Fifty Five and Five is officially five years old. It’s been a hell of a journey, an exciting time with many highs – and the odd ‘are we doing the right thing?’ moment. I’m immensely proud of what the whole team has achieved, and I’m so excited for the future.
But how did we get here?
In our five years we’ve done so much incredible work for clients all over the globe. We’ve doubled our head count pretty much every year, moved office four times, and launched an industry leading marketing report. We have our own marketing benchmarking platform, and recently opened an office in Redmond, Seattle… We’ve crammed a lot in!
So how did we do it? And much more importantly, how do we push on even further and faster in the future?
I’ll be honest, when it comes to running a business I don’t tend to give too much advice to others. I just don’t think I’ve quite earned the right yet. Also I put a lot of Fifty Five and Five’s success down to two simple things: hard work and luck. Though I do very much subscribe to the maxim of the harder you work, the luckier you get.
But the hard work that got us here, and will power our future, isn’t mine. It’s the team and network around me. Yes I know what you are thinking, here comes the cliché of ‘it’s all about the people’. But it is true. And instead of general platitudes, I can prove it. I’ll come back to that shortly.
Let’s rewind a bit
Before I set up the business I was a freelancer (IT and business consulting, then copywriting). I worked mostly on my own, found my own contracts and did what I pleased. It was an interesting and fulfilling period of my working life – but it couldn’t be more different to what I’m doing now.
I hired my first employee just one month into Fifty Five and Five, in Sep 2014. Very quickly, I had many a wise voice telling me about the power and importance of delegation. And of course it is true, but at its heart delegation is just passing your own tasks onto someone else. I wanted more than that.
Instead, I decided early on to try and find great people and give them the tools (not simply my tasks) to succeed. I’ve tried to empower people, mainly by giving them freedom and responsibility.
“No you don’t need to copy me into that email, I trust you.”
“Yes, you’re running that meeting by yourself.”
“Ok you messed up, but how are you going to fix it?”
It’s important to know that this doesn’t always work. Actually it sometimes backfires spectacularly. But overall, I’ve found the system, with the odd adjustment, works. Giving people freedom doesn’t mean holding back on support. If anything, support is even more important for helping people grow. It’s a pretty simple formula: hire great people, support them, treat them like adults.
So what makes ‘great people’?
As I mentioned before, I don’t really like giving advice. I’m not qualified. But I did say I can prove it is the people that make Fifty Five and Five what it is. So to finish this post, let’s go through them one by one and see exactly why.
I’m excluding clients from this list, because I could too easily list them all and write a novel. So if I’ve missed you out, don’t worry. If you’ve ever worked with us, the whole team and I are grateful for your support – we couldn’t have done it without you.
David Lavenda at harmon.ie – Our first ever client and an important part of Fifty Five and Five to this very day. He trusted us in the early days when we were still finding our feet, and we continue to work together creating fantastic things.
Aidan Danaher – Our first ever employee, Aidan has done every job there is to do, and he now heads up our Clients Services team. His attitude and manner are a shining example to everyone, every day.
Christine Stone – An early client, but much more a friend of the company, who’s always generous with advice and encouragement.
Roland Oldengarm, Terence Rabe, Dhaval Shah, Gene Vangampelaere, Daniel Asuzu, Steven Andrews, Blair Hainsworth – Our initial group of freelance writers and subject matter experts. Their enthusiasm to try something new with us was crucial for our first year.
Christian Buckley – A real cheerleader for the company who’s been there for us from the start.
Len Williams – Our first full time writer, former Head of Content, and now a valuable freelancer. Many of the initiatives Len started way back, we still practice now.
Nick Jevons – A freelance designer who helped us out early on. He allowed us to say ‘we build websites’, which was huge at the time.
Sam Gowing – Sam joined us a writer fresh from university, and he’s still with us today. He’s an awesome part of the team and culture here.
Vlad Volodin at devmiles – Vlad and his team help us build the tools that power Fifty Five and Five, including Maya.
Stephen Reilly – Joined as our third writer, and he’s now our much valued Head of Content. He’s a great example of people growing with the company and taking opportunities.
Warren Knight – Our first business coach, who helped develop our Top50 report idea which still underpins a lot of our success.
David Jones – Our first ever accountant, who bravely put up with all my inane questions for a long time.
Katrina Patel – Our first ever marketing exec. She was perfect person to take that role and remains a friend of the company today.
Manvir Mangat – Our first full time designer, who was critical in helping to shape what was at the time a brand new area for us.
Enrika Ramonaite – A Marketing Exec master, so valuable to us that when she left the country we insisted she kept working for us. And she does.
Kevin Conroy @ BlueRooster – An advisor and friend to the company whose championing of Maya helped to shape the product we have today.
Richard Shipton – Generous in all his interactions with the company and he has helped to spread our name far and wide.
Paulina Olin – Our first web designer, and now leading Digital Designer on the creative team. Another great example of someone who has grown with the company.
Seb Gach – An irreplaceable member of our content team, Seb has really allowed us to develop the range of work we offer.
Kristin Treat at Nintex – An awesome client, friend of Fifty Five and Five, and fantastic advocate for what we do.
Jennifer Tomlinson at Microsoft – Jennifer has done so much for Fifty Five and Five, words can’t do it justice. She’s an awesome person.
Karl Heasman at Cactus – A business coach and mentor. Karl is a hugely important part of the Fifty Five and Five journey.
Caitlin Shorricks – The Office Manager and my PA, Caitlin is a vital part of making Fifty Five and Five run day to day. She’s truly integral part of the team.
John Wilson at Viral Agency – Our go to video production partner, awesome to collaborate with and a good all round chap.
Laura Lopez – Dedicated, loyal, a pleasure to work with and great at her job. What else could an employer want?
John Haggis at Kepler Wolf – Our first lawyer. Talks plain English, gets the job done, and is easy to work with.
Miles Booth – The first member of what is now our Client Services team. He’s helped shape everything this team has done since he joined.
Elise Cannon – Our first Data Analyst, all round Tableau wiz and Excel genius. Holland’s gain is our loss.
Mischa Gatti – Mischa’s ability to calmly take big clients and important projects and own them 100% is a big contributor to our growth.
Barnaby Ellis – Head of the Creative team and invaluable in helping shape both Maya and our Insights offering. Barnaby’s experience helps Fifty Five and Five every day.
Matthew Rooke – Matt brings a level of calm expertise to the content team and has certainly taught me more about the rules of grammar than I thought possible.
Maria Angelino – One of our Marketing Execs, Maria is a vital member of that team and all round SEO and PPC expert.
Kate Menzies – Another of our brilliant writers, Kate’s contribution to the team and our work is fantastic. And she still finds time to self-publish her own poetry, which I find amazing.
Abo Akintunde – Joined the Creative team and quickly played a huge role in transforming our digital design services.
Abbie Edwards – Another valued member of the creative team, who brings real talent to her role
Alessa Morisse – Our first project manager. I have no idea how we got this far without her. A brilliant find for Fifty Five and Five.
Janar Kuusik – Our first full time animator, enjoying his second stint at the company. He constantly amazes us with his talents.
Patricia Bassler at Bassler Financial Services – Our financial wizard in the US who all but runs our operations there. We couldn’t have setup in the states without her.
Liz Wegerer – Our first employee in the states, and invaluable in forging our business across the pond. Irreplaceable.
Danny Mitchell – A writer whose passion for the job and the words he assembles comes through in his work every day.
Megan Marris – A recent hire and already much-valued member of the content team. Megan is an awesome addition to Fifty Five and Five.
Alex Carnegie – The newest writer on the content team, who joined as a freelancer and we couldn’t make him perm fast enough.