Newicon 5 year plan update

An update from Steve on Newicon's performance and plans for the future

Steve O'Brien

Founder & CEO
·10 min read (2683 words)

A message I recently posted to the team:

Hello newicon team!

Last Friday (20th May) I raised an invoice that pushed us over the £1 million turnover mark! Huzzah!

I'd just like to thank everyone for all their hard work so far this year! Also thanks for being team newicon and getting us this far. 

This also calls for an overdue update on the company: grab a cuppa (or two it's long) and read on!

The plan

To recap on the financial growth plan:
Our turnover goals over the next years:


This represents 40% growth year on year.

We finished up August 31st 2021 at £990,260.42 ✅ 
Now as of 20/05/2022 we have achieved a turnover of £1,024,032.76.
We have 3 months until our 31st of August year end.  So we are aiming to do another £400,000 before the year is done. It looks like we might achieve that! 🤞

Our target for year 2 is £1.33M but we are now aiming for £1.4M.

More than just turnover

For general growth turnover is a great yard stick, it's one of the key business ones they always go on about on Dragons Den. Turnover is a good measure of the value pumping through the company.  Of course you can be a 5 million turnover business and still lose money! In that respect we want to aim to have a profit margin at about 20% which we will then use to invest in the team, improve our services, and keep suitable cash reserves to whether any storms.

Of course there are many other things we must measure and keep track of in order to achieve this growth some of the critical areas:

Leads - If leads dry up, we won't grow. 
Team - If we all get overworked, bored, grumpy, and don't enjoy work, we won't grow.
Cash - If we run out of cash, we won't grow.
Delivery - If we don't deliver good work, and make happy customers, we won't grow.

Part of growing means deeper and smarter work in all those areas and we have started to introduce KPI's to help us monitor and improve. I'll go into that in a bit more detail below as well as give a whistle stop tour of some of things happening.

Leads: Marketing

Working with George, Ollie and Mark to create a lead generation engine. None of this works without juicy leads coming in 👀
Leads from referrals, networking and events, partnerships and our online marketing activity.
A lot of this is down to communicating and educating what we can do, what impressive work we have done, and what we are good at.  As well as being consistent with our events and educational material. Many people are still shocked when I go into depth on some of the technical aspects of our projects.  So we have a lot more work to do here. We can all help here by engaging with social posts and knowing our key messages to communicate should random conversations startup.
We have started to track our monthly marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads and the team will be doing more work in this area in the coming months.


Officevibe - we have implemented Officevibe to make sure we are not all burning out and we all keep newicon a great friendly and fun place to work.  We review this every month and recently with our business advisors, all results are anonymous. The engagement is pretty low right now - only 33%.  This is a good opportunity to suggest improvements or ideas and help us all move forward and solve any concerns before they become issues. So if you have not done it yet please do take the time to complete the questions it asks.

Office vibe tracks loads of metrics from Happiness to Recognition. A key growth indicator for us is the eNPS which tracks how likely we are to recommend newicon as a place to work. We had an eNPS score of 32 but its tracked down to 26 recently - this is still in the "very good" category but it would be nice to get this back up. If you would recommend newicon as a place to work and have not completed the survey yet then please do.  Also, if you wouldn't, then please also fill in the survey and tell us why so we can start to do something about it!

Our happiness and job satisfaction metrics are industry beating. (Officevibe shows standard scores across industries and job types).  We can do a deep dive into this in another post.

An Office - For those that have not heard, we have put our name forward for a Bristol office practically next door to the hippodrome! Hard to get more central than that. It's a great space with super old charm and bright light office space across two floors. Each floor with its own decent size meeting room. We have put in to have both floors and basically have the whole building.  This means we also get the basement thrown in and we will be able to do what we want with the communal areas. There is also a quirky corner loft space - (a meditation / chill / prayer / nursing room perhaps?)  and a 430 sq ft basement - for a bar / recording studio / VR room / bike store?  Hopefully we can make the space our own and have some fun with it.  I remember jotting down luxury things I'd desire in an office, one was a great space to run collaborative workshops, the other was to have a demo space to show off our work in lights and a device lab to experiment with different devices and cutting edge usability techniques and technology.  Without forgetting to also have some space to do our deep work.  It seems we might be able to get all that we wished for! 🤞Thanks to Ollie and Mark for spotting this and pushing it through.

We will of course still support remote working. I imagine we will adopt a more fluid hot desk style arrangement.

Culture and recruitment - We are working with Theresa who is a HR/Culture/People consultant.
Recommended by our business advisors (Pete and Spencer - who literally wrote the book on agencies - Agencynomics).  She is going to help us recruit a people & culture person (title is a work in progress.  Then she will work with that person to set up some systems around our own recruitment.  We need to be constantly recruiting and finding the best people possible to join the ranks as well as review the Officevibe scores and keep us all happy and doing our best work whilst greasing the social gears and maintaining a great company culture. As well as helping create personal development plans in line with career aspirations and training desires.

Remember we are always on the lookout for great people so do remember we will pay a £500 bonus if you bring someone into the company - so do jump on and re-share our job ads with your networks when you see them.

Throughout the year and towards the end of 2023 we want to have expanded the team size to 32, more on that in another post!

Cash: Better Finance Tools

We have really dived deep into better financial reporting - a key driver to moving to Xero and Lyn has done an amazing job making that happen smoothly. Another key future hire for us is a finance manager. The KPI's here are turnover, profit/loss, as well as budgets and financial and cash forecasting.

Delivery: Better Project Tools

Getting our data into Forecast so we have better insights into upcoming and planned work, as well as profitability and delivery of projects. 

Fay and Jack are championing this one.  The major milestone here is moving our timesheets to be done in Forecast instead of the Hub. I'm hoping we can start controlling these financial goal posts in forecast and we will all be able to see based on the projects how we are doing against our targets.  I'll still do these fun summaries - but it should hopefully be more meaningful and feel less like achievement-magic-management-bull-speak and you'll be able to see how you have contributed to hitting the goals.  

There will be a short term pain period moving from the Hub for projects, timesheets and holidays - into Forecast.   Fay and Jack will lead with this but please do work with them to make this happen, it won't work without everyone's combined effort and they will need our input. This should initially be a temporary annoyance and once we get things moving life *should* get easier. Forecast has better scheduling tools enabling sales and marketing team to be clearer on when we can book future work in and hopefully reducing context switching for the team across projects.

(Forecast & Digital Ocean are new partners don't forget Marketing team)

Economy and tougher times

We are at the summit of the government pumped money spending and printing to boost the economy.  The recovery loans end in June. There is a growing backlash from Covid and inflation.  Tech stocks have taken a beating.  And the cost to do business has started to increase. It's now more expensive to pay everyone less money.  The cost of living is also increasing - as people respond by upping prices.  It will also be harder for companies to access lending. Customers will start to reduce their spending.

Whilst we are on target to hit our goals this year, achieving £1.8M (ideally £2M) for August 2023 will likely be challenging.
Really the only way through is to double down on our marketing and education and hit things big.  Spencer and Pete from Cactus (aforementioned) are working with us on this growth journey and  they are excited by newicon's potential which is great. It's nice to have external company who solely work with agencies tell us we have something special.

The other good news is we have a strong cash position.  This was news to me to be honest - I thought all companies keep sensible reserves. And whilst times may get tougher we have the ability to weather storms and our work and jobs are secure.


Our lowest scores on Officevibe were around recognition.  I'm very sorry for being crap at this.  Whilst in the mad busy world it can be hard to stop and acknowledge when people have done a great job.  A job well done is simply a problem off my list and it's on to the next one.

I've started a new channel in HQ called kudos - this is a super cheesy American idea - but I really like it.  The idea is simply a place where you can shout out team members to everyone for doing something good, whatever that be!  I always worry when complementing one person that all the other people also doing great will be upset, so I do it privately. I think this logic is probably very backwards. This is just a small step in the right direction hopefully to encourage this more not just with me but across the whole team.

I started newicon because I wanted to enjoy coming to work most days.  I didn't want to spend a third of my life moaning about going to the office and counting the clock.  I think what we do is engaging, challenging and worthwhile enough that we can make that a reality. And collective pats on the back can really help make a job feel worthwhile.  It's good to amplify our positive thoughts - it makes you feel better.

Any other ideas to make me and the company better or to improve in this area please let me know.

Future growth areas for us

IoT: it seems not many agencies specialise in IoT and people are starting to think of us as the IoT company - a lot of that is due to the work we are doing with the product partnership and past work we have done with Airbus and other clients. We have a lot of collective knowledge about how to solve these problems.  Industry 4.0 is basically being revolutionised by IoT and connecting things and data for better insights and optimisations.

AI: This is so commoditised now with GPT3, Deep mind and all the online API's offered by AWS, Google, Microsoft, OpenAI etc. The challenge with AI projects is always gathering the data. (IoT projects gather lots of data, so there is great synergy here). The bulk of the work is what we are good at, writing code to organise labelled data. I don't think we will achieve true AI without embracing robotics, exploration and movement seem to be the fundamentals of intelligence - but that is a conversation for another time.

3D web & metaverse: all modern browsers can cope with 3D and WebGL.  There will be significant investments here and we look good to win projects in this space - ironically for many 3D applications beyond building the 3D models - making the interactive space boils down to javascript and controlling labeled items in 3D models. With libraries such as Three.js and Bablyon.js

Mobile and cross platform: displaying leadership with our mobile and cross platform approach to projects which we have been championing since day dot.

Design systems: linking design and development together with tools like Figma and bridging the gap between the code and the design. I think people will be keen to see our pragmatic approach.
As well as see the efforts we are pushing forward in this space. Follow ons to the innovation kit and the excitement this generates. I'm also keen to work with the design and dev teams to push out projects showing our talents where we can obsess over the perfect animation or interaction safely away from looming deadlines and budget concerns. As the innovation kit is a starting point to innovation I am keen to launch a starting point to mobile design and development. We have this spread amongst brains in the team, but it's time now to solidify this and get it out to the world.

Cloud: We already host servers and help customers scale.  Many customers come to us saying they have selected AWS as a platform before they know what they want to build.  Like companies coming to us asking for a website before they have a company name (which used to happen all the time). We do, and can, support AWS but our preference is to use Digital Ocean who we are now partnered with. Digital Ocean have more transparent pricing and better green credentials. We also need to do more work here championing what we can do for customers in this space everything from managed databases to web sockets, load balancers, storage and backups - we are often stewards of businesses critical data. And this is a super important and privileged role to play and I think we often under sell our ability and our importance here. We have some upcoming webinars supported by Digital Ocean who are working with us to help take over Europe... In a nice way.

Robotics: You hear me talking of robots a lot, and that's mainly because the reason we don't see a cambrian explosion of robots is because they are limited by their control software and comprehension of our reality.  I'd love to win some research in this space, recent papers even suggest movement is necessary component of true AGI systems.

Digital:  Our digital marketing team are not getting much love from the wider business. We are going to do a dedicated branding exercise so newicon digital feels special in its own right.  This will help differentiate between newicon - "let's do future tech" and newicon - "let's do your website and online marketing".  The digital marketing team have done an amazing job powering newicon through lockdown and beyond. Of course being a tech guy I was hoping tools like Hubspot could bridge the gap between these worlds - however I think this is more of a branding and marketing job.  So we will be working on sorting this out in the near future.


some dates for diaries

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I'm Steve O'Brien

Founder & CEO at Newicon

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