The Business Owner: Nick Hargreaves, Cloud Employee

The co-founder talks about the importance of quality control and how they achieved fast growth through "content, engagement and referrals"

The Business Owner: Nick Hargreaves, Cloud Employee

Name: Nick Hargreaves
Company: Cloud Employee
Founders: Seb Hall and Nick Hargreaves
Location: London and Manila
Proposition: Cloud Employee was founded in London and specialises in providing english-speaking IT professionals based in the Philippines as a dedicated extension of start-ups and small business development teams. Tapping into Manila’s booming tech scene, Cloud Employee is an essential resource for small and meduim firms looking to scale up quickly, lowering the economic barriers to growth and helping them overcome the IT skills shortage in Britain.
Size: 44

How is your business different from what’s already out there?

Although there are other IT staffing providers in the Philippines most will only service large blue-chip corporates wanting teams of 50 plus, making it very difficult for smaller companies or tech start-ups to gain access. Their only option to access the Phillipines is to use online freelance sites which can be very risky as clients have limited control and guarantees.

We provide complete infrastructure and on-site managers so it’s like smaller clients have set-up their own offices in the Philippines.

How did you finance your business?

We are funded through Angel Investment. The business is a recurring revenue model and already in profit. We are currently exploring VC funding options for 2016.

What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?

Quality control and customer satisfaction. To ensure growth of the business we have regular client feedback forms and run staff appraisals.

What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?

Our constant challenge is to bridge the gap between western small businesses and the Philippines. We have to do this both culturally and technically.

Culturally we have used our years of experience in the Philippines to write manuals and conduct sessions for both new staff and new clients so that they can work effectively together. Technically speaking, our offices in Manila and Cebu are brand spanking new, located in central tech areas and we have installed super high-speed internet on both sites. Our goal is to make it feel as though the client and Cloud Employee are physically working in the same in the office.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

Content, engagement and referrals. We’re always trying to generate interesting, informative and original content that is relevant for our industry – whether that is whitepapers or infographics. Direct engagement with potential new customers, such as small businesses and incubators, and raising awareness of Cloud Employee’s value proposition is the best way to show people why they should do business with us.

Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?

That depends on their respective business models and objectives. No one should export just for exports sake. Exporting means gaining a competitive edge. For example in our case, it means being able to offer 80% lower prices than the average UK IT contractors rates.

Our business model is really to “hire glocally”. The staff we provide to companies may be working from our offices but they are a direct member of the client’s team working exclusively for them which is effectively an in-house team member just situated remotely.

What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?

Skype is essential for our business. There are some great project management tools out there now but I personally like Trello which is very simple and Jing which is also a great tool we recommend to new clients.

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

Diverse, dedicated and flexible.

What would you like the government to do for small business?

Offer more training and support on the ground for small businesses and flexible tax schemes to give the incentive to home grow more talent.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

I would identify slack as an obvious answer to your question. The team collaboration tool launched in August 2013 as an internal tool used in the development of a now defunct online game is literally dominating the industry.  I think it’s one of the future unicorns to keep an eye on.

Where do you want the business to be in three years?

Connectedness through smartphones, the Internet and software will continue to evolve so the IT workplace will also continue to do so. Our goal is to make overseas staffing accessible to everybody by bridging the gap in a secure and professional way. Our aim is to grow to over 250 full-time dedicated technical staff working with western-based companies in the next few years.

What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?

Constantly look at your revenues and costs. Spend only when you are sure it will improve the business and generate more income.

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