This month (October 2016) marks our 5th birthday as decisionLab.
We knew it was time to celebrate when we were booking the 2016 Christmas party and had to ensure we had a really BIG long table to accommodate everyone!
From winning Thames Water as our first ever contract, to growing big enough to have high quality support in key business areas like finance and HR and hence being able to sleep soundly again, it’s been a massive learning curve.
We asked co-founders Dave Buxton and Liz Archibald for some insight as to what the last 5 years have meant for them and the company.
5 business lessons you’ve learnt in that time
• Always keep on top of the technology advances – we’re in a fast paced environment and it’s easy to think you’re ahead of the game when you’re actually behind.
• Never underestimate the importance of a semi-decent coffee machine.
• Express the financial performance data as ratios not absolutes.
• Relying only on friends or acquaintances to be clients is not the best way to win business. Taking time to build a network and new relationships, as well as look after existing ones, is better.
• One person or even two, can’t do everything. It’s good to be able to look outside the company and ask for help.
5 best or ‘Aha’ moments
• Discovering the Agile project management technique
• Learning to love budgeting. Yes, really.
• Deciding that Cranfield management training could offer real benefits.
• The first presentation of the Medevac model to the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and military customers – the feedback from one of the audience was “even the Americans don’t have something as good as this!”
• Celebrating every new joiner and realising that the current team is the best we’ve ever had.
5 worst/low moments
• When people started to leave and we realised that not everyone loves decisionLab as much as we do. We’ve since got to the bottom of, and addressed, these issues.
• Realising that we were miss-selling our company to both the staff and clients by pretending we we’re a generic Operational Research (OR) consultancy that solved lots of tricky problem in lots of industries, but in reality we mainly work on 3 different types of problems. These then became the focus of our specialist Business Units.
• Thinking we were doing well because we had growth in turnover, but not spotting that we were making less in profit than the year before. This made us realise we need to budget for cost, income and profit.
• Spotting the sign on the toilet door of the ladies in our shared Brixton office saying “please do not wee on the floor”. We decided it was to time to move to a higher quality of office! Hence our relocation to Wandsworth.
• Falling out with the original 3rd founder and not being able to reconcile those differences without her leaving the business
5 things we may not know about dL
• We were formed after a few drinks! At an OR society conference. Dave had actually only spoken to Liz twice before they seriously started discussing forming a company together.
• The shortest duration we’ve employed someone for is 2 days. They decided to leave.
• Dave failed the module on Simulation back in the day at university – this is now one of the core services we offer
5 things you hope/wish for, for dL
• To move from where we are trading at the moment (building model) to be capturing more of the lifetime value of the tools we deliver and therefore adding value for our clients over the long term.
• To see the company developing more skills and experience in Data Science and blending that with the best bits of Operations Research.
• To see the team grow and evolve and have amazing careers with decisionLab. But to have also enabled some of them leave to follow their dreams elsewhere.
• To see us grow in a stable way to a turnover of £3 million within the next 5 years
• To see at least one of our models make a significant global difference – for example, how can the EBSD help water resource management in developing nations?
If you would like to be part of the next 5 years of making a difference at decisionLab, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org