AGM 2023 – 14th November

Here are the notes from our 2023 AGM. Attendees: Ben Atherton, Dominic Cooper, Richard Wain, Kit Connell, Trevor Meadows.

Article Info

April 18, 2024 9 mins

Finance

We started by discussing finances. Profits were down on last year because of our agency partnership work. The previous year we solved a recruitment problem for a big agency by outsourcing development resource (Ben) at our day rate. 

We decide to run through our revenue streams, which break down something like this: About 25% partnerships, tribe 50%,  projects 15%, hosting & support 10%.

Agency partnerships

We work with national agencies when they have an overflow. This work comes from Tenders. They can’t be sure when they are going to drop and in what quantity.

Why do they choose us?

  • Expertise
  • Recruitment/resource issue
  • Feast and famine (they have won more work than they can handle)
  • We are a preferable supplier as we are on frameworks (insurances etc..) IR35 is in our favour
  • Work comes from Tenders, need to have done it before to win it and these bigger agencies have a headstart on us 

Kit asked if we have partnered with anyone or got a supplier to win more? We have just invested in Advice cloud – industry specific advice, team of consultants helping us with our Gov framework documentation and writing.

Trevor suggests we sell technical competence first and reverse engineer the other services as upsell.

The Tribe

Tribe is half our revenue. 

Our top-end clients have a marketing dept who need our skills. We are valuable as the wages to source the expertise is well beyond their needs ie a developer at 40k a year. However, they can access ours as part of a retainer each month.

The small end clients are harder, they want results, don’t get the journey and often can’t engage with the strategic thinking. There is more churn here, so we then asked what makes the right small-end tribe client?

  • The right approach to marketing
  • Prioritises us, understands their purpose

It looks easy to oversell the tech as a need, however what we have seen in the industry over the last 10-15years is less dependence on technical over time as systems have become better and easier to setup and use, hence the tribe growth.

Perhaps we sell expertise not tech.

Hosting

Hosting is worth maybe 10k profit for very little work. We’re expensive but personal unlike your 123 reg’s that offer a stack it high sell it cheap approach with support in India and a fairly ropey service.

These are an easy way to add revenue but are low end clients, expectations must be in the right place otherwise they expect the service of tribe client included within their hosting package. The difference between spending £25/month and £2k.

We vet new hosting clients for the potential to be a tribe client, or get us and where they are.

Trevor suggests we could explore pushing this further with the correct language. We discuss bundling options together like IT and office apps, which moves us closer to an IT company. 

We could explore being a reseller for Google or microsoft and set up a one stop shop with our hosting.

Projects

The rest is project work, these are not websites for Tribe clients, we would classify project work for them under tribe. They are often local, small business who spend around 10k for a new brand and website.

Content is an issue, Dom now pricing with that included for them to pull out, rather than add on later which they dont like doing even it makes no sense not to.

Trevor asks why we can’t communicate the value content in relation to the benefit of growing sales. We don’t have a strong sales voice for this, clients have a fixed standpoint of the budget even if a nominal fee would get it over the line. Dom says he now prices with it being something to take out.

Ben says design feedback loops can be slow with agency partnerships. Trevor says perhaps have a specific planning meeting to communicate this.

We moved on to cost of sales…

Cost of Sales

Subcontract has been the main swing over the past couple of years, recruitment historically hasn’t worked with young people moving on once trained.

Trevor asked what do we want from them? Diversity, dynamism, new thinking.

He suggested we approach technically competent students on a gap year. There may be grants training, speak to Unis. 

Turnover target this year: £350k

Team satisfaction

Ben says he is thrown all sorts from everyone leaving him stretched for time for volunteer days. Can we enforce the internal stuff. Partner agencies do a 4 day week day with the 5th on the business tasks. Trevor suggests Ben reads 4000 weeks.

Lack of engagement with volunteer days, Kit suggest we do mandatory team bonding day instead of volunteer days. We have a highly skilled team, how can we utilise that to have a greater impact for charities?

Ben suggests we are more disciplined with clients. Ciara broom books out development time, if the client isn’t ready, we stop and there’s a restart fee. 

Trevor says we could overcharge and discount for producing content early and  he has loads of princes trust kids that could fill our workshops.

Happiness measurement, Kit asks how we get it, we survey the team every 6 months, share staff survey with Kit to review.

Trevor asks about the dream…

Richard says it’s about small business going beyond revenue. We are helping create a community of businesses to do better business by thinking about factors that arent just economic.

Dom lights up when he gets people thinking differently about how they communicate their organisation and “getting” marketing, this creates an organisation of purpose, the Tribe is trying to create them and thread them together.

Trevor asks Ben is it easier to be engaged when you hear that? Ben agrees.

Kit is interested in how we can build in sustainable onboarding and these practices into our products. We have included in branding and looking at adding to our workshops next to encourage different thinking.

He says theres a B leader course about £600, and the Impact report design is a nice document, we should sell as a service. 

We will need to align our content with our new processes.

Kit has some thoughts on the layout of the Impact report doc, start with the mission visions and values, put volunteer days into hours, be explicit about how we reduce by 60%.

Environmental

Ben suggests we track business travel mileage for train after a recent event he attended. It can be put through as an expense and will be tracked if done.

Impact Report

Kit says 58.8% absolute carbon reduction as the headline figure. What has been measured for this? Net zero aim year is optimistic perhaps aim for operational net zero?

He says could we have actual numbers next to percentages in the report, and are our clients doing something social/environmental? Explain this bit better.

Trevor asks if we adopt a stance to not work with people who meet our standards, Richard suggests if we do that we can’t create the change we are looking for in the world.

Acknowledgement of a political message, that creating business communities that prioritise social and environmental purpose will turn some on and others off.

Offshore

We stand against shipping work offshore, despite the UK sending billions of pounds that way. We feel the main reason people do this is economic and the only way to vet this against slavery has a disproportionate environmental impact.

We discussed the cultural assumptions and language and that if you buy cheap, buy twice. This is perhaps a missed message currently.

Contributions

The volunteer budget has passed Ben by, and perhaps others in the team.

Kit asked how did we choose the ones we support? The priority is towards the organisations that are supported by 1% for the planet.

Hosting 

Kit says cloud hosting is responsible for 6-8% of global emissions. Can we look at tools to work out our hosting platform, we have only just started this but we have a plan to reduce the storage on websites considerably. 

We discussed the website project process could also be emissions focussed, with questions asked along the way to make sustainable choices.

Client satisfaction

Kit suggests the good clients in the impact report could be clearer, and we need to get their stories out there. Trevor agrees we are on the journey, get it out there and  take your clients with you.

The PNN is currently how we are doing that, we could include Vu clients and tell them.  We’re building friendships and trust, who would you rather do business with?

Dom mentioned the plan for next year to lay out a calendar of events supporting various social and environmental causes. Kit says get HR and marketing depts along under the umbrella of networking and team building or join their events as a collab.

Trevor says cooking and socialising is fundamental to people, perhaps we could bring this into the events.

Trevor – Distractions

Trevor listed 30 important things we shared and highlighted that we should agree and focus on 5 – treating the others as a dangerous distraction that we are kind of interested in.

We defined: Purpose, problem solving, creativity, local economy, relationships

Next steps

We got to the end. And all of us wanted to know how does this work? We don’t know yet. We need to get the notes and set some actions, then non-execs can review with a plan. Trevor feels we need to check in more frequently than annually.

Actions

  • Everyone – review the notes and make suggestions for improvement
  • Dom to share policies around
  • Dom & Richard to review service offering with a view to building sustainability options into it
  • Dom & Richard to explore 1 stop office package with hosting
  • Dom & Richard to consider content issues in delivery, flip to content included? Specific meeting to plan?
  • Dom & Richard to explore gap year students for resource
  • Dom & Richard to look at 4 day week with 5th non client facing
  • Ben to read 4000 weeks
  • Dom & Richard to reshape volunteer days as mandatory team building days
  • Dom & Richard to explore how we can volunteer our skillset to organisations and add more value
  • Dom & Richard to explore diarising dev time, with paid penalties
  • Dom to share staff survey with Kit
  • Dom to update the impact report in line with Kits suggestions
  • Dom & Richard to look at better communicating “keeping it on our shores”
  • Dom & Richard to look at how to include current clients better in the sustainable journey
  • Dom & Richard to explore HR and marketing depts from a team building and networking angle for the PNN (sponsorship for PNN too)

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