Agents of Change
Key growth areas for Next 15 and its brands
with Tim Dyson, CEO of Next 15
Our Agents of Change series with business leaders and pioneers talks of how to drive sustainable success in a changed world.
Join Agent3’s CEO Clive Armitage and Next 15’s CEO Tim Dyson as they discuss the change in the market since the pandemic began. Alongside pinpointing the main areas for growth over the coming year, Tim and Clive also chat about the changing world of work, the growing need for diversity in the workforce, and how working for Next 15 brands could adapt in the future.
Clive Armitage (00:05):
My name is Clive Armitage. I’m the CEO of Agent3. I’m here today with the CEO of Next 15, Tim Dyson. Great to see you, Tim.
Tim Dyson (00:11):
Good to see you, Clive.
Clive Armitage (00:13):
We’re here talking about our latest instalment of our Agents of Change series, where we talk about what’s happening in the world of business now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, and emerging into some sort of normality. We’re going to talk about Next15 because we are part of Next 15, that’s our parent company.
Clive Armitage (00:30):
It’s been a fairly tumultuous 18 months Tim, but looking at the share price of Next 15, you’re up over a billion pound in valuation, which I think if remembering is five times what you were back in March of last year. That’s a phenomenal rise. What’s driven that? What’s been the change that has driven that increase in the valuation of the company?
Tim Dyson (00:51):
I mean, in part that multiple is just a function of, like a lot of companies, our share price got hit when the pandemic struck, but it still probably represents at least a doubling if not a trebling of the underlying share price pre-pandemic.
Tim Dyson (01:08):
I think that the pandemic proved to be this amazing test. The market sort of looked to see which companies are going to actually benefit from the changes that the pandemic is likely to create within the way that we all do business, and which companies aren’t?
Tim Dyson (01:24):
We’re clearly seen as a massive beneficiary of an acceleration in trends right across the board. An acceleration towards a more digital business model, an acceleration towards people driving brand marketing. All sorts of different types of marketing through digital channels, all of which have been incredibly good for our businesses.
Tim Dyson (01:48):
I think a lot of this is really we’ve fallen into the camp of being in the winner’s bucket, if you want to call it that, and we’ve clearly benefited from that.
Clive Armitage (01:59):
I think we’ve seen that with Agent3, as well. We felt like the-
Tim Dyson (02:04):
Very much so.
Clive Armitage (02:04):
Yeah, the impact of the last 18 months has been something that we’ve pivoted towards and has been good for us. You hesitate to be saying good for you in a period where there’s been so much misery because of what’s happened, but the market certainly shifted in the direction which has benefited us.
Clive Armitage (02:22):
You mentioned winners. What other sectors do you see that are likely to be winning as we look forward? Are there any particular areas where you look at and think that’s where if I were investing, I’d be looking to put some money?
Tim Dyson (02:34):
I mean, we have this bucket called customer delivery, which is obviously where Agent3 sits. It is an area where demand generation eCommerce sits from our perspective. Those are all areas that we see a lot of growth coming from in the next two or three years.
Tim Dyson (02:51):
It feels like the market has very much moved towards saying that brand marketing is great, but brand marketing is nothing if it doesn’t actually engage in a sale. If it doesn’t drive a very specific outcome such as the sale of a product, then it’s for nothing for so many companies.
Tim Dyson (03:14):
I think that’s one of the big takeaways from the pandemic is businesses have suddenly realized that things like customer loyalty aren’t what they were, and that people are switch selling right to the last moment. I think in consumer markets, people were used to people jumping out of a car and just going and buying something else.
Tim Dyson (03:36):
I think that has now come through into the B2B world, and I think it’s why areas like account based marketing have proven to be so incredibly effective. Because people have realized they’ve got to stay with that customer right through the journey. They can’t just take them for granted.
Tim Dyson (03:53):
I think another big area of growth is going to be in just the general business transformation area. Again, I think a lot of businesses realized that what they thought of as innovation really wasn’t innovation, but they weren’t really building the company for the long term future. They were building it for the next few months.
Tim Dyson (04:15):
Some more deep rooted analysis of what customer pain points am I really seeing and how can I really evolve that next generation of the company so that we’re ready for that? How do I really maximize the value of this company? Where do I need to really put my resources, my best resources? I think the whole business transformation space is going to be red hot for quite a while.
Tim Dyson (04:43):
I think the last part is just anything to do with data. There’s probably no big surprise there. It’s if you can’t measure it, don’t do it. I think it goes back to real basics when it comes to good business planning. But again, I think so many people just didn’t do it. I think what we’ve seen through the pandemic is this real focus on ROI that has made people say, “Let’s really be sure that we’re spending our money the best possible way.”
Tim Dyson (05:17):
I think also just strangely through the pandemic, the absence of doing lots of things. The absence of lots of live events, those kinds of things created this kind of weird laboratory that enabled a lot of businesses to figure out what was actually working and what wasn’t.
Tim Dyson (05:34):
If you were running a program, which historically would’ve had some big customer event as a part of it, or some trade show or whatever it might be, and you haven’t been able to do those things you’ve seen in sort of very, the cold reality of did these other things that we do actually result in a sale or don’t they? You’ve seen the things that work really, really clearly.
Tim Dyson (05:58):
I think that’s no bad thing, and that’s another way really of saying data shows you. But it’s, as I say, in some parts, because the pandemic has enabled us to strip away and see much more clearly what’s going on underneath.
Clive Armitage (06:16):
Yeah. I tend to agree, and I think that period of enforced introspection that the pandemic has created where companies have had to query what next because everything is changing, has forced them to actually start to look at the data that’s at their disposal and think, “How do we use this to try and make the right calls looking forward?” As opposed to it’s business as usual, business as usual, business as usual. Certainly, from our perspective and our customers, so many of them are leaning on us to help them understand the right moves to make looking forward.
Clive Armitage (06:48):
I guess, switching gears a little bit, one question for you, because you’ve nearly got 3000 people in the group now, is the future of work for those people? We’ve got people across the globe in over 20 brands, I think. What do you think the world looks like in terms of the way they’re going to work going forward?
Tim Dyson (07:08):
This concept of working from anywhere, I think we’re fortunate. We have a business where people can, in very large cases, do that. I saw PWC this weekend announced that they’re going to allow their, I think they have 50,000 employees in the US, much bigger than we are, and they’re going to allow the vast, vast, vast majority of those people to literally be anywhere to do that work. I think that’s great.
Tim Dyson (07:34):
In our case, pre-pandemic we had employees in 10 US states, now it’s over 30. That’s a big shift. I think what’s good about that is it’s giving us access to talent pools that we didn’t have before. I think we were, if there is such a word, we were place-ist. We would hire people because of their proximity to major cities like London, San Francisco, New York, et cetera. I think we’re realizing that that was us cutting out lots of amazing talent.
Tim Dyson (08:05):
I think we’ve also realized that there’s a different working model. That the physical come to work, sit at a desk, do what you do, then get on a train or a bus or whatever to go or home, isn’t really the way that a lot of people want to work. They do want to spend time together, that’s for sure, and we’re going to have to create a very different way of making that happen for people.
Tim Dyson (08:34):
I know that some of our bigger clients are talking about things like onsites versus offsites. In other words, people coming to the office and putting the same amount of energy and purpose behind coming to the office that they did when they went to an offsite. They went to an offsite to learn, to ideate, to get creative, to bond, all of those things.
Tim Dyson (08:56):
I think what it’ll mean is we go to the workplace to do that now because that will be the exception rather than the rule. It’ll mean that we’ll have to redesign our spaces as well though, so that it is more conducive to that. So that if you’re coming into the office, you’re not coming into the office to sit at a desk, you’re coming into the office to learn, to interact, to do things that probably require just a different layout.
Tim Dyson (09:22):
I think the other thing, not surprisingly, that through the pandemic has also come into much sharper focus is the diversity of our workforce and those kinds of things. I think, for a long time companies have ticked boxes on these things. I think that sort of judgment call, if you like, has now come around and we’re all realizing we can’t use how busy we are as an excuse for not making the changes that we need to make.
Tim Dyson (09:57):
We are a relatively diverse organization. We’re a rare public company that has an all female non-executive board, but our diversity is in silos. It’s not as good as it can be. Good organizations aren’t just diverse in terms of numbers, they’re diverse in terms of the work that they produce. Our clients actually want diverse thinking, diverse approaches.
Tim Dyson (10:24):
If we’re giving customers, for example, if one of our outputs is all sales leads but they’re all white male sales leads, we’re missing something. If the creative that we produce, even if it’s produced by a very diverse workforce, if that creative is leaning towards consumption by, again, all white males, are we really doing, what we should do?
Tim Dyson (10:47):
The future of work is an interesting question because I think it’s multidimensional. It’s not just a, what physical workplace do we have? It’s not, where is that workplace, where do those people work from? It’s how do we make that workplace, workforce, sorry, change their processes so that they actually produce different outcomes as well? I think if we accomplish both of those, all of this horribleness, pain and suffering that we’ve all gone through with the pandemic will have been worth it.
Clive Armitage (11:16):
Hear, hear. Well, thanks for your time today, Tim. Great to speak to you, as ever, and know that we’ll speak to you again soon. Thanks a lot.
Tim Dyson (11:24):
Thank you. Good to talk to you.