Telling the truth about SME life today

Volume: A future-focused agency that uses the latest digital technologies

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Chris Sykes

Role and company:

CEO of Volume

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):?

We turned over ?8m in 2012.

Employee numbers:


Growth forecast for the next three years:

We hope to turnover £10m in 2013, £15m in 2014 and £20m in 2015.

In fewer than 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace

Volume is a future-focused agency that uses the latest digital technologies and channels to enable real-time and sustainable customer interaction. Volume has a broad talent pool of skills and experience and we offer truly integrated campaigns, which though many agencies claim to offer, few can actually deliver.

What’s the big vision for your business?

A lot of our clients are large, global organisations, while they may have different company models they do have one thing in common. In the current economy they are all challenged to become physically smaller in the future while still having to demonstrate revenue and profit growth.

This means many companies are looking for channels to outsource to and we at Volume understand this. To that effect we have developed our own vendor/technology-neutral digital content management and delivery platform offered to clients via a fully managed service.

It offers clients a fully outsourced solution where they have flexibility to scale quickly and cost effectively without the traditional infrastructure and resource costs. It is our ultimate aim to be viewed as a supporting channel for our clients when resources are light.

Our agency is structured to support the blended working lives of our clients and their customers. We are working towards becoming one of the first 24/7 agencies able to service global businesses whatever the time of day/time zone. Flexible working allows us to be reactive, responsive, productive and efficient. Our “always on” methodology means Volume is best placed to help clients succeed in the mobile and digital age.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:?

70 percent of our business is based outside the UK and we have business relations in 146 countries. In 2011 we opened a Technology Centre in Colombo, Sri Lanka and the team in Colombo are a direct extension of our technology team in the UK. Our ambition is to continue growing our global presence – we have plans to set up similar centres in Melbourne, Dubai and West Coast, USA.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:?

When we lost our biggest client over night, through no fault of our own. It taught me the importance of always being prepared for the unexpected and to not get to a point where you become over dependent on one client.

The client actually did come back, but I certainly learnt a lot from the experience.

What makes you mad in business today?

Government red tape, which penalises small businesses. I feel there is a general lack of support available for UK-based SMEs, even though it’s our small businesses and entrepreneurs that can drive growth at a time where the country really needs it.

It’s also disappointing to see large, foreign corporation get out of paying tax in the UK.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

When Apple introduces a TV.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow” If not, what can be done to improve things?

In a nutshell, yes they can. There is a considered effort to make things accessible, for example Business Growth Fund (BGF) champion UK businesses by making long-term capital investments.

The problem is that such funds and schemes are not very visible, many companies are unaware of what’s offered and furthermore the funds are not open to all. There is a strict criterion one must fit, which of course restricts ease of access.

How would others describe your leadership style

I think they would describe me as pragmatic, someone with high expectations but at the same time fair.

Your biggest personal extravagance

It would have to be watches and wine.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

UK SMEs need a stronger voice and better representation in senior government. Central government and local government are also not joined up on initiatives or aligned. Central government is great at announcing broad brush initiatives and intent but this can be kyboshed at the local level i.e. planning consent, commercially restrictive business rates and lack of support from local councils that are too public-focussed.

It is local business that powers the local economy. Too often local authorities impede and penalise small businesses with unnecessary red tape. Councils themselves should adopt a more entrepreneurial approach to local business. Central government should also introduce wider tax breaks that are not just based on location. Small businesses in seemingly affluent areas don’t get access to business development grants or concessions.



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