Bristol-based data consultants Techmodal are one of the city’s best kept secrets. The team of market experts, data scientists, consultants, system analysts and software engineers have become a trusted name across the Defence, Commercial and Public sectors since they were founded in 2005. Now with a team of over 80 people, and looking to grow further, Scale-up Enabler Briony Phillips spoke to new CEO Kempton Cannons about the challenges involved in leading a scaleup.
BP: What are the biggest challenges that you've faced as a company leader? Have you been able to find the right support to help you in your journey?
KC: Scaling up the business to keep pace with growth. This has been a challenge across all elements of our business, from growing great sales people to building a solid delivery capability in consulting and software. It has only been achievable through the enthusiasm and flexibility of our growing team.
Also, finding the right support network has been an interesting challenge as it requires a lot of trust. What has been most encouraging for us is actually the desire of our customers to help us in our success and support us on this journey.
BP: Absolutely! It’s something that the Scale up Institute mention in their research and I hear a lot from companies. To help some of them we’ve actually put together a list of some of the local groups but everyone develops differently, and not necessarily how they thought they would. Speaking of which, if you were to go back in time, is there any new advice you’d offer to yourself?
KC: Realise that what you take for granted in terms of values and culture are not always shared. You need to recognise what is important to the culture of the business, and share it with the team if you want to maintain a differentiating ethos.
We do it by taking a monthly pulse survey across the business, to continuously understand what’s important to the culture of Techmodal and adapt to accommodate this where we can, sharing the results with the rest of the business.
BP: That’s a really great idea and something people could easily adopt. Locally, Mr B & Friends have done something similar and are using it to link to recruitment! In building that culture, how important do you think leadership around culture has been in the success of Techmodal?
KC: Leadership and culture have been critical to our success. The culture of customer focus, agility in delivery and expertise in our subject have enabled the whole team to be leaders when required.
Here, everyone has their own goals and objectives set – and if these are met and the business is in a position to do so they can be promoted and/or receive a discretionary bonus.
BP: There’s some great examples out there of companies developing models to build culture into their team and rewarding people! We even discussed it at a recent Scale up Briefing event and one of the things they mention as a challenge, is how to make sure the company values and the capacity for leadership development continue as you grow. How do you think you’ll tackle that?
KC: You have to recognise your cultures and share them; we are moving into another level in terms of scale and are looking at how we tackle leadership development in this next phase. Whatever route we choose for this development approach will be grounded in our values.
BP: It’s worth bearing in mind when you do that there’s lots of programmes the latest being Scale up 4 Growth and advice from organisations like SETsquared. Are there any tools, people or services would you recommend to others locally as they look to scale and be effective leaders?
KC: Your corporate network is critical, not just your own but that of your team. Growing that network is clearly helped by engaging local business partners and industry groups however, when you are looking for support in leadership look to those around you and you’ll be amazed at who you already know and how willing others are to help.
We ensure we’re at the right events locally, that are relevant to our industry areas, to make sure we’re always maximising our presence within the network.
BP: That’s always worth doing and there’s loads going on locally! (In fact TechNation say we have more Meetups per head that any other place). I know TechSPARK hold a large list on their event board as well as specific networks like Elite and SW Founders who are more focussed on new entrepreneurs. How are you involving yourself with the network?
KC: Well we want to give back and help others to grow as well – which is why we started our own Growth Accelerator Programme, to provide a platform for early-stage startups to partner with us and develop their ideas with our support. Local companies Col 8. and Surface RF were the inaugural winners and we’re happy to be working with them to ensure we expand our offering and capabilities into other areas.