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Now, where did the last 10 years go?

10 OCT
brightfive people

I really can’t believe that it’s brightfive’s 10th birthday this week. It’s been a decade since Simon and I left our previous jobs, quickly wrote a business plan and put on our best suits to charm York’s banks into opening a business account and a giving us a (very small) line of credit.

At 25 I already had 8 years’ of industry experience under my belt (alumni of University of Life and all that) but what we knew about running a business somewhat limited. We quickly armed ourselves with books on small business accounting and running a business, held our breath and jumped right in.

After initially setting up in a tiny room in a shared office, we made friends with the lovely folks at York Business Advice Centre, who offered us subsidised rent on one of their offices as we were a ‘young business’. This really helped us get off the ground (even if the office was little more than a glorified garage) and allowed us to house a team of 5 in relative comfort at an affordable cost.

We quickly realised that building a business is so much more than just producing great work (which really should be a given). There are new challenges every day, particularly in those early years. Budgeting, client management, navigating the VAT, corporation tax & PAYE mazes, balancing the books at the end of every month and hoping we could pay ourselves before our mortgage payment was due loomed large in our minds. Scary but thrilling - I remember fondly getting our first cheque (from the Duke of Northumberland no less) and considering framing it, before realising that, actually, we really needed the money!

Since then things have changed enormously. We have expanded slowly and steadily, ever fearful of the trap growing too fast and drowning in overhead. We employed our first team member in 2004 (big shout out to James Hall, who was 17 at the time with a brain the size of a planet and floppy emo hair) and are now a team of 6 permanent and 3 regular freelancer staff. James, Si, Jamie, Ellie, Sophie, Martin, James and Tom have all brought talent, commitment and warmth to the business and have taken us from being 2 young people, passionate about their work (but essentially just a couple bickering in a tiny room), to a ‘proper’ business.

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Running a team is a huge responsibility and one of the areas that I feel has challenged and grown me the most. As a small, busy company it is essential that our people are happy. Their problems become our problems, but equally, their joys are shared with us too. We don’t expect our team to put work before everything else - partners and family are always going to come first (and so they should) so we do our best to be mindful of this. So many companies are quick to call themselves ‘family businesses’ and a ‘fun place to work’ so I’m wary of the cliche, but in all honestly I’ve come to learn that the people we work with are the lifeblood of our business (darn it, cliche alert!). I’ve been thinking a lot lately about work ethic and I’ve found this poster which I think really encapsulates how a good team should work. ‘Work hard and be nice to people’ sums it up perfectly for me. It is now hung in the office to remind us how simple it really is to keep our clients and ourselves happy at work.

It would be remiss of me not to mention our brilliant, loyal clients - without whom we’d just be a load of twits in a room twiddling our thumbs. We are lucky enough to work with some truly brilliant companies, who have shown us loyalty and friendship over the years as we’ve built mutually fruitful partnerships. It’s thanks to these people that we have been able to work on exciting projects, go to amazing places and frankly, that we’re still here after a decade which seems to have mainly been in recession. You know who you are, we try to thank you regularly and hope you know how much we truly appreciate you.

So, ten years on, where are we now? We have recently moved into our fifth office space, we are looking to recruit again in the next six months, our books are nicely busy with some really cool projects and honestly, things aren’t scary anymore. As we’ve grown in size, capability and expertise, I feel I’ve grown into the role of company director/boss/account manager. I now know who brightfive is: what we stand for, how we do things, our ‘tone of voice’. I’m proud of who we’ve become...and not having to worry about making our mortgage payment each month is certainly a most welcome change!