The superhero business partners shaping DSL’s growth
The 1st of July 2021 was a big milestone for us as it marked the 30th Anniversary of DSL.
From humble beginnings in 1991, Derek Carpenter founded DSL to serve the emerging market of embedding the power of computing into historically ‘dumb’ devices, giving them a built-in intelligence that has driven forward the way we live in ways previously unimaginable.
Derek grew the company and invested in both the people and tools to make DSL the market leader in industrial computing and electronics it is today, before taking his well-earned retirement in 2017, when I took the helm as DSL’s Managing Director.
The scope of the MD role is very broad; leadership, marketing, sales, HR, finance, and much more, which all involve a specialist level of understanding.
In the early days on my tenure, we managed all of these elements in-house, but unless you are a super human it soon becomes apparent that it’s almost impossible to get the complete set of skills needed to run a business in one MD.
One of the best ways to fill the gap and source all the skills needed for the smooth running of an SME, is to outsource. So, I rolled the dice (in a flicking through the yellow pages kind of way), hired in some agency support and briefed them in what was, in hindsight, a short-sighted “we should probably do this because everyone else seems to do” kind of way.
What transpired was an unconnected approach and a lack of measurable outcomes. As Steve Jobs is quoted as saying: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Our business is in great shape, but we didn’t get here alone
Recognising that I needed some advice, I first turned to Sandler Training in Cambridge, run by Caroline Robinson, who also acts as a business development coach. During my first session, in only one hour I learnt so much about best practice in procedural sales systems and moved from a full but confused sales pipeline – ‘leaving the ball (quote) in the client’s court’ – to a data-driven pipeline with actionable opportunities. I also felt less professionally lonely; as the saying goes “it’s lonely at the top”. Caroline is a trusted advisor, acting as a sounding board and providing insights and practical solutions to high-level challenges.
On Caroline’s recommendation, I then employed the services of Limewash, a Cambridge-based marketing and PR agency. For the first time, we had a thoroughly researched marketing strategy that we can trust to help us get in front of the people we can help that looked in-depth at our business, our audience needs, and the right communications channels for us.
Lewis at Limewash then recommended TU Marketing, a digital agency with skills and integrity. Neil and the team have massively improved our SEO, revitalised our Adwords campaigns and redesigned our entire website to help us drive better brand awareness and lead generation.
Previously supporting IT in-house, or using a lesser company that meant we still needed to support IT in-house, was an internal time-vampire. IT Support company CTM finally enabled us to free our engineering team up from IT support to allow them to focus exclusively on progressing customer design projects. They are flexible, approachable and migrated DSL from servers into the cloud which not only saved us £1000s but enabled the continual smooth running of DSL during COVID when we were all working from home.
Historically, we didn’t use recruitment companies due to the initial expense, but since we’ve changed that thinking we’ve had nothing but stars arrive with us. So, shout out to these particular two companies who found great people for us and offered fantastic level of service along the way: Ellis Mason (who gave us Tom Scott) and Clarity Appointments (who found Susie Brett and Peter Conway).
Last but not least, CRM Insights have reshaped how we work. The team worked with us to replace our inefficient and ineffective old CRM system with a robust system that has revolutionised both our internal processes and our customer experience.
The golden thread
The common-threads running throughout these relationships that each was vouched for by the others; they complement our business as partners, as much as they complement one another; they all work in a similarly collaborative and expert way; and they all provide the right level of challenge back to me. Each has influenced the growth of DSL and I’d like to express my whole-hearted thanks for that.
I’ve managed DSL for a mere 10% of its life but have been here for well over half of it, in my previous role as Sales Manager, and feel well placed to drive the company further forwards in the future. I’m surrounded by a fantastic internal team and bolstered by…what’s the term for a group of superhero business support providers? A helpful horde? A gifted gaggle?
And finally, to the many people and organisations who have recommended us to colleagues and offered encouragement over the years, you know who you are and I want to say thanks to all of you for your support.
Rory Dear, MD, DSL