PJ Appleton

Co-Founder of Bloxspring

PJ is the Co-Founder of Bloxspring a B2B communications agency for visionary brands radically changing the future of our buildings, cities and world – working across Europe and North America with firms including Measurabl, HqO, and Coyote.

PJ has been in the communications industry for 12 years, working across the property, technology, energy and retail industries.

He is also a mental health awareness advocate and has led numerous training sessions on the subject for large organisations across the UK.

Where did the idea for Bloxspring come from?

My Co-Founder and I used to work for a real estate technology company as Head of European Sales and Head of Comms respectively. It was a time of enormous growth for technology in the property industry, but we began to notice a common problem: a disconnect between the tech providers and those they were trying to sell to. For us, it all came down to a fundamental communication problem. Tech providers struggled to articulate their offer in a way that their buyers could understand. That’s where the idea for Bloxspring came from: to help technology firms position themselves as problem solvers, and then to get that message out to the right circles week in, week out.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

At the moment, a typical day involves being woken up by my toddler at 5am. Once I’ve recovered from that and we’ve got her sorted, I find a morning run is an amazing way to get energised and ready for the day ahead. It’s then straight into the working day and juggling a variety of client meetings, internal meetings, new business pitches, and strategy calls with my Co-Founder. I always try to finish up with a short walk just to clear my head, draw a line under the working day and get my head back into family life.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Clear next steps. I love a brainstorm as much as the next person, but – boring as it sounds – you have to have someone in the room who says ‘right, what steps are we going to employ to actually take this forward?’ Otherwise ideas remain ideas.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I don’t know if I would call it a trend anymore, but data within marketing is on an exciting growth trajectory. As long as marketing and PR have been around, people have always struggled to work out how you prove success. Success used to be judged on a general ‘feel’ that things had gone well, anecdotal evidence, or vanity metrics. These days, the wealth of data points available, means you can see how a campaign has performed down to a really granular level. You can gauge impact much more accurately. The exciting thing is that we’re still only really scratching the surface when it comes to marketing analytics.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I mentioned it earlier, but don’t start the day reading emails and getting straight into it. If you’re an athlete you don’t just turn up and play a match without warming up. With that in mind, I make sure to go for a run or walk and get some headspace before getting into the thick of it. It’s amazing how much more productive I am, once I’m mentally in the right frame of mind.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Not to take myself too seriously. In my 20s I felt like I had to prove myself to others, and to a certain extent myself. The problem is that can make you overly sensitive to constructive criticism or things not going well. Working on laughing at myself, listening to others, and accepting that I don’t know everything, has helped me to be calmer, and (I like to think) a nice boss and colleague to be around.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Star Wars is the most overrated movie franchise ever.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I follow Jesus and so I start my day praying to him and reading my bible. Clearly, that’s not going to be the case for everyone, but even just getting that quiet, reflective time where you can think about things that are higher and loftier than yourself and your day, is a great approach to start the day with.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Being really disciplined on staying within our lanes. We once got offered a mouth-watering sum to do a load of marketing stuff that we don’t do. It was hard to turn it down and not just muddle along, but we want to deliver high quality work and that means doing what we do well. That focus has enabled us to be clear with new biz prospect, clear with our clients and clear with managing expectations, all of which has helped us grow.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In the early days of Bloxspring, my Co-Founder and I were trying to build another business. It flopped. It was a good idea, but trying to do two things really well was virtually impossible and we could never dedicate enough time to it. In the end, we looked at what had more legs (Bloxspring) and made the decision to focus exclusively on that. I don’t regret it one bit!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

We want to create a service where we monitor clients’ prospects against news articles they’ve appeared in, or events they’ve appeared at. Whenever that happens our client sales teams would receive an automated alert so they can follow up and say ‘hey we loved your article in X, or loved your speech at Y.’ Ego massage goes a long way when prospecting, and is a great tactic for sales teams.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a new golf club. It means I now have to use it and have to get out of the office/house, which really helps me clear my head.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Hardly ground-breaking, but we can’t live without Slack. As a remote-first business, it replaces that in-person back and forth you’d get in an office setting. BUT we’re using Slack’s analytics service to monitor how many messages we send across our business week-to-week. Slack can be a great servant, but a terrible master, so trying to use it to be efficient rather than stressing people out is an ongoing battle. The huddle feature helps a lot!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Obviously Awesome: How to nail product positioning so customers get it, buy it, love it’, by April Dunford. It’s completely changed the way we think about messaging for our clients.

What is your favorite quote?

‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.’ C.S. Lewis

Key Learnings:

  • In business, be really disciplined on staying in your lanes and doing what you do really well.
  • Athletes don’t play a match without warming up. Make sure to warm up into the working day by getting some headspace before you get into the thick of it.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Listening to others and laughing at yourself helps keep you calmer and makes you a nicer colleague to be around.