With games company tombola designing all its games in-house, marketing manager Dawn Howes explains how it keeps scaling when the game keeps changing.
For some businesses, keeping up with the rate of change can be a challenge – for example, in the technology industry, huge advances can be made that render a new product obsolete before it’s even ready to go to market.
Adapting and scaling in a fluid environment like this can be daunting, but many small and medium-sized businesses have the agility to rise to the challenge. For many, it’s simply a case of identifying opportunities and seizing them as early as possible.
tombola, a mobile games company, is one such example – it leapt on the rise in mobile gaming and has scaled up dramatically.
The rise of tombola
tombola was established in 1999 by Phil Cronin, who remains the CEO to this day and is still actively involved in the company.
Since its launch, tombola has expanded into European markets in Italy and Spain and currently has around 300 employees. Not being one to rest on its laurels, the business plans further growth since opening a new headquarters in Sunderland.
However, since 1999 the world of gaming has changed drastically – and it has not always been plain-sailing.
“As we design and develop all of our games in house, the main challenge we face as a company is keeping up to date with industry trends and technology developments – especially with the ever-changing nature and quality of competition within our industry,” explained Howe.
Despite these potential setbacks, when tombola saw its popularity increasing, it took advantage of the momentum to drive growth.
“Between 2015 and 2016 we acquired more new players than ever before, and now have over double the number of daily players to our nearest competitor, securing us as ‘Britain’s biggest bingo site’ (Source: BingoPort).
“We have increased our marketing budget to support our rapid growth rate. In July last year, we also launched tombola arcade, with six unique instant-win games, to keep up with the demand of our players.”
Tombola has a 12-month plan in place to support growth, which includes the development of new, unique games and the completion of its new headquarters. As part of this plan, it expects to open up over 70 jobs in the North East of England tech sector.
Keeping on top
Another challenge is recruiting the right people for the company, as not only does it want to ensure that employees have the right skills for the role, but also be sure they fit with tombola’s culture.
An SME culture can be much more close-knit than the corporate world, which is something many employees value. Maintaining that work ethic and camaraderie at scale can be almost impossible if not factored in at the recruitment stage.
With the rapid in-take of new staff fast approaching, it’s handy that the brand recently took on Marc Lightfoot as its in-house recruitment executive – previously, it had relied more on agencies.
“When looking for the ideal candidate, we look at their suitability for the role and their tombola cultural fit. The latter might sound a bit clichéd but we are very proud of the culture we have developed here, as we strive to make tombola the best place to work in the North East of England,” he explained.
“We are fortunate in that it is not the done thing at tombola to rush things. New products aren’t launched until they are absolutely ready for our players to enjoy, and we adopt the same approach to recruitment; either we hire the right person or we keep searching.”
Given that there is a skills gap in the UK, especially in the tech sector, finding the right person for a role can be especially testing.
For the top roles in particular, there is a race for talent – to counter this, the business makes its culture and benefits as strong as possible to beat the competition to the best people.
For tombola, scaling quickly in the face of an ever-changing industry has meant investing in people and striking while the iron is hot.
While every business is different, and every business owner must weigh up the risks associated with every new opportunity, it’s not bad advice to follow.
This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.
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