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How to balance growth with being a great place to work

Launching in 2019, iplicit has been centred around building and developing talent, and hiring the best people, from Edinburgh to Exeter and internationally. With a focus on staff who appreciate not having to commute, not being micro-managed and being empowered to produce results – just how did they become one of the best places to work?

As far as we’re concerned, the two go hand in hand; without creating a fantastic work environment, hypergrowth would be highly unlikely. Equally, winning is addictive; it creates an electric atmosphere throughout the organisation, which feeds positivity and commitment to the cause – a virtuous spiral upwards for iplicit. We wouldn’t have been able to build this hypergrowth business without the high-trust, remote-first culture that we have. There’s no question of a “return to the office” mandate because for most of the team, there’s no office to return to!

Our business launched in 2019, with the goal of disrupting the world of mid-market accounting software that is dominated by legacy Sage installations.  Our journey is often compared to how Netflix disrupted a landscape dominated by Blockbuster.

Then came Covid. The first month of the first lockdown saw us wondering how our 20 staff could survive. In the second month, we realised: not only was this a significant opportunity for anyone offering cloud services, but we would be able to build a business unlike those of our competitors. Lockdown presented an opportunity for us to truly thrive.

Pre-lockdown, it was expected that all sales presentations would be in person, and deploying our software typically meant having staff on site for at least 15 days. Suddenly, everything shifted, and customers expected everything to be done remotely.

We could now build an organisation centred around the talent. We could hire the best people, from Edinburgh to Exeter and internationally. Time zones now mattered, as opposed to geography. Our ability to recruit experienced candidates rapidly enabled us to expand at a pace we’d never have expected with a traditional model.

We’ve focused on staff who really appreciate not having to commute, not being micro-managed and being empowered to produce results. We’re not concerned with where a member of staff is on, say, Tuesday at 11am. We focus on what’s been achieved by Friday evening – measuring outputs, not inputs.

Remote working has led us to focus even more on staff happiness, morale and communication. We obsess about these things because they obviously need attention, whereas when most staff are in an office, there’s a danger of taking too much for granted. 

The bedrock of the employee experience at iplicit is a comprehensive onboarding programme that empowers staff to do the job but also involves them in the core strategy. Every employee understands the Purpose, Vision and Mission of the organisation – what it’s trying to achieve in the marketplace and how their work will contribute to the overarching success of the organisation.

Staff get together in summer and at Christmas for an update on the company’s North Stars, followed by team activities and a social event. Regional socials happen between those dates. In-person time is focused on four things – Purpose, Vision, Mission and Fun – the lifeblood of the company. 

Kudos Corner sees staff nominate colleagues for recognition each month – and twice a year, the iplicit Rock Star Award sees £1,000 handed to an employee nominated by their colleagues. 

An HMRC-approved EMI share scheme provides an opportunity for all of our now 105 staff to benefit when we achieve our vision of displacing Sage in the marketplace as the dominant provider of mid-market accounting software. Staff have Vitality health policies, providing private medical insurance and offering incentives for healthy living.

While the benefits are a bonus, the most important reason we have such a motivated team is that we all believe in what we are setting out to achieve – our Purpose, Vision and Mission join us together, far tighter than a fancy office could. We train people, provide focus, empower them and then get out of their way. 

The results have been stunning. We were 18th among UK firms in the FT1000 list of Europe’s fastest-growing businesses, as well as being in the top 10 medium-sized organisations in the Sunday Times Best Places to Work survey. We are on track for 2024 to be the sixth consecutive year of 100%-plus growth. 

I’ve built and scaled seven businesses over a 35-year period, while our chairman has done so repeatedly for over half a century. iplicit is unique for both of us; we’ve created a distributed organisation that is both tighter and more coherent than many teams I’ve worked with that were sitting next to each other!

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