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30 Digital Champions: The former environmental health practitioner tackling regulatory compliance

Founded in 2003 by Mark Flanagan, who remains managing director of the business, Shieldyourself has garnered itself a reputation for exceptional quality standards – something that was reflected in its attainment of a Commendation for Excellence in 2014. We quizzed Flanagan about how the use of software and apps has enabled the company to beat away the competition.
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Shieldyourself’s team of environmental health auditors provide clients with bespoke and flexible auditing and guidance services that are useful in highlighting areas of a business that require improvement to attain and maintain compliance and legality.

Born out of a desire to provide a hassle-free solution to regulatory compliance that could easily be applied and tailored to the needs of individual companies throughout the retail and hospitality sector, the team turned to technology to boost business growth – here’s what former environmental health practitioner Flanagan had to say.

(1) Please give us a brief introduction to the business?

Shieldyourself believe in making safety simple. For the last 13 years our clients have enabled us to become the UK’s leading compliance specialist – providing audit services and regulatory compliance for a range of businesses in the retail and hospitality sector. Our aim is to ease the burden for our clients by reducing the pressure of regulation, and everything we do is based on our values – innovation, fun, integrity, teamwork and safety.

(2) What have the significant growth milestones been in the last few years?

We started with 300 customers in 2003 and have consistently delivered excellent service. Good news spreads fast and this has led to rapid sales growth in recent years. In fact we have seen revenue double every year since 2013, with this trajectory forecast to continue. We now work with over 800 happy customers and are proud of our 98 per cent retention rate of existing clients.

(3) What inspires you as an entrepreneur/business owner, and how does that come across with your company?

That is an easy question to answer: innovation. Every aspect of Shieldyourself – our brand promise, strategic direction, daily decisions and the services that ultimately assist our clients – is all inspired by excellence in innovation. We want to be the trusted choice for all businesses who understand the benefits of compliance management but simply don’t have the expertise, knowledge or experience to manage this function. That pretty much describes our offering perfectly, so every aspect of our business is a direct reflection on not only our innovation but our corporate values too.

(4) What kind of obstacles are you encountering as you grow your enterprise?

We moved to our office in the Northern Quarter a little under three years ago, thinking it would be big enough. Since then our number of employees has doubled, with recruitment constantly ongoing. We have already outgrown our space and have recently expanded into new offices on the same site with the vision of growing even further in the near future.

(5) For a company that isn’t technology based, how has a digital approach helped you to carve out a bigger market and acquire new customers?

We needed to invest in software in order to offer businesses a tailored solution to any health and safety needs and the use of apps have enabled us to stay one step ahead of the game. These two pieces of tech enable us to be fully responsive across numerous devices, meaning clients can easily access their compliance status. No other competitor can offer the same level of product and service when it comes to using such digital methods.

(6) How is technology helping you to overcome hurdles, and what are the challenges of implementation?

Combining physical and digital products has allowed us to cut down on paper usage, helping companies to significantly reduce the need for space-eating filing systems, not to mention the environmental footprint.

(7) Do you employ any kind of flexible working, and how does technology fit into this?

Due to the nature of the industries we work in, we have to be completely flexible so many of our colleagues work beyond the standard 08:00-17:00 working day. This side of the software that is used to upload audits and fire risk assessments can be accessed at any time by remote workers using tablets. Alongside this, all our key documents are stored using a cloud based system meaning they can be referred to at all times.

(8) What kind of technology tools can you not work without?

Accessing cloud-based servers, our clients can feel secure with our resilience and scalability. We offer that extra protection when hosting all essential information. Our whole office also utilises Office 365 for all our file storage and communication needs. The system allows us to work dynamically, sharing items instantly and allowing collaboration on live documents between any member of any department. This works in conjunction with email, task and calendar systems too, simplifying many processes and keeping everyone on the same page.

(9) What kind of technology would help you better compete with larger rivals?

Our current place within the industry puts us in prime position for delivering the best solutions through the use of software. Whilst rivals may keep us on our toes, it is our goal to maintain this.

(10) Where do you want to take your business in the future?

The company is growing at a rapid pace, but the opportunities are endless in terms of where we see ourselves. As well as consolidating and expanding our UK portfolio, we’ll continue to look further afield for more opportunities. This will bring a growing list of challenges, but with the team we have here I have no doubt we can deliver above and beyond expectations.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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