Role and company:
CEO, Lateral Group
Growth forecast for the next three years:
The data side of the business has already grown by 20 per cent year on year for the past three years. We want to accelerate this across the new service platforms we have recently introduced to the agency over the last 18 months, such as creative, behavioural planning and our new “public sector” offering to support the recent closure of the Central Office of Information.
In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:
We see ourselves as a true customer engagement agency. The speed of communications is changing rapidly and we’re a modern database marketing agency that has adapted to this by combining insight with creativity and cross-channel media, to deliver effective and measurable communications.
What’s the big vision for your business?
My vision is to have all the customer touchpoints joined up utilising the new big data technologies to enable real time decisions, providing not just next best action, but also next best content. The ultimate aim is to develop a marketing solution that learns from customer feedback in real time and adapts in a fluid and dynamic way. We find ourselves now in a world where we can identify the customer across all touchpoints (in-store, online, social, mobile, call centre) and the business that can take advantage of these new technologies will be the ones reaping the benefits in the long term.
Current level of international business, and future aspirations:
At the moment, we’re based in London and the US. With our recent expansion into the North American market, we hope to provide customer engagement strategies to our new parent company’s client base (DST Systems, Inc) that deliver growing customers and profitable relationships.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:
In a previous life, we were going through a major acquisition and had the opportunity to raise more equity but instead chose to borrow more money, which meant we were too highly geared and weren’t able to invest in and grow the business as quickly as we could have because of this deal. The business was still profitable, but the lesson was learnt; better to raise equity than go forward with debt.
Oh and there was a certain celebrity gossip magazine and Snowflake bars….but that’s another story!
What makes you mad in business today?
Two things really drive me mad. Firstly, organisations that work in silos. If businesses joined up different parts of their offering, it would help not only in terms of costs and waste, but it would also support harmonising the customer experience, improve customer service and improve profits.
And secondly, internal email! Email slows down business and takes away the personal interaction of a face-to-face meeting. I’d much rather see email banned on certain days of the week and people get up and talk to each other.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?
Big data, definitely! Other huge changes to be expected include processing power, data analysis and marketers being the largest purchasers of IT. Over the next three years, the speed of processing and analysis will continue to increase, so if you can join up all interactions, you will be able to make decisions in terms of customer interactions and dialogue very quickly.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?
Some companies may blame a lack of finance on the current recession, but if you have a solid business plan and you work with good adviser, there is always finance available.
How would others describe your leadership style?
I’m passionate about what I do, and I’m a great believer in empowering your team to get on with their jobs; my job is to use my experience to advise and guide them to reach objectives. I like to create a fun and rewarding environment for people to work in, and I greatly respect team work and collaboration, which I believe delivers the best results.
Your biggest personal extravagance?
My annual lads ski trip, my family (a wife who enjoys shopping and two boys into sports) and my Bath season ticket.
You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:
I’d like to see a relaxation of employment laws. Too often, businesses may hesitate as they are worried about getting recruitment wrong, but I’d also encourage entrepreneurs to employ more people. If so, it would make employing staff more flexible, we could take more risks, without the fear of getting it wrong and, I believe, ultimately employ more people.
I’d also like to see the prime minister make structuring finance easier for small businesses so that they can use fixed rates to plan budgets. At the moment, the LIBOR-linked system means that business owners have less certainty when borrowing money as they are at the mercy of rates. Delivering fixed rate loans would help stabilise businesses and allow for more long-term planning.
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