Growing Your Small Business: The man behind Clock
Syd Nadim, executive chairman and founder of digital agency Clock, reveals the secret behind his business’s successCMI Team
When I was 23, I was made redundant for the second time. I turned to the bank for a loan to fulfil my dream of starting my own business. Unfortunately, our family home had been repossessed when I was younger and, without a job, I had no way of securing the loan. The Prince’s Trust came to the rescue with a £3,000 loan and a £500 grant; that gave me enough to start Clock.
Today, we employ a talented team of nearly 50 people, designing and building websites and mobile apps for clients such as The Times, Wall Street Journal, Sony, the British Film Institute and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Attracting and retaining good people is what building a business is all about. My job is to provide an environment for people to be brilliant.
Most people start businesses because they’re really good at something and think they can do it for themselves. I couldn’t (and still can’t) build websites. And I was a mediocre designer at best. So my main challenge was to get people who could do these better to buy into my dream. I finally managed to get a web design project that enabled me to take on our first employee.
I had little experience working for other companies and no experience of starting and running a business. I had no points of reference for setting up policies or building a culture. I read books and asked people for advice.
I knew that I had to build a business that I would want to work for. I introduced flexible working policies and an early finish on Fridays. We have continued to add new benefits and we detail them on www.littlebookofbenefits.com.
This has made us very attractive as an employer and we have been able to build an exceptionally talented and hard-working team. If you surround yourself with brilliant people, everything else will look after itself.
But to be successful, brilliant people still need to be part of a team – so having a clear and shared vision is essential.
In the early days, I used to talk about being the ‘Best On The Planet’. We still hold our BOTP awards every year to recognise contributions from the team as well as having a bit of fun. It’s a great time to reinforce the vision.
Industry awards aren’t a fool-proof measure of success but they are great to win – and we have won several. However, I’m particularly proud of being recognised as running the best placement programme in the UK at the National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE) awards. Our placement programme has been a resounding success. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s also been responsible for 40% of our team.
There are other indications that we are doing something right: the average number of sick days per employee is 1.7 days against a national average of seven. We have a number of staff who have been with the company for more than ten years. While it’s good to have natural attrition and new talent, it’s also great to show continuity and consistency for clients and to maintain the culture.