How Aira started
Officially, the conversation where Aira started was in the summer of 2014, but the story goes back a couple of years before that.
In 2012, Matt was Director of a digital agency in London and hired a social media manager on six-month work experience. That hire was Ellie (Paddy’s girlfriend, now wife). Matt and Paddy had known of each other before this point, going to the same conferences and bumping into each other in the SEO Twitter world. They got to know each other a little better as Ellie worked for Matt, while Paddy was working for an agency in London called Distilled.
Fast forward to the summer of 2014, Matt and Paddy were at MozCon in Seattle, with Paddy speaking (he was running the London office of Distilled at the time) and Matt attending (he was now running his own agency called Hidden Pixel). An off the cuff comment from Paddy at one of the networking events started the conversation:
“We should do something together at some point”
A few days later, Matt, his wife Nicola, Paddy and Ellie were all in San Francisco, with Matt and Nicola due to fly home the following day. Paddy and Ellie convinced them to change their plans and head to Vegas with them instead - so they did...
It was in Vegas when Matt and Paddy talked properly about the idea of starting a company together and, within an hour, they’d agreed on everything and started to make plans to make it happen. Aira officially opened for business in January 2015.
That conversation happened in a bar at the Aria Casino. Which is where the name Aira comes from. Aira = Aria backwards, get it?!
Fast forward to today, Aira has grown to over 50 people and is not only only delivering amazing work for clients, but doing a successful job of building an awesome place to work.
And we’re far from done yet…
What we do
Aira grows your businesses with multi-channel digital marketing that's measured in traffic, sales and revenue.
That might not sound complicated, but executing on it is another matter. However, over the years, we’ve grown our own company alongside our clients by doing just that - doing what we said we would.
But it goes beyond this. Over the years, we’ve discovered where we do our best work and, whilst we’ll work with most clients across many different industries, we’d have to hold our hands up and say that we do our best work across:
- Professional services
We’ve also found that we work well with businesses who have an established in-house marketing team, usually turning over £1m+ in revenue and able to invest more than £5k per month on their agency fees.
That doesn’t mean we say no to everyone else, but it does mean that we know where our strengths lie and aren’t afraid to double down on them.
We do say no to more projects and RFPs than your average agency though (we know, our team tells us this a lot!) because if we don’t feel that we can do our best work for them, we won’t pitch for the work.
More importantly, we try not to take on too much work at once. Quite often, we have a lead time for onboarding new clients which means that we lose out on opportunities to work with cool companies. As frustrating as this can feel, it’s the right thing to do because the last thing we want is to sell more work than our team can deliver. No one wins if this happens.
What we want to be
Our goal is to develop the happiest, highest performing, most effective digital marketing agency in the UK.
We will do this by building an amazing place to work and giving meaningful, fulfilling jobs to great people.
We believe that a happy, engaged team are more likely to deliver great work and results for businesses. Therefore, we over invest into the development and progression of our team in order to deliver great results.What’s the big vision and mission?
Let’s be honest, we’re a digital marketing agency. We’re not changing the world by curing disease or going to Mars. So we don’t have grand plans to change the world with bold vision and mission statements. We actually find many of them a bit cringey.
But we do want to have a positive impact and leave our small part of the world in a better place than we found it.
There are three concrete ways that we can do this:
Have a positive impact on clients' businesses by helping them grow and achieve their goals.
Have a positive impact on all of our team, helping them enjoy fulfilling careers and achieving their professional and personal goals.
Have a positive impact on the community around us by giving back and creating jobs.
The way that we do things (basically, our culture) plays a huge part in whether we achieve these or not, which is why culture is so important to us.
The Company Culture Awards
How we’ll get there
Developing the happiest, highest performing and most effective digital marketing agency in the UK isn’t easy and we’ll never be 'done'. Even if we do a good job of this (we think we’re doing quite well already) there is always more that can be done.
We are very serious about this though and are very deliberate in our approach. For many years, we didn’t have much of a strategy behind Aira, we just kind of did our best and tried not to mess it up.
Honestly, this was the title of the first strategy document that Matt and Paddy wrote in their first year of running Aira
What got us here, won’t get us there!
Moving forward, we are making decisions and growing Aira in a way that focuses on hiring and developing the best people we can find, then giving them room to grow and thrive.
This means that we’re not for everyone, but we also don’t want to use that as an excuse to never look inwards and see what we can do to be better.
We are very deliberate about the people we want to hire and what we can offer them.
& receiving feedback
These are traits and behaviors that join the dots between our culture and high, effective performance for clients. They are things that are closely linked to delivering great results, whilst helping someone improve and develop their career. This is why we value them so highly and look for them in new and existing team members. We use them to find people, nurture people and, sometimes, to let them go.
Does this sound like it could be you?
What it’s like to work at Aira
This is the real question and links directly to culture because when you boil it down, our culture is all about the way that we do things.So, the question becomes, how do we do things at Aira?
To answer this question, we asked our Team Leaders to share a few thoughts on how they run their teams and then our CEO, Paddy, summarises his take on how we do things at Aira.
We’re a high-performing team, who are always striving to help each other be the best we can be (in a good, constructive way), and rally together to get work done. Everyone has the chance to own different aspects of evolving our team and the way we do things, and there are lots of opportunities for personal and career growth and development, with plenty of laughs along the way.
Our team works to be an extension of our clients' internal teams, allowing us to establish and grow strong client relationships, understand how to add value and drive growth, and identify the channels needed to do this.
We’re a driven and ambitious team focused on producing effective results for our clients, constantly striving to get better, while also having superb work/life balance.
Where other agencies process delivery and simplify job roles making it hard to adapt to industry changes, we believe that the value of our service is in the skillset, adaptability and growth mindset of the team.
Everyday we’re striving to get better, never allowing it to be 'just the way it is'. The team debates strategy and challenges preconceptions at every opportunity. We’re open-minded and all take part in industry-leading training programmes to further improve our ability.
We also asked a few of our current team to describe what it’s like to work at Aira.
Alongside delivering brilliant results for clients, a real focus at Aira is the people - and giving them the tools and space to develop and grow whether that be speaking at conferences, taking on new responsibilities or learning specific skills.
And here is how Paddy, our CEO, describes how he’d describe working at Aira:
‘Before starting Aira, Matt and I talked about trying to build “somewhere where we’d love to work”. Many years later, we think we’ve done a good job of this so far.
As Aira has grown, it’s clearly more than just a workplace where the both of us would enjoy working, but a few things have never changed and probably never will.
These things include building somewhere that trust is the default and everyone is treated like a grown up. This leads to things such as avoiding micromanagement and giving individuals autonomy over their day-to-day work. It means setting outcomes but not dictating exactly how to get there.
We’re big fans of giving people trust and responsibility quickly - in fact, our interns are always shocked that we give them “real” work from day one!
At the same time, we’re always there to support and catch people when things inevitably go wrong.
This combination of trust and support, alongside always trying to do the right thing (even when the right thing is hard), forms the foundation of what it’s like to work here.’
It’s not just about our current team though.
I joined Aira as an intern with little to no knowledge of digital marketing. What I liked most about Aira was that I was surrounded by a team and management invested in my training and success.
It's a great place to start or grow your career because you'll receive opportunities to learn and develop faster than most agencies.
I started at Aira as a Digital PR Executive back in 2018, knowing absolutely nothing about the industry. I was welcomed into an agency that genuinely cared about me, and mentored me and I’ll always have them to thank for giving me the best possible start to my career.
While I left after three years to have new experiences, whenever anyone gets in touch to ask if they should potentially work at Aira, my answer is always 100% YES.
I had three promotions in my time at Aira, allowing me to climb the ladder with training and support which has ultimately led to the role I have today and I’m so grateful. I also made friends for life, because it’s genuinely a place that only hire the right people for their very special culture.
I joined Aira in its infancy, and despite it being early days the working environment was always supportive, flexible, and forward thinking. It was an exciting time and a great place to work. Aira listened to all creative and process driven ideas and concerns from our small team, and employees were encouraged and supported in determining and achieving their goals through training initiatives and practical application. Today Aira has grown, but I have no doubt the same cultural principles apply, creating a progressive and open environment for all employees.
Aira was the best place to start my career in digital PR because it struck the perfect balance between pushing me to my full potential, as well as knowing when to step in and offer that extra support and guidance. From creative freedom, and working on amazing brands, to speaking at conferences, they really are one of the best in the industry.
Paddy, Shannon and the wider team at Aira taught me so many invaluable and transferable skills during my time there, which is partly why I now feel so confident freelancing in the digital PR industry. Not only that, but the people that work (and have worked) in the agency are some of the nicest and most supportive colleagues I’ve ever had - some of which are now friends for life.
I would recommend Aira to anyone looking to grow their expertise and knowledge in digital marketing - it’s just a massive bonus that the team and support network are both incredible too!
Our team at a glance…
Want to be a part of photos like these?
Benefits and perks
Of course, alongside such a big focus on our culture, we offer a bunch of great perks and benefits. They don’t make our culture what they are because if we took them all away, our culture would still exist. At the same time, our perks are designed to support and fit into the culture that we’re trying to build.Here’s a summary of our perks and benefits:
We don’t make you feel guilty about taking it either. If you’re curious about how it works, we wrote about it here. Basically, we don’t want you to worry about sticking to a fixed number of holidays, so we took that worry away.
Free access to mental health coaching during working hours
Looking after our mental health is important and many of us don’t make time for it. So we partnered with Sanctus to give you that time during working hours if you’re like to speak with a mental health coach.
Start early or finish late with flexible working hours
You can start anytime you want between 8am and 10am, then finish at anytime between 4pm and 6pm. As long
as you get your hours in and get your work done, we don’t mind.
Private Medical Insurance
We will enroll you in our company-wide Private Medical Insurance, giving you health cover for a range of services and advice. Once you’ve been at Aira three years, we’ll include your family too.
You get your Birthday off,
relax and celebrate
We don’t expect you to work on your birthday, so we let you take it off and celebrate. You’ll even get a surprise from Matt and Paddy to help you celebrate and you’ll come back to an obscene number of happy birthday GIFs on Slack.
£800 annual training and technology budget
Each year, we give you £800 to spend on whatever you want in relation to training or technology that helps you do your job better. You can also use it to spruce up your home working setup too.
Unlimited budget for books
If you want a book to help you learn something related to your role, just tell us and we’ll order a copy for you. Simple. If you’d like to save a few trees and prefer a digital version, we’ll get it delivered directly to your Kindle.
Free eye care exams and glasses
if prescribed for work
You spend a lot of time each day staring at a screen. If you want to get a checkup to make sure your eyes are in good health, we’ll pay for it and if you need glasses, we’ll even help pay for them.
Generous maternity, paternity
and adoption leave and pay
If you or your partner are expecting a baby or plan to adopt, we offer generous benefits beyond staturot. We published them online here for transparency and have made the pregnancy loss pledge from the Miscarriage Association.
Get paid for referring great
people to work at Aira
We love it when our existing team recommends others to come and join Aira, it’s the ultimate compliment to us. We’ll pay you £500 for each successful referral that you make for roles at Aira.
Up to two days a year to volunteer for charitable organisations
We want to give back to the community around us and want to give you the opportunity to do so too. So each year, you can take two days of work time to work with a charitable organisation.
Free parking permit in
central Milton Keynes
This may seem like a small one, but it actually costs over £600 a year to park in central Milton Keynes. We don’t believe that you should have to pay to park when you come to work, so we pay it for you.
Work anywhere in the world for up to six months of the year
The pandemic has shown that remote working is not just possible, but that it can be very effective. If you want to extend a holiday for a few weeks or just work somewhere else, we can help make that happen.
Free on-site gym and showers, including fitness classes
Want to work out before work, during lunch or finish your day with a run? Just walk downstairs to our free on-site gym. Or if you cycle or run to work, make use of the great showers.
Our goal is to develop the happiest, highest performing, most effective digital marketing agency in the UK.
We think we’ve done well so far, but the word “develop” above is very deliberate. We will never be able to say that we’re done with this - there is always more we can do and we will never stop trying to be better.
So, for us, what comes next is about never settling and always finding ways to do even better work for our clients and building an even better place to work for our amazing team.