50 people can do some amazing things. Take the Argonauts that left to search for the Golden Fleece, they were 50 heroes, and five years in at over 50 employees CleverTouch Group MD, Adam Sharp, reflects on some of our achievements and what he has learnt since launching the company.
- Positioning and not content is everything – but it is ok to refine it. When we started we were all about joined-up-marketing. Now, as we have larger and more ambitious customers, and the Marketing Automation space has developed, we have evolved our position to 'intelligent engagement'. Content is a tactic, positioning is about being different and relevant.
- Talent management is too important to leave to a HR function. We have invested heavily in our university relationships, even sponsoring courses to be able to identify and pick the best recruits. We have initiatives running with at least four major UK universities and plan to engage more. We have found that nurturing works best when it comes from the Manager and also starting the relationship early by using graduate ambassadors to act as mentors to new recruits. Employee engagement is really important – whoever said 'Culture (and employee engagement) eats strategy for breakfast', was spot on.
- Hire a Harmony Manager – the office and the environment is really important. We try to be a decent employer and hiring people is a privilege and a valuable resource, not just a cost base. We work hard to offer employee benefits like: Cake Tuesday, where we have a weekly 15 minute company catch up with cake and 'Wine Down Friday' as well as regular company BBQ's. We don't just look at revenue as an indicator for how well the company is doing; we conduct an employee survey every quarter and see the results of this as a powerful barometer as to how we are performing. Have we got everything right? Probably not but we do want people to be proud of who we are and what we do.
- Think like a Quaker. One of the best books I have ever read is Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury, about the entrepreneurial nature of the Quakers. Due to their religion they were banned from the military, the police and couldn't become MPs, and by being banned from Oxford and Cambridge University couldn't become teachers either. So they became entrepreneurs (think Barclays, Tate & Lyle, Cadbury, and Bourneville as just a few examples) and the leaders in social reform. Their message and philosophies on social reform would still be seen, in some places, as very relevant today and aren't too far from the partnership and shared ownership philosophy of leading organisations such as John Lewis. We believe in the shared ownership approach and are proud to have implemented this at CleverTouch, where every employee has a stake in the business.
- The two sound bites we still live by: Chan Kim's 'make the competition irrelevant'… by competing in new ways, and 'Reputation before Revenue'. They make so much sense for obvious reasons.
- Promote early – it really is attitude over aptitude. This has meant we have been able to create new businesses out of CleverTouch; The CommsCo, a PR, social media and content marketing firm helping fast growing tech firms and CrowdVu, a persona-based marketing intelligence platform are two examples.
- Be organic, not just in what you eat but, in how you grow your business. The thought of answering to an external influence just fills me with horror. I don’t understand why people celebrate venture capital (VC) funding, it is just debt and dilution. Having been down that route before I see VC's much like the angry little people you came across at school. Despite what they tell you, they don't know your business, and don't care for it long term either, read Chocolate Wars.
So what's next for CleverTouch?
- More people. We hope to get to 100 people in the next two years. If we help people on their marketing or technology career journey, we'll have done our bit.
- More process and customer selection. We can't just add more people or rely on individual heroics to do what we do, and sometimes we need to be choosy (but never arrogant) on which projects and customers we engage with.
- More ideas. We never run out of them, the challenge is to reject the bad ones and run with just a few of the best.
- More fun and time to 'hang out' and be creative. The CleverTouch café will open at the end of June, long overdue. Our employees need a zone where they can hold informal meetings and actually just take a break and take some time out to have innovative ideas.
- More of the same. Through our marketing understanding we want to be the leading Marketing Automation consultancy in Europe and through this core competence it might just lead to further spin-outs as the people and opportunities are presented to us.
- More luck (we hope). We have been lucky, we don't ever want to overplay our part. We aren't execs, we try and contain the egos and we don't have our own offices, as we'd miss the banter if we did.