As 2022 draws to a close, it's that time of year for my annual sign-off.
Like many business owners, I'm guilty of spending too much time in the business rather than on it. So it's nice to have the opportunity to share what we've been up to over the last twelve months and also for me to stop for a few brief moments and reflect upon so much of the great work we've accomplished.
GEL's Christmas day out at Reading's Winter Wonderland.
We had a few new members of the team join us this year.
To meet the demands for our Marketing services, Max joined us in February, and then later in the year Jeanne and Phil too.
Jeanne's talent at photography has been a welcome addition to the services that we offer and perfectly complements not just our marketing, but graphic and website design services too. I must say that seeing some of Jeanne's work appear in my social feed and on the work we do has been one of my highlights this year. I've always been rather fussy when it's come to photography and how it's used, so it's safe to say that she's got it just right from the very first day!
An exciting new role for GEL Studios was the Studio Manager. This was filled by Gemma, and she has already made a massive contribution to the business. As we grow, I know that I want to have a dedicated account manager role, but for that to happen, releasing some of Katie's time is vital. We're still formulating the details about what an account manager would look like for us, however, it's clear that Katie is just the lady for the job. I'll be working closely with Katie over the coming months to scope the role to the business alongside her personal goals/career path. This approach of making roles aligned with employees is something I'm really proud that we're able to do at GEL Studios.
This year hiring was done somewhat differently, mainly because I had nothing to do with it! The roles we were filling were of no direct report to myself, so seeing this as an opportunity, I tasked Lewis and Katie with the job of having complete sign-off with who we recruited. Seeing them both not only deal with the recruitment process but also decide who we should hire aligned with our values, was a pleasure to behold. Well done to both of you.
We said goodbye to Max in November as he took the next step in his career in digital marketing. Max if you're reading this, it was a pleasure to have you in the team, your work, efforts and 'choccy milk' were greatly appreciated. I wish you all the best for the future.
Also leaving us this year was Justin. All the best in your career moving forwards! I'll be sure to give you a call the next time I do some office Biltong!
Some of our team members and Duncan Battishill representing GEL at the 2022 South West Business Awards.
Our approach to sales.
In the summer the Leadership Team began working on a sales training plan spanning this year and next. The reason for this was because my belief that we can't just 'hire' someone to do sales.
What we've experienced through the feedback from our clients, is that with past suppliers a great relationship is struck and promises are made - then when it comes to delivering it falls short.
I believe that inside GEL Studios we are all experts in our own respective fields. So, wouldn't it make sense for the people doing the work, to be making those promises? It's because of this belief, that I've invested heavily in the leadership team to bring this to life. We're six months into the process and already the difference is clear. Not only to sales but how we work as a Leadership Team. I must say a public thank you to Duncan Battishill from Altrix Consultants for all your work so far.
Lots changed in 2022 and I do mean lots. So, I'm just going to list them out as they come to the front of my mind.
- Rate changes. In December we increased our rates for the first time in almost three years. I'm proud that we have been able to maintain our rates through the past few years to provide certainty to the many clients that we have served, however, the time had come. The new rate better reflects not only the value that we bring, but also allows us to do more of one very important thing - time to think and explore.
- CSAT. We've introduced customer satisfaction software to shift to a much more proactive way of seeing how we're doing. I'm very pleased to report that in the six months we've been doing CSAT, we have a Net Promoter Score of 85. The industry average for our sector is 60!
- Officevibe. Using CSAT for our clients, I wanted to give the team the same ability to feedback too. This allows any member of the team to leave feedback anonymously, and I can use that feedback to structure ongoing 1-1s and create immediate change. I would highly recommend anyone that wants honest and genuine feedback from their team members to at least try Officevibe!
- AXA private health care. I've wanted to do this for years, and now I have. All employees of GEL Studios, along with their immediate partner, and children, have best-in-class AXA private health care for free.
- Support. For years, I've tried to find the perfect balance of offering ongoing support to our clients, whilst trying to keep it a service that we could sustain. In March, fundamental changes were made to no longer offer free support. After an initial period of re-establishing expectations with people that needed support, I'm pleased to say that the changes have been a great success. Tickets are now solved faster than ever, with fewer re-opens, and coupled with the CSAT that we implemented, we know we're doing a great job! I must take this time to make a public thank you to our very own support 'king' Jamie! Great work on manning the desk, helping everyone that needs it, and most importantly, always having a smile on your face whilst you do it!
- Simplified CRM & invoicing. Katie and I have spent a great deal of time this year simplifying our CRM system to ensure that it works for anything that we do. Previously we've seen our CRM become a little bit too complicated for its own good, with separate flows for things like print and development work. From a position of confidence in how we work, we've set the standard for how we want a system to work for us. The end result of this work is our billing system, Xero. I'm pleased to say that a year-long piece of work has now finished and our CRM to invoicing solution is now fully automated saving Katie and Gemma countless hours every month.
Force for good.
Our commitment to doing good has been stronger this year than any other, once again we've done so much great work for good causes that I'll list them out as they come to the front of my mind!
- Footy Marathon 2022. We financed the football tournament which raised in excess of £7000 for British-Ukrainian Aid which provides food and vital medical supplies to children and adults who have become victims of the war and conflict.
- Work experience for the Platform Project. We had Jamie on site with us for several months, learning valuable skills to assist him in getting a job.
- Doctor Strange private screening. We held a private screening and raised over £500 for Hannah at Thames Hospice's Camino de Santiago trek.
- Swindon Sisters Alliance. Their website was launched, and we continue to help with various visual elements to support their great cause.
- Festival of Tomorrow. We've donated an entire website to help this amazing event have an online shop window to promote not only the festival but serve as a source of information for events past.
- Swindon Town Women FC. We're donating time to create their brand, website, graphics and so much more. As Carly used to play for them, we see this as a great opportunity to help promote the beautiful game of Women's football!
- Plus much more! We've held an open door policy for anyone that wants assistance, and I can't even begin to count all the meetings, conversations or little bits of work here and there that we've just 'done' to help.
Helping others is a fundamental part of who we are, and as we grow, so does our commitment to giving back.
Earlier this year, I embarked on the Government's Help To Grow scheme. An outcome of that was an updated vision statement for GEL Studios that I would like to publicly share for the first time.
"Inspiring change through creativity".
We help others, no questions asked. We provide solutions, peace of mind and emotional comfort through compassion, empathy, the sharing of knowledge, and expertise.
Every day provides us with new opportunities to inspire others, and ourselves. We create lasting change with meaning and purpose, from a place of deep understanding, honesty, and creativity.
We help, we provide, we inspire, and we create. WeAreGEL.
Next year we'll be going into great depth to promote our vision, with real examples of what we do to back it all up.
2023 is looking like a very exciting year for us, and it all starts with our home.
We're not moving far - just up the road.
We love where we are in South Marston, so when discussions started about units 2 and 3 becoming available, I was already sold.
We're aiming to be in by April 2023, and our new space is roughly a third bigger than both of our current units combined. So no more running between units for meetings when it's raining!
With a farmhouse style, 18ft high vaulted ceilings, and lots of cool spaces create in - it's brimming with character, and will be our home for at least the next 5 years. To help us with understanding this somewhat quirky space, we've enlisted the help of Debbie Watts of Ashlar ID. Debbie is well known for her input into the Swindon Carriage Works, so we know we're in good hands. Debbie, I look forward to working alongside you in the coming months!
Account Manager/Project Manager.
As mentioned earlier, the Studio Manager role was made to enable Katie to have more capacity to do more traditional account/project management tasks, however, I don't want to stop there.
I won't go into the details now (maybe in my 2023 recap) but in short (and in its most simplistic terms) I'd like to do two things:
- Deliver best-in-class service to our clients by ensuring they continually get the very best of 'us', and
- Ensure all projects are on track and identify opportunities where we can add more value.
It's clear to me that as we grow, more resources will be needed for each of the points above, and my attitude to that is 'let's do this now, and start being even better!'.
I would like to mention Katie at this point. All-round office star, and wearer of many hats. You've done a fantastic job of the account/project management tasks to date, we wouldn't be where we are now if it wasn't for your continual hard work. Thank you! I look forward to carving out your new client/account-focused role with you moving forwards.
Working on the right things, with the right people.
Having work is great, however, working on things that make a difference, that's what inspires us. We're going to be doing more of that moving forward.
We've had many meetings about pieces of work we should or maybe shouldn't have done over the past years. Be it for timescales too short, brief too vague, or even down to the client who simply wants us to "do". We're going to be listening to our peers moving forwards, and what we work with, and with whom, will be a joint decision.
Ultimately, we want to work on things that motivate us, make an impact, and most importantly is a collaborative effort. More of all that please!
I'm immensely proud of all that we've achieved this year. Everyone in the team has contributed and it's clear for all to see. We're doing more great work, for amazing clients, and we're contributing towards causes that create lasting change.
To everyone in GEL Studios, I thank you. Without you, we wouldn't be able to be doing all these great things - and having a great time doing it too!
To our clients, thank you for your continued custom and support, I look forward to taking this journey into 2023 and beyond with you.
Hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and New Year with your friends, family and loved ones.