The world’s best workplaces and what you can learn from them

19 December 2018 in Growth

There are great lessons to be learned from the business world’s best and brightest. Here’s a peek behind the curtain at some of the best companies to work for, what makes them so good and what you can learn from them.

Best for productivity: Fever-Tree

Who are they?
Fever-Tree are a premium drinks mixer company based in London.

What makes them great?

Back in 2014, Fever-Tree knocked the UK stock market’s socks off with its sheer hyper-productivity. In just 10 years, they went from zero to a £23m turnover. Fever-Tree co-founder, Charles Rolls, says that the company’s high productivity is down to outsourcing.

They maintain control of core operations (ingredient sourcing, marketing, finance etc.) and outsource the business functions they aren’t experts in. Charles told the Chartered Management Institute: “We knew what the product needed to taste like and what the brand message needed to be, so we stuck to that.”

What can we take away from it?

For smaller businesses, staying lean could help you cut to the chase a little faster. Making use of resources like automation, optimised workflow management systems and outsourced talent can lighten the workload and ensure you always have access to the talent you need to pull off the job in record time.

Best for culture: Adobe

Who are they?

Adobe is a multinational creativity and multimedia software company based in California.

What makes them great?

Adobe ranks 34th on Fortune’s list of Best Workplaces for Millennials, and for good reason. Employees have gone on record  as saying that they are encouraged to take ownership of their work, to take risks and to own their own development:

“I have always felt that Adobe’s culture emphasizes individual ownership and accountability—that we are all hired because we are competent, innovative, motivated employees, and our contributions to the business are appreciated, acknowledged, and rewarded.” 

What can we take away from it?

No one likes to be micromanaged. It’s bad for productivity, bad for morale and dampens individual creative spirit. When you invest time into building a positive workplace culture, employees are naturally more engaged and productive because they have a personal stake in the success of a project or task. This feeds back into a positive workplace which attracts more top-notch talent to your ranks.

Best for leadership: Volvo

Who are they?
Volvo is a Swedish luxury car company with headquarters located in Gothenburg.

What makes them great?

Volvo’s exceptional decision-making capabilities have bagged them a top spot on a list of 50 global companies with the best leadership team. The list uses research undertaken by international professional services network, Crowe, who have identified that the most successful leadership teams are innovative and bold—both of which Volvo scores highly for.

What can we take away from it?

Fearlessness and solid decision-making aren’t just the hallmark of a successful business, but also of a robust workforce. Research has shown that poor leadership wreaks havoc on employee retention. When qualified employees are already so hard to come by, driving them away through poor leadership is a bad move. Inspiration and decisive leadership are crucial in the formation of a good workplace.

Best for inspiration: BrightHR

Who are they?
BrightHR are an HR management software firm with head offices based in Manchester.

What makes them great?

BrightHR are of the opinion that you can’t have a truly ground-breaking product or service if you aren’t in an environment which feels inspirational.  For that reason, they’ve set up football nets, board games and have open collaborative workspaces rather than meeting rooms.

BrightHR employee, Paul Harris, told the Guardian: “If you want people to have ideas and be creative, you have to encourage them to be different. If you’re having fun and you’re relaxed and it’s easy to collaborate with your colleagues, it’s a much better environment.”

What can we take away from it?

New ideas and good working relationships often come easiest when employees feel happy and relaxed. A work environment impacts so heavily on wellbeing and productivity because it’s where we spend most of our time. By investing time and effort into making it feel fun and free, there are benefits to be gained.

Which of these companies do you think leads the best example? Are there any initiatives you would try? Leave a comment below!


How regular finance reviews could increase your business cashflow

15 October 2018 in Growth

Getting your hands on enough cash to keep business growth healthy can be tough, to say the least. New order fulfilment and stock purchasing are crucial, and it only takes one late customer payment to knock everything off balance. Raising the extra capital needed to buy new equipment or launch new products can be just as tough.

Simon Belton, specialist finance broker for the print & signage industries, visited the Vism blog to share his tips on using alternative finance options. He has spent 30 years’ in the finance sector and has structured and managed facilities for a multitude of companies across the sector.

He reveals why alternative finance options may be better for business growth and cashflow, and why regular finance reviews are so important.

Why it pays to review your business finance options

When you need to increase cashflow, your knee-jerk reaction might be to plunder yourbank overdraft, but if you’re an SME or want more flexibility in your borrowing, Simon advises against it.

Simon says, “The banking environment is experiencing significant change. Banks are looking to increasingly standardise their offerings and are moving away from a relationship-based model. For larger ‘vanilla’ businesses who are trading well, the banks will continue to offer a good solution. However, if a company needs more flexibility, and wishes to have immediate access to a finance professional, then there are more suitable lenders out there.”

As with phone contracts and energy suppliers, regularly reviewing your business finance options might save you extra money while increasing your borrowing amount.

By teaming up with a finance broker, Simon says there are two main ways a business can come out on top:

  1. The finance broker goes to market and comes back with two or three alternative options which a current lender can match.
  2. The finance provider goes to market, comes back with two or three alternative options which a current lender can’t match, prompting a switch and save.

Because a finance broker’s fee comes from the lender, their services are usually free to use. According to Simon, commercial finance lenders are becoming more competitive on price and offer a wider range of business finance products and packages—another win for your business’ bank balance.

How often should a business review finance?

Although some lenders claim that an annual review is needed, Simon advises that this isn’t necessary. “I believe that a company should go to market at least every 3 years,” he says. “The finance market evolves quickly and there are always opportunities to improve pricing, terms and ease of use.”

Once the process is underway, Simon says it’s relatively straightforward and advises that a new facility could be in place within a fortnight. “There is an initial meeting with the prospective lender, a probable day of due diligence (depending on facility size) and following an internal credit meeting documents can be signed.”

Outside of bank overdrafts, what other finance options are there?

According to Simon, there’s a multitude of commercial finance lenders on the market. Each of them offers a range of business finance products to help SMEs buy or refinance equipment, make one-off stock purchases, cover occasional costs and much more besides. Some of these products can be packaged together for an even better deal but sifting through them often takes an expert eye. Simon advises using the free services of a finance broker to find the best fit for your business, to take the legwork out of making a comparison to your current finance option and —if necessary—to make the switch.

The expert jury is out—relying on the bank may not be the best cashflow option after all! With so many alternatives around (and free consultation up for grabs), many print businesses may find that they’re able to reach new growth by reviewing the finance they already have and using the right partner to keep an eye out for a better deal.

You can start exploring your finance options by getting in touch with Simon for a no-pressure, free and confidential chat.

Macroart’s rapid growth to be managed via new installations platform

10 September 2018 in Growth

Periods of rapid expansion can test the internal processes of any business. Wide format print leader, Macroart, is no exception. In June of this year, they revealed that they have almost doubled turnover from £6 million to £11 million since their management buyout four years ago. 

Michael Green, commercial director at Macroart, attributes some of this growth to their solid reputation, “We’re winning a lot of work at the moment due to word of mouth and good recommendations. It’s all down to our great team.”

This growth, combined with a plethora of other large projects in the pipeline, prompted Richard Starr (Head of Projects) to start looking into scalable, reliable project management systems to help maintain their high standards as they grow.

“We were looking at applications and systems to allow us to manage the installations side of the business and get better control over the way we manage and control information,” he said.

Unfortunately, his findings didn’t offer a good enough fit for the business’ needs. Macroart required something new and completely different.

The opportunity to pioneer new software soon presented itself. Dan Tyler, founder of installations project management platform Vism, reached out to Macroart with an offer to collaborate on development of a new platform which could be tailored to them. 

“I’ve known Dan for a while and always found him to be very knowledgeable on the industry,” Michael said. “When he started talking about [Vism], I obviously gave it a lot of attention. It’s not often that he comes up with something that’s not worth listening to.”

“Managing installations across multiple jobs and multiple projects is a headache for any business that does what we do, and we do an awful lot of installations. Anything that simplifies that and makes it more accountable is a win for us,” he added.

When it comes to quality control and job execution, Macroart are nothing if not fastidious—it’s what their reputation is founded on. Selecting the right platform would be fundamental in their ability to maintain a high standard.

“Managed projects are where our growth is, so it’s really important to keep track of that. To be able to monitor the quality [of a job] is crucial. If you fall down on quality, there are no second chances,” Michael said.

Dan’s 5-year history in large format print and signage recruitment gave him a unique, multi-angled insight into industry processes and the problems therein. He wanted Vism to take a completely different approach, starting with the end user and working backwards from there.

“Installation jobs are so complex, with so many moving parts, that managing them can sometimes feel impossible. It’s prompting people to move away from old-fashioned processes and try new systems instead,” Dan says.

“When companies try new project management software, they usually find that there’s something missing—be it key features or the structure of the software itself. They are trying to work with pre-defined tools that they have to fit their business to, rather than using something which is built for their needs.

“In response, we’ve created something that could be tailored enough for a business to work its way around but robust enough to encourage consistency and raise standards for everyone”, he said. As a company that explored various options and felt these pains, Macroart were excited by Dan’s approach and started working with him to tailor Vism.

“What’s good about Vism is the fact that Dan didn’t come to us and say, ‘here’s a system, work your business around it’. By continuing to collaborate with him on the development of the platform, it keeps evolving. In our own business, we’re always looking to improve things, so this approach feels very natural for us,” Michael said.

“I’ve worked with Macroart for a number of years—I’ve hired for their teams, so I understand how they work. I knew they’d be the perfect company to pioneer the platform,” Dan said. “[Michael] invited me to look around the Macroart office and get a feel for everything they’d been working on. He’s always been collaborative and open. All of that made me feel that they’d give good insight when developing something for the industry.”

The Vism platform launched earlier this year and is already being used by Macroart, as well as various other graphics, signage and installation companies across the UK, with freelance installers currently joining by invitation.

Macroart have predicted that Vism will help them manage their growth in two main ways. “It will reduce admin and time spent communicating with installation teams”, Richard says. “[Vism] has a centralised system, which allows us to share information and the sign-off process with installers. At the moment, this is very long winded.”

The new project management software couldn’t have come at a better time. Macroart have made significant investment over the last 18 months, including the acquisition of fabrication business Aluvista and the expansion of their Cambridge HQ.

With more opportunity for expansion on the horizon, they plan to continue to rely on the Vism platform as a way to support growth and maintain quality. In turn, Vism will continue to collaborate with Macroart, transforming feedback into new functionality which will see the platform grow and improve.