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How do Businesses Evolve Through Growth?

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You want your business to be blazingly successful. But what does that look like exactly? How will your company change during the process of growth?

In our most recent podcast, we posed this question to Jon Woodall for real insight to help other businesses owners prepare for major growth challenges.

He’s the Founder and Managing Director of Space 48, an award-winning agency specialising in e-commerce consultancy, design, build and strategy.

Jon and his team have just celebrated their 10 year anniversary. In other words, they know a thing or two about the evolution of a growing business.

Here are the biggest lessons he has to share.

The Ways Space 48 has Transformed

Space 48 builds websites for online retailers committed to fast growth and internationalisation.

The past 10 years have flown by for Jon and his team. But at the same time, it hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations.

Like all companies that experience fast growth, there have been plenty of challenges and mistakes to learn from. For Jon, these have been invaluable. They have taught him how to keep moving forward in a healthy and disciplined way.

His biggest discovery has been the importance of a dynamic and people-centered culture.

“An Opportunity to Redefine Ourselves”

In 2017, Jon moved the business to Manchester. He seized this opening to create a new space that would enable the business’ culture to mature:

“I wanted to set the bar high for the environment our team worked in. In addition to developing a workspace true to the company’s values, we tapped into Manchester’s blossoming culture. The city is ripe for investment and growth and there’s a real sense of progress and vitality. Making the most of that was key in developing a strong office environment.”

The move also motioned Jon to get clarity on what the business was really about.

Investing in Learning and Development

“If I were running a company, I would always want to listen to the thoughts of its most talented youngsters, because they are the people most in touch with the realities of today and the prospects for tomorrow.”

- Sir Alex Ferguson

Space 48’s heart is a passion for creating opportunities for others. It’s also a killer growth strategy. By helping young people develop new skills the business in return gains loyal employees and retains the best people.

Jon, an avid united fan, set out to emulate the advice of Sir Alex and focus on youth. He set out to create a graduate programme that trained new developers to bring them up to a level where they could work for his clients. In doing so, he has started to create a foundation of young people fluent in the business’ culture and values who will eventually become its leaders.

This has given Space 48 continuity in terms of people which, in his words: “is the secret to making a business stand out in the long-term.”

Hunting for Ways to Progress

The business’ evolution has gone hand-in-hand with the opportunities Jon and his team have seized.

For example, a couple of years ago Space 48 created an event called Magetitans. Its aim was to educate people on Magento, an e-commerce platform used by the business:

“The idea came about when we were thinking of the format for a new business event. To make it a success, we had to work out what problem this event was trying to solve.

“We looked at our biggest challenges we faced as a business which was recruitment and retention - a problem we overcame through learning and development initiatives. So we decided to focus on creating an educational-style event that would help developers become experts in Magento, an innovative and widely-used e-commerce platform.

“We managed to book ‘celebrities’ in the developers sphere to speak at the event which saw 250 attendees. The whole team worked hard to make it a roaring success. We leveraged our previous training with the legendary Martin Murphy (who we interviewed in last week’s podcast), using the three Cs - connected, collaborative and contributing - to work seamlessly together.”

On the back of its success, Magetitians is now run worldwide: Space 48 has held six conferences around the globe. This has been an enormous step forward in terms of the business’ evolution. It has enabled Jon and his team to break into the global marketplace while enhancing the business’ influence and thought-leadership. Plus, a fantastic opportunity for growth came into fruition thanks to the event.

Acquiring a New Business

During a Magetitians conference, Jon had a chance conversation with one of the event’s speakers. He was the CEO of a well-respected technical agency and was looking for an acquirer.

Jon saw this as a huge opportunity to further the business’ growth, and in November 2017 a deal was made.

For Jon personally, the acquisition process was a huge learning curve, not just practically but on an emotional level:

“You’re buying someone’s business and you have to put yourself in their shoes. They have invested a lot of time and energy into the business so it’s not just about the money. You have to consider and respect their emotional connection to the company to make the process easy and painless for everyone involved.”

In the end, it was a widely successful integration. Jon retained six of the original team members who are now based in the Bath office. But if he were to do it again?

“I would focus more on the culture and the people, thinking about how they are going to gel with our existing business to make collaboration easier and ensure we’re all on the same page.”

“Challenging Ourselves to Achieve More”

Over the past couple of years, Space 48 has taken on new projects to keep the evolutionary clock ticking.

1. Redesigning and resetting the business’ culture: understanding what the business needs to be in the next few years. Setting a new direction and giving clarity to its people to help them align with the company’s future.

2. Technological upgrades: added MAP’s financial reporting system to their arsenal to help the business budget more effectively and mature its financial operations.

3. Enhance brand proposition: in the future, Space 48 will be focused less on websites and more on digital platforms to offer customers real ways to solve business problems vs. simple fixes.

Jon’s main lesson here is to never settle: “business growth is a continual process that requires you to adapt and upgrade your value.”

Final Piece of Wisdom for Entrepreneurs

“Gain clarity, and give clarity to those around you,” says Jon.

He continues: “this means understanding the commitment you’re making, what’s possible and what isn’t. Then you need to share this information with the right people - not just your team but your family and friends (those who want the right thing for you and want to see you be successful). That way, you can move forward with the clarity and support needed to flourish.”

Listen to the Full Interview

Want to hear Jon’s story in its full glory? Then grab a cuppa, get comfy and enjoy our most recent podcast.