Elaine Ball tells us about her business, Elaine Ball Ltd and Get Kids into Survey, and how she became the original ‘geospatial’ marketer.
What is the background of your business?
Elaine Ball Ltd was founded in 2013 after MDL, the company where MD was was sold. I took my savings, my decades of sales and marketing experience, and an amazing former colleague and started my own company. Elaine Ball Ltd is a dedicated business and marketing consultancy for the global geospatial industry, and we provide business, sales and marketing consulting services through workshops, online training, training and execution. My role is a bit of everything! I describe myself as a marketing part, a business development part, a strategic thinking part, and a superhero part.
Under the umbrella of Elaine Ball Ltd, we established Get Kids into Survey in 2017.
Get Kids into Survey is a fun and action-packed global recruiting campaign to help save the future of the survey, a relatively unknown area, especially among children.
Our goal is to introduce and educate the younger generation about surveying and encourage them to consider it as a potential career path, creating a new generation of surveyors responsible for protecting the world. Many don’t know it, but topography actually plays a big role in this, from spotting bombs, studying planets, finding diamonds, monitoring wildlife, building bridges to measuring earthquakes and volcanoes, conducting CSI forensics, to name just a few. .
I co-founded Get Kids into Survey with my sister Elly and together we oversee everything that goes on within the business, making sure we stay as practical as possible.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My father, Steve Ball, is a hydrographer and mining surveyor, so I was always exposed to the world of surveying and was taught from an early age how important the work around it is. It was inevitable that I would follow in my father’s footsteps, and after finishing my business degree, I joined his company, MDL. During my time there, I was able to grow the global workforce to 120 staff members and increase the percentage of women from 25% to 50%.
I loved working at MDL so much that at age 27 I became an MD, and when the company was sold in 2013, I decided to start my own business. I invested £ 60,000 of my own savings launching Elaine Ball Ltd, the go-to marketing consultancy for the global geospatial industry. I hired former CDM colleagues and haven’t looked back since. It was very gratifying to be able to establish that Elaine Ball Ltd is a women-centric business as the geospatial industry is predominantly male.
In 2017, I came up with the idea to create a poster for the UK Surveyors Association AGM, designed to teach survey children what their parents did for a living. The poster was incredibly popular and requests flooded, so we made more posters, added educational resources, and developed a comic strip; from there, Get Kids into Survey was born.
Since then, we have launched The GeoSquad Comic; A 40-page digital download, a five-chapter comic, complete with activity sheets, designed to appeal to ages 8-12 in a fun, action-packed way. It’s a wonderfully illustrated introduction to the world of polling, created in collaboration with elementary school teacher and children’s book author, Mat Sullivan, and artist Marek Jagucki.
What is your point of difference?
Other than the fact that Elaine Ball Ltd was the world’s first geospatial marketing consultancy?
The difference between Elaine Ball Ltd and other companies is our goal. I want to raise the standards in the industry globally by supporting surveyors and geospatial professionals in marketing, bringing it into the 21st century!
With regards to Get Kids into Survey, our mission is to ensure that the geospatial world continues so that the planet is protected for years to come. It is such an important topic and therefore it is vital for us that we convey this to young children in a way that they understand, take the information we have given them and act. We want to increase the number of women in the industry and populate it with the younger generation; Currently, the average age is 55!
How do you get the word out about your business?
All of my experience is marketing, so I use every tool available to promote both Elaine Ball Ltd and the industry as a whole. We are active on all social media platforms and are now developing a media presence that consumes our target audience.
We are also fortunate enough to have our Get Kids into Survey ambassadors located all over the world, all of whom are working towards the same goal, which is why our mission and goal is being talked about globally.
How has business been during the Covid-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has not stopped our campaign in the least. In fact, it has only made us more determined to educate the next generation on how topography helps protect the Earth and why that is vital, particularly after seeing firsthand, over the last 14 months, how the health of the planet it is so delicate. As young children, we are taught that the Earth will live for billions and billions of years, but what we are often not taught is that for that to happen, we must do our part. We must do everything we can to protect it, and the pandemic has made the problem even more urgent for us.
What is the hardest thing about running a business?
I’m not sure you can pick just one thing! When it comes to your own business, passion and effort never stop, there is no restriction. I guess if I have to pick one that is relevant to me, it would be to keep the focus on the end goal. As we are an international company, we have many opportunities available and many things we can focus on. I have to be careful not to get caught up in the ‘shiny object syndrome’ or dilute our efforts by taking our eyes off the main target. As CEO, that’s why it’s vital that I surround myself with a strong and supportive team – they help me keep my feet on the ground!
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
As a global company, fluctuations in exchange rates have been a real scratch on the head. We have been able to offer very competitive rates abroad, but we have lost, as all of our costs are in pounds. Focusing on the best way to solve that for both our suppliers and our customers has taken a long time recently, but we are there now!
What is the best decision you have made so far?
Committing to our comic. It has been an expensive but extremely rewarding and successful endeavor.
Do you regret it?
No … but one entrepreneurial learning has definitely been to avoid giving in to the shiny object syndrome! I’m very “ooh, a squirrel” and I’m chasing said squirrel. While this has gotten us to where we are today, it is not a long-term business strategy! So there are no regrets, but there are definite learnings.
What would make managing your business much easier?
If we were to focus on just one thing, in this case, our core Geospatial Marketing offering, delivered through our new Geospatial Marketing Academy. By launching side projects like Get Kids into Survey, we make our business life more difficult and more complicated! However, having your own business makes these things possible, and Get Kids into Survey will help ensure the longevity of the industry.
What’s next for your business?
In order to get children into the survey, we plan to continue educating the next generation for as long as possible, more widely and better. We believe that our mission is to ensure that the industry does not become extinct with the current generation of surveyors, so we will continue to create more educational, but fun, resources that explain the fantastic world of surveys for many years to come.
We currently have a free online resource center with lesson plans, quizzes and coloring sheets, our fabulous posters, and an Education Fund to support ambassadors and school visits. We are incredibly committed to the cause and consider it our mission to spread the word, in a way that is more relatable to children.
We want to take the time to collaborate with more partners and other educational teams to help spread the word.
For Elaine Ball Ltd, the next big thing is the formal launch of our newest product, the Geospatial Marketing Academy. This is an online program for survey companies and equipment manufacturers / resellers, helping them clarify their transformations and take a customer-driven approach to marketing in-house.
Made in Great Britain – Geospatial Marketing Brand, Elaine Ball Ltd