Force24 is no stranger to the marketing headlines, but a short while ago we appeared in the national business media too.
Business Quarter (BQ Live) interviews a different MD each week, to learn more about the organisations that are breaking boundaries and doing things a little differently. Recently, it was the turn of our very own Adam Oldfield. If you missed him being quizzed by journalist Aimee Robinson, you can read the write up, in full, here…
- Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I’m the tech industry’s answer to a ‘head chef’. It’s my job to make sure our ‘menu’ befits the requirements of our customers, whilst leading the progression of our team so that they can maintain the high standards that keep our clients exceptionally happy.
I’m also responsible for ensuring we have a financially strong and solvent business that can afford to continually innovate in the fast-paced and fluid world of digital marketing.
- What is it the company does?
Since the company was founded six years ago we’ve invested £1.4m in the development of an intuitive marketing automation platform. Put simply, we enable enterprise clients to create personalised, meaningful and revenue-generating conversations with their customers.
In a sector crowded with American ‘software as a service’ platforms, our intelligent, UK built and managed technology stands out because it’s supported by our very own marketing experts. So, rather than ‘plug’ a client in and leave them to their own devices – one of the reasons why marketing automation can fail – we share our own best practice knowledge and experiences to help ensure clients’ strategies work.
That’s why Force24 is more fondly known as a platform built by marketers, for marketers. In the increasingly faceless world of digital we’re reminding people that humans make cutting-edge tech something special.
- Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started a Leeds-based digital agency in 1999, which encouraged SME clients to adopt a new form of communications – and a new way of thinking. The agency amassed a prolific reputation for building e-commerce applications for brands throughout Yorkshire.
In 2006, I identified a shift in the market, with brands striving to achieve increased efficiency and ROI from their websites. I therefore sold the business to a creative marketing agency, where I was appointed their digital director. It was here that I began to help some of the country’s largest blue-chip companies improve fundamental aspects of their digital offering.
In 2010 I sold my share of that organisation and started Force24 the very same day. I had this incredibly vivid ‘bolt from the blue’ idea and, within minutes I knew what I wanted to call the business, what the product would be and why its proposition would stand out. By the time I got home I was writing a sales presentation – not a business plan – and every slide felt like a no brainer. It was a very surreal few hours and to this day, I still make decisions based on that initial vision.
- What do you believe makes a great leader?
Everyone talks about empowerment. That’s obvious. But I believe a great leader is someone who ensures people feel valued and have a reason to come to work in a morning. It is easy to value a few important individuals, but to truly value everyone, takes real skill.
I think it’s important to lead from the front, set direction and outline the part your team plays moving forward. Respect needs to be gained by talking knowledgably to colleagues about what they do, and conducting further research, where necessary, to have true empathy for their roles. And you need to be willing and able to answer employees’ questions, however tough, so that they know that they can come to you without keeping anything under wraps.
- What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Educating the marketplace. We’re so focused on what we do that we can predict the future further than the average marketer. That’s not intended as an arrogant statement – we spend all day every day building solutions to problems that most marketers don’t know they have yet. But of course, with that, can come a difficult sell.
We tackle this by talking to marketers about the pain points they are currently experiencing, offering advice-led commentary via industry journals and building levels of trust and rapport. We don’t over-sell our platform – some savvy marketers already know they need our help to grow their brands, and others will come to us when the time is right.
- How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I enjoy spending time with family and friends, of course, but when my mind is pre-occupied with the stress of work or long days, I enjoy high-adrenaline sports such as skiing or snowboarding. You become so completely immersed in the moment that no other thoughts can enter your brain.
- When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An airline pilot, and I still do. That’s why I’m doing all of this – to fulfil the dream! If Iron Maiden’s frontman Bruce Dickinson can go on to fly a Boeing 737, there’s time for me yet.
- Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I think you get what you ask for out of life. So, if an employee doesn’t communicate with their manager about their likes and dislikes, that manager can’t be expected to automatically know what makes them tick. I’m a big believer in open, honest communication and encourage my team to approach me whether they’re wholly happy or have a slight concern. That way we can address things that needs resolving and develop each and every person based on their individual wants and drivers. Why leave things left unsaid and rely simply on guesswork?
- Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We have developed a number of tools that will really start to come to the fore as a result of further Google releases due out later this year. I believe this will prove a key catalyst to us widening our client base, in terms of both customer numbers and sectors.
But we’ll also continue to drive our product roadmap forward to ensure existing clients such as JML, Worldpay and Npower, can devise increasingly savvy e-CRM strategies that reap results.
With growth will come new faces within the company, but our HQ will always remain in Leeds. We love our offices at Indigo Blu on the fringe of the city centre (and not just because we’ve got an on-site chef!)
- What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Remember that your entire business is about your employees. Without them, you’ve just got an empty room. It is your team that decide to come together every day to work and, more importantly, work for you. You have to give these brains focus, purpose and a voice, and listen to that voice so that they remain productive, energised and happy. It all comes back to those important individuals feeling valued and acknowledged in their roles – get that right and you’ve nailed half of the challenge!