Mark Slocock, CEO of GPMD tells us about strategy, design, and development services during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mark Slocock: We’re doing well. My wife is a nurse and she works in intensive care, so she’s had a challenging year. She’s been working a lot, but all things considered, we have coped pretty well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GPMD.
Mark Slocock: I studied computer science at university and after graduating, I persuaded my best friend to set up a digital agency with me. We started off by building and creating our own e-commerce software from scratch. We ran our own e-commerce sites, which worked and were pretty successful actually, although we didn’t realize it at the time. We did that for 7-8 years until my best friend had to leave the agency to run his family business. I was left with a choice: Did I want to stay on the agency side or become a retailer or an e-commerce platform? I chose the agency side because I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and working with them to solve their problems.
By 2008, we started focusing more and more on the e-commerce vertical. In that time, we grew the agency and now have a team that’s very focused and experienced in delivering e-commerce websites for retailers to enable their growth. The evolution of GPMD has been ongoing, but our core values have stayed the same – we really want to understand our clients’ businesses and help them achieve what they want to achieve. I feel passionate that this is our role and that’s what I enjoy doing. All in all, we’ve been very lucky to have established long-term relationships with really great clients.
How does GPMD innovate?
Mark Slocock: Innovation is a big part of what we do and always has been. As an agency, we feel very strongly that we need to be moving forward, constantly improving what we do, constantly changing, constantly looking for new approaches or trends, and seeing if these gain traction. We have a clearly defined process for innovation and a team working on these types of projects. We take things that we haven’t done before and give them to our innovation team, which has some exceptionally experienced developers, product owners, and consultants in it. We can then deliver projects more efficiently because we have a strong foundation that does 80-90% of what the client’s looking for. We customize on top of that. That means that we deliver better code. We deliver better projects for less time and ultimately money and we’re continuously learning and trying to improve. That’s one of our big focuses this year – how we innovate within and evolve the agency to the next level.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Mark Slocock: We’ve been quite lucky as a business. We had a bit of a dip initially when the lockdown measures first came into play in March 2020 – everyone was a bit nervous and putting their projects on hold. However, it quickly became clear to everybody that e-commerce is going to be one of the winners in this scenario, achieving up to 10 years of growth in one year. At GPMD, we’ve had a lot of work with our existing clients and new projects coming in.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Mark Slocock: When the pandemic started, we had to make some difficult choices. We had to make some cuts on a temporary basis and I was very happy with the response. I am privileged and lucky to have a great team of people, who looked at what they were able to do and supported the company. It’s amazing that we had a team like that that was able to help us in that way.
We’ve since been investing in our people and hiring more people. We haven’t had to make difficult decisions in terms of how to manage a cutback. We’ve made difficult decisions on how to hire the right people.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Mark Slocock: Since starting the agency in 1999, my team and I have continuously focused on how we work with our clients and how we can establish even better relationships. How can we deliver more to them? How can we provide value? We’ve always worked this way and are in constant communication with our clients. This was very important during that initial lockdown period and that’s continued. We haven’t made any major changes because of COVID-19, we’ve just naturally been working on and improving how we work with our clients. We use ASANA as our project management system. Currently, we use Slack internally but are looking to use the tool with our clients as well, to improve the lines of communication and increase efficiency.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Mark Slocock: We took advantage of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan, and that’s been very helpful and seen us through. Although we would have survived without the loan, it certainly allowed us to focus on expanding our business and investing more. I would hope that, if there are offers like this loan, that businesses can take advantage of them, to make sure there’s confidence in the market and that people keep investing. That’s how you keep the economy going. I would hope that this helps in some way towards balancing out those industries that have really suffered in this.
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