Changing Tack

If I’ve caught up with you in the past few weeks, you are already likely to be aware that I’ve just made a fairly significant change in my professional life.

For over ten years, I’ve provided web design services to other people. I’ve collaborated with some absolutely fantastic businesses, both as a freelancer and as the owner of my own agency. I never planned that The Higgs Design Co. would ever grow to the size it did (there were four of us working on it together at it’s largest), and I feel those late years of my teens and early years of my twenties have been pretty incredible really. I’ve always had a great time of it.

San Francisco

Last September I made a journey to San Francisco to try out something new. I’ve travelled before, but I’ve never combined international travel with a plan to dedicate some real work time. As both Dan and myself have friends at Buffer, and there is plenty of interesting stuff going on in The Valley of interest to anyone fascinated by tech, we were both really keen to experience it firsthand.

The trip was fantastic. Not only did I get to share Canadian Thanksgiving with my cousins in the warm auburn glow of ‘fall’ in Ontario, Dan and I spent two weeks in an Airbnb in the Mission district with Andy, walking to Buffer’s offices on Brannan Street each morning bathed in the warm Californian sunlight and sipping at the Bay’s best coffee.

Joel and I had collaborated a few years ago, and I’ve always been glad that we struck up a friendship as we did.

During the week we hung around together – hopping around coffee shops, restaurants, the office and beaches – we filled the rest of the time with conversations, one of which I can now see in retrospect was the spark that ignited these changes.

Agency Life

I have always said I have no interest in running a large agency. I love working as part of a team, but getting into big agency life is not what really motivates me. I’ve also always had an aversion to pitching for work. At The Higgs Design Co. we have been lucky enough to be able to attract great clients purely on merit. I am really proud we’ve always managed this, when it seems to be the unobtainable holy grail for so many other agencies.

However, in September last year it was becoming increasingly apparent that the balance was changing. One of our longest standing clients and closest partners (RMP Enterprise, the company behind RateMyPlacement.co.uk) was growing substantially each year, and it had been feeling more and more clear that our interests were aligning with theirs both productively and financially.

I also realised my heart was starting to lead me away from web agency work, and opportunities of fresh challenges were already drawing me in a new direction.

OCP Mobile

Back in the late summer of 2010, Joel had been working with me on a offline HTML web app that could be used on iPod Touches to conduct data capture at undergraduate careers fairs. This work was for On Campus Promotions, a division of RateMyPlacement.co.uk’s business. The software was called OCP Mobile, and a year or so later, the directors at RMP and myself made a decision to spin-out the technology into a brand new company following early success in reselling it into enterprise companies.

This venture has since become known as Akkroo, a suite of business tools and services for data capture and event guest list management.

Since then, I have been spending a quarter of my time on this business, working on the product side, but it never felt like I was spending quite enough time on it. Exciting new challenges began to mount up week on week and it started to become quite clear to me after my trip to San Francisco that the two situations could dovetail into each other, and in the first few weeks of 2014 a process of transition started.

Akkroo

On 1st March this year, The Higgs Design Co. studio stepped away from working on new client projects, and metamorphosed into the brand new internal design and development team at RMP.

At the same time I took up a permanent role at Akkroo, as COO. I’m working with another team of eight fantastic people on a product with great milage, and am now splitting my time between the Jewellery Quarter where I will continue to live, and for part of the week am working from our offices on London’s south bank.

My weekly pattern is still being refined, but this feels like a perfect arrangement for me at the moment. I hope to elaborate a little on what I mean by this exactly at some point soon, but spending three days a week in the office, and two days working remotely (along with our other developers) provides an extra freedom and coverts what otherwise could be a commute into real, enjoyable travel and a chance to enjoy the best of London’s vigour, and Birmingham’s retreat.

This change has of course had consequences for many of our clients, and I’m working with all of them to ensure they benefit from a smooth transition to the new agencies they have chosen. It’s been an absolute honour to see the inner workings of so many incredible businesses over the years, and so I’m delighted that I had the privilege of doing so.

Fantastically, I am still working alongside the team I built in Birmingham (the studio in St Pauls Square will remain open) and also get to spend more face time with the team in London. Personally, I am absolutely thrilled the way it has worked out, and I’m very much enjoying the energy of a new focus already.