in Ilkeston and was able to hire my first two members of staff. At this point we were getting amazing clients such as Longwood University in West Virginia, USA and needed to step-up. This brings us to where we are today – an office in Nottingham City Centre and a team of nine.
I feel like I’ve achieved my main goal of running my own business, we’re able to put roofs over people’s head and hopefully they’re doing jobs that they love. I love the tight-knit team and wouldn’t like to see it get any bigger for now, we see the big agencies and they are not as tight-knit. Nine or ten is a happy number and that’s the number I want to stay at.
What does your average day consist of?
“The beauty of it is, I don’t have an average day at all. There are key things we always must do like making sure the team is happy and making sure they’ve got everything they need.
As I’ve always been the face of HeX, people are often coming to myself directly to solve issues, which I will happily do. We also work closely with Queen Mary University London, so there are normally five or so emails from them…and that’s before the day has even started!
From that it’s making sure you’re always available for people, I step away from code when I can to concentrate on the business, we have some great developers on the team, and I’m always there for support. Recently, we went through change in processes, so I spent a lot of time listening to the team and finding solutions to the problems.
What’s the favourite part of your job?
My favourite aspect of the job is knowing that people trust you and trust you to deliver results. For me, that’s incredible and I hope I’m sharing that with the team. It’s great to see the results of the team, because I’m not the one who created that logo or developed that website, they’re the ones making this huge effort.
People like Matter came to us with a blank canvas. We had to get their ethos out of them, they understood what they wanted, but we had to do everything for them. Seeing a project like that come to fruition is really rewarding.
Who do you admire?
I take inspiration from everyone in the team. Everyone here offers individual inspiration for me; there’s people in here who will have an idea and the team will burst into a self-combusting plethora of ideas which is amazing and seeing that passion is incredible. It’s also about being able to share bad and good times with friends in the office, I couldn’t ask any more…everyone here is able to offer that.
I also admire Richard Branson’s view that the team should come before the client, a view I would recommend. There are people like Paul Boag too who have constant knowledge and are constantly sharing it in order to improve other people’s processes and website designs, that’s very inspiring.
What is something few people know about you?
Not a lot! I used to play guitar in a band and I absolutely love snowboarding! I play football a lot too – nothing overly exciting, we just go on Sunday and play five a side. I think we do more laughing than playing football.
I guess it has been said a lot but a lot of people don’t know how much of an advocate I am of apprenticeships. It’s really difficult to get into something with little or no knowledge and the apprenticeship scheme helps people do that. I would really recommend anyone doing it and any business doing it.
What toppings would you choose on a pizza?
I’m not a fan of a Margarita, Zara has always said that Italian food is easy and Margarita is laughable. I love spicy food and food combinations and love to cook, so if you can find me something completely different to have on a pizza then I would try it. But it’s got to have a bit of meat on it.
What are your top three pet peeves?
Pet peeves are anyone not paying invoices! Large businesses not paying infuriates me, when they have the cash available but don’t pay! There are also times when we’re being bullied. Another peeve is lack of collaboration. Nottingham has an amazing creative industry and we will be recommended by competitors if they can’t carry out a project. However, we have been to networking events, specifically one a few towns away with another digital agency there where they didn’t want to talk to us and share knowledge. That’s really sad.
On a personal level, it’s myself being really messy! Or lateness, I don’t mind it because thing happen that are beyond people’s control, but it’s when they don’t apologise. We’ve had people turn up hours late and not apologise.
If you could be anywhere, where would you be?
I love Thailand, I would go back in a heartbeat, the food is amazing the culture is amazing and the people are great. I’d also go to Barcelona it’s got sun, sea and city…it’s also home of Estrella Damm.
I don’t have one. Having a personal motto means your only focusing on one thing. You need multiple ones for different things. If I was made to have one, I would say: Stay positive, everything will work out or don’t bury your head in the sand.