Was growing organically a strategic decision?
It was. When I took on new teams through acquisitions in the past, it was quite difficult to embed them culturally, particularly in the same marketplace. With our growth up to date, we’ve primarily focussed on one market, and where we are a team of less than 100 people, we felt that if we were to bring in new teams, it would have been hard to mix the different company cultures. But as we move forward and diversify both geographically and into different sectors, the scope for acquisition is more so than it was before as we are targeting different markets.
What has been your biggest challenge to growth?
The biggest challenge to our growth has been our people really – the talent you’ve got - and opportunity. Attracting and retaining good staff is a key part to a business growing. The other part is obviously choosing and finding the right clients and the right opportunities. But the people are the primary thing: we’re a service led business, so we need to have the right staff in place.
How did COVID impact your business?
It slowed our growth down considerably for what we had planned that year, as we had a number of contracts which were either delayed or stopped. Going into the following business year, we had to modify our business plan somewhat and we were able to stabilise our position and achieve very similar numbers to the year before, which was actually quite a good result given the circumstances. During the first part of COVID we also started to look into alternative markets and how we could diversify, and we considered two routes: the public sector and life sciences. We have chosen to focus on the life sciences; there’s obviously been a huge amount of investment in that marketplace, and there haven’t been many businesses specialising in what we do in the sector, so we’ve seen the area as a good opportunity for growth.
What are your business plans for the next five years?
We certainly want to invest in the life sciences market, and alongside that we’d like to build on our international platform. Those are what we see as the two real growth areas for us, which would either be via finding strategic partners if it was internationally, or potentially acquisition opportunities.
What would be your top tips for other entrepreneurs or start-ups looking to achieve high growth?
If you’re in a start-up situation it’s always about having a plan. You have to have a target when it comes to financial aspirations, but also a recruitment plan, where you’re planning to take the business and what you’re trying to achieve. I think that’s crucial: however small the business is, you need to have that aspiration and the ability to keep focussed on what you are trying to achieve as sometimes you can get distracted by the day-to-day quite easily. That plan can act as a sort of map to follow, which you can go back to and remind yourself of what you set out to achieve to start with.