Scaling up: Leading from the front
It’s a leading question. When it comes to business growth just how vital is getting the right senior team together?
Stephen Pritchard believes he has the answer. The co-founder of Rossendale-based telecommunications and mobile solutions business Matrix247 says: “Having the right people involved is massive.”
His business has embarked on a ‘buy and build’ strategy as it looks to continue its growth journey and in its first steps on that journey in April it acquired Bolton-based Task Office Systems.
The deal means Matrix247 will be able to capitalise from a surge in demand for technology and systems to enable new ways of working – triggered by lockdown – by adding Microsoft Office products, IT support and digital photocopiers with document management to its existing range of services.
Set up by Stephen Pritchard and Geoff Wright in 1991, Matrix247 has established itself as one of the largest owner-managed providers of telephone and communication systems in the UK.
The acquisition takes the Matrix247 team to 40 full-time employees, with the company actively looking to recruit more Microsoft engineers and additional staff into its sales, finance, customer service and marketing teams.
Stephen believes Matrix247 is now positioned to enter new sectors, target bigger companies and compete with larger players in the market. Acquisitions are also a way of increasing the value of the business.
To reflect its expanded range of services, Matrix247 has also restructured into three distinct divisions: telecoms and mobile services; managed IT and digital print with document management.
The company is on target to achieve £10m turnover by 2024, having already reported a 25 per cent increase in turnover and 40 per cent increase in pre-tax profits for the year ending 2019.
Stephen says that working with Lancashire-based strategic business growth consultants Cube Thinking to adopt ‘lean thinking principles’ has helped increase its profits over the last three years.
The ability to measure performance throughout the operation has also played a part in its recent impressive growth.
He adds that accelerating the growth strategy has gone hand in hand with strengthening the business’ top line management. He says: “We went out to find the best we could, and we outsourced.”
That included recruiting a non-executive finance director, someone with a strong track record in acquisition and growth. Their knowledge is proving invaluable, Stephen says.
He adds that a former chief executive of an IT business that he grew from nothing into a multi-million-pound organisation has also been brought on board as a non-executive director, to “get us going forward on our strategic growth plan”.
Both appointments are on a part-time basis and the non-execs work strategically with Stephen and the board.
The group is also looking to bring in a group sales manager that will report directly to the board, an appointment that will allow Stephen and Geoff to step back from their current day to day roles and spend more time working on, rather than in the business.
Stephen advises: “Surround yourself with people that are way in advance of you. You are the conductor of the orchestra, that doesn’t mean you have to be the best pianist or oboe player.
“The orchestra has great musicians, but it needs that person in front of them with the baton.
“You drive the strategy and the vision. Work with people who have already done it and they’ll tell you exactly what to do and how to do it.”
Business experts stress that effective leadership and the ability to boost leadership capacity to encompass growth is fundamental to any scaleup journey.
A ScaleUp Institute survey in 2019 revealed there were still gaps, particularly around peer-to-peer networks and non-executive director access.
The institute says that leaders in rapidly scaling companies need to learn to cope quickly with changing demand.
Ben Rhodes is managing director of East Lancashire-based recruitment specialists Tailor Made. He says it is vital that companies looking to scaleup and grow have the right senior management team in place.
He says: “If you don’t you are effectively having to manage day-to-day, hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute.
“Getting the right senior team in place means that, after a period of settling in, you can look at strategy, you can look creatively, and you can spend time measuring performance.
“It gives you time to develop and understand a set of statistics that can support your growth. That monitoring can be a real game-changer.”
When it comes to recruiting that top team, Ben says it is important to understand the culture of the business and the detail of the role and the pressures of the job you are looking to fill.
There is a financial investment in appointing a new senior member of staff that goes beyond a simple salary. Ben says: “Getting in wrong can be costly. If that person you have recruited leaves within 10 or 11 months, that can be a huge hit on the bottom line.”
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