Team Insights – John Loudon
With no football, rugby or any other live sport or entertainment to speak of, we know you’ve been waiting with baited breath for the next in our series of Clydewire staff interviews! As you know, we’re conducting these virtually right now but hope to be back in a face to face world sooner rather than later.
This week, we’ve been
interrogating interviewing John Loudon, our other founding director, commercial guru, security expert, and e-commerce champion. We chat to John about how he got to this point in his career and about how the current crisis is forcing him to refocus his commercial and creative energy into helping clients and new prospects to survive this difficult period.
Morning John, thanks for giving up some time for this chat. Today we’re going to talk about the past, the present and the future as you see it, but first, I’m keen to know how you as a business owner and employer are coping with the current situation?
I miss seeing the team working on the projects as pods and groups. As an extravert, I thrive on the energy you get from being around people. A lot happens in our Slack (internal communication) which is in fact bursting with messages and calls, but I definitely crave that energy that you can only get from sitting in the middle of the engine room. If I am being honest, that first week was hard, probably the first time in my life was sitting thinking am I really getting the best out of myself here. Despite challenging myself to shift gears I wasn’t making as big an impact as I was used to when going into the office.
Shifting my mindset from the usual commute and office time into ‘home is work, and work is home’ has been a challenge. After years of not freelancing from the house and being coached to leave work at work, I am now re-examining the benefits of this set up and have adjusted to the reality that this is my Clydewire desk/office for the foreseeable.
I’m doing great though and have a nice structure to my day with check in meetings and scheduled time blocking. I’ve adopted the Pomodoro Technique again. If you haven’t read about that before I would highly recommend it. It’s a good way of ensuring you focus, but also that you’re taking the opportunity to stand up and walk around. One thing I am loving is all the extra opportunity to spend with my wife and kids. I’ve been getting even more down time, playing board games and binging on Disney+. I’ve also had to think about how I carve out non work time in my house, which has led to set time for reading every day. Now that I don’t have a commute, I am racking up quite the book count.
Your title is commercial director but you wear several hats within the business. How did you first set out on the path that would eventually take you to Clydewire?
I started my own business in order to have an uncapped challenge. Businesses don’t have limits, people do… and if you want to know your breaking point, start a business!
I was fortunate that I had observed enough to know I could bring a different type of agency to the market. I chose to construct a company that was at odds with how it’s normally done. To become a disruptor.
This journey led to my path crossing with a kindred spirit – my Clydewire cofounder Lennart – and after some time collaborating with him, I knew we could build something even better as a union.
At the start we ran as two companies and worked out the pros and cons of owning multiple businesses. In Clydewire fashion we created a project and streamlined into one entity. We are proud of the achievements the team has accomplished and for being the new kid on the block we have certainly created an impact in this space and continue to expand and grow at a healthy pace.
If you were to pick one discipline to focus on for the remainder of your career what would it be…and why?
For me it has to be consultancy. My creative thinking kicks into high gear as soon as I get my teeth into a business model. It could be digital or physical, software or ecommerce. The more complex and challenging, the more enjoyment I get out of helping build a commercial model around it. This feeds into the clients we support and the work I carry out in my role as commercial director.
How do you see your role developing as Clydewire continues to grow?
I always knew that to build a great business we would require a great team and in many ways I see it as my job to make myself redundant. I didn’t want people to hire “a John Loudon” I wanted them to see the value in the team we have assembled.
I have great people around me that have been on this journey and they delight in telling me they are “useless” and I suppose in many ways that is what you are meant to do with business. If you are “the guy” and profitability hedges on your creative genius, insane work ethic and beyond healthy hours, you’ve failed. My role is to create the idea, build and construct the processes and team that will carry out high quality work and push it into the market with what it needs to continue to expand organically.
Now I am very focused on how we can achieve our business targets and take Clydewire up through the gears to run at full pace. Right now we are in what many would categorise as the Scale Up phase and we are likely to be there for the next 2 – 3 years building out what we planned more than a year ago.
What are your initial impressions of how businesses are changing their investment priorities to mitigate against problems associated with COVID?
The situation we are in came as a big disruption and surprise to the global market. As a company we have had to take stock and question our strategy and, like us, I believe our clients are also doing the same.
First you think how do I survive this. Then you think what if it goes on beyond my reserve. Then you get back to how will I grow the business despite the market conditions.
We opted not to furlough staff as we wanted to test our business model and knew that with a great team we should be able to thrive regardless of the market conditions. We have a lot of talented people on our team and if anyone can make a successful business that grows at this time, it is our guys.
What is Clydewire doing to help clients and prospects?
Understandably, some of our clients have been hit heavily with this shift in the market. Travel clients and retail in particular have seen a huge impact and many of our consultant clients have seen reductions due to not being able to meet face to face ( a key part of what they do ). We are supporting them by helping to reshape their businesses to become remote first, leveraging tools like GSuite, Zoom, Slack or LearnDash.
Let’s get away from the current crisis and look to the future with confidence. What excites you about the team you’re currently building?
With the first few years under our belt we have achieved our N+1 Model, the term given to a machine that has redundancy built into its construction. The idea that every role within the company has a counterpart. This really helps us keep on top of client work and we have now been adding in additional roles such as Richard – our new project manager – and Dave who heads up sales, to give me and Lennart a better overview of upcoming work, capacity and project scope. The company is now moving into the scaling phase where we can build the teams to further expand the specialist skills our clients require.
What technologies are you excited about leveraging in the near future?
I take less to do with the technology as time goes on, but I have an interest in how web services are used to construct efficiency into systems. We have a few Clydewire applications which are leveraging the latest technologies. AWS, AutoScaling, Self Healing, React you name it. It’s not even that the technology is so cutting edge, it’s the unique use of these tools that blows me away. I can’t wait to see these products in the open market – right now they are primarily used for our team or in some cases for digital agency clients only.
Is there anything on the horizon you think might be transformational for the industry?
Big question, some of these could be blog posts in themselves. In short, the answer is yes, definitely. Serverless architecture and the movement to docker containers for development are one of the many upcoming mega trends the market is seeing just now. I’ve noticed a huge pattern shift in the technology being mentioned within our team and in the companies I follow on social media.
How do you think SMEs can use technology more effectively?
SME’s have the advantage of size. It’s what makes us agile and gives us the ability to adapt. When I look at some of the software services we use and what it has allowed our business to achieve, I’m left thinking how brilliant it is to be building a business in 2020. It’s leveraging tools and forcing the thinking into a different place that will move businesses forward. We have tools for resource allocation, scheduling, time tracking, quoting, forecasting, and more. These applications are not only for digital companies though, any company can take advantage of them for as little as £10 a month.
What would you like to see change when we emerge from the current situation?
After lock down we won’t be back in the pub (sadly). Social distancing is likely to be the new norm and I think many are overlooking just how big an impact that will have on the market going forward. I think many will be desperate to travel (I know I am, I’ve been planning nothing but road trips and long, long drives) having noticed how many freedoms they take for granted have been taken away.
As a business we will keep the things we discovered added to our productivity, and we will use this learning experience to strengthen our business model. It’s a challenging market and there is a human cost that is upsetting. Many will be affected by Covid19 and we have to be sensitive to that, while also looking to the future and what will become going forward.
Thanks John. I’ll finish by asking you a similar question to the one I asked Lennart. Given an unlimited budget, where would you be self isolating?
I am a man of simple needs. I have everything I want and wouldn’t change my current location of isolation – at home with my wife, 4 kids, books and the work gear I need to do my job effectively. I would love it if our local Chinese takeaway would open back up as I miss my regular order. Coatbridge doesn’t seem to want to open up the chinese takeaways at the moment and I’m having a bit of withdrawal I think. I am in a fortunate position though. Family is the main thing. If you have your health and family around you, I don’t think it really matters where you isolate.
For a friendly chat about how Clydewire can help your business now and into the future, give the team a call on 0141 308 1029.