In business, we all thrive on success. But success doesn’t happen overnight. Invariably, it is built through talent, hard work, collaboration, drive and passion; things that Bristol-based CRM agency Armadillo knows all about. This story documents their journey. A journey that we at Steele Raymond are incredibly proud to be a part of.
From their origins in traditional direct marketing, Armadillo’s leadership team recognised that key decisions needed to be made to ensure that the business continued to evolve within a rapidly changing industry.
Pivotal business decisions are never easy and, with a great deal in the balance, can never be taken lightly. As was exemplified by Armadillo CEO James Ray, who reflected on the position he and the board found themselves in:
“I don’t think there was ever a point where we realised things needed to change; I think it was the evolution of the industry. [We] saw an opportunity to take the business forward, further and faster.”
“It was double or quits time; either take this business forward to somewhere different, or take a different path.”
Chris Thurling, Executive Chairman at Armadillo, echoed James’ sentiment, saying:
“We wanted to inject a bit of momentum [and] a bit of ambition to get the company on to the next level. Things need to be moving forward and people want to be in an exciting and dynamic environment where they’ve got different stuff to work on, and they can learn new things.”
A core part of Armadillos transformation took the form of a management buyout in 2018. Steele Raymond Managing Partner, Peter Rolph, helped guide the agency’s leadership through the process:
“Things like management buyouts are always incredibly stressful for those who are involved. They are putting their own money into the pot; they’re developing their own business.”
“Helping people through that transition and then subsequently helping them to grow their business is very important. We’ve worked very hard with [Armadillo] to make sure that their commercial objectives are met, and they’re protected – in the commercial sense – from any issues which may arise in the future.”
Operating within a workspace which supported Armadillo’s goals for collaborative working was another item high-up on the board’s agenda. Their old office, although favourably located, presented some barriers to this, as was explained by Armadillo CFO, Andy Brown:
“The building we were in in Bath was in a fantastic location, and it was a beautiful building, but it was split across a number of floors and we felt that that wasn’t facilitating collaboration between teams as much as we would have liked and it made the business quite fragmented.
“There was a lot that we felt Bristol could offer us and when we found the offices that we are in now it was an easy decision to make.”
“It wasn’t an easy transaction and there were a lot of documents to go through [but] it is always our role to protect the client and to make sure that they understand what their obligations are going to be.
“Clients are always enthusiastic about finding new premises and particularly so in this transaction, where they’re wanting to expand their business and moving into these premises was key to that.”
With the management buyout complete and a major office move finalised, the team at Armadillo had made some significant strides towards their ultimate goal of transforming and adapting the business. However, due to the ever-changing technological landscape and the fast-paced industry in which they operate, the board identified a requirement for some additional technical expertise.
This realisation led Chris Thurling to contact Ann Hiatt via Twitter, as was explained by Ann herself:
“I was still working at Google at the time and I came to the Google London office a few months later. So, he [Chris] asked me if I would be interested in joining the board; but Chris explained to me that what they were really looking for was some diversity on their board in addition to bringing in some more technical expertise.”
Now, with the building blocks firmly in place, the future planning never ceases for Armadillo’s leaders. They have brought a group of people together and have successfully aligned them behind a common goal and a solid company culture.
In looking to the future, CFO Andy Brown, said:
“Further down the line we are looking at making sure that, as we’ve got a beautifully diverse city that we’re trading in, we have a broader range of experiences that people can draw on, a better reflection of society in our workplace, so that we are more informed.”
In closing, Chris Thurling, said:
“The reason I think Armadillo has survived for almost three decades and has retained clients for such a long period of time is that it has not got distracted.
“It has kept a laser-like focus on what its customers want and delivered for them, and, if you do good work, customers will come back, and customers will refer you to other people. It’s kind of as simple as that.”
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