What happens when you fill a room with forward-thinking business leaders from across the insurance, legal and health and social care sectors?
Everyone learns something.
That was certainly the case at 2024’s annual handl Conference, held in Manchester’s Brooklyn Hotel. Members of the group converged to discover the progress we’d made over the past year, learn what’s ahead, and pick up advice from industry experts.
The day started with an introduction and big news from group CEO Graham Pulford. Due to the hard work of our brands, May 2023 saw the handl Group pass the £100m turnover mark for the very first time, placing us squarely in the top 2% of UK businesses.
With the mic passed to CFO Ian Robins, we explored the 77% increase in turnover delivered by the group’s acquisitions, start-ups and established businesses, all of which added up to a staggering 148% increase in EBITDA.
Ian then welcomed our first guest, Dr. John Ashcroft – business advisor and economist with The Saturday Economist – who warned attendees that although it’s still too soon to predict how Covid and Brexit will affect the UK economy in the long term, we should all be prepared for tax changes before and after the looming General Election. John also identified recruitment as a potential challenge for businesses as unemployment levels remain low.
Following a brief break, CCO Chris Chatterton and CSO Dan Franklin discussed our group’s evolution, and outlined a new division-led structure which would drive growth and lead to an influx of new management talent. By splitting the group into logical divisions, we’ll make it easier for brands to collaborate and reach whole new groups of customers.
Dan and Chris also took the opportunity to introduce the new handl Group website – a project years in the making and delivered by our design partners at Harrison Carloss and our copywriting experts Hampson Nattan Williams.
After lunch, Dan returned to the podium to conduct a panel discussion with our expert guests. Joining Dr. John Ashcroft were five other specialists, each with their own insights into how people-based businesses can grow via innovative technology.
Kwabena Amaning – founder of tech recruitment company Third Nexus – explained the value of using the right people to transform processes, models, domains and your corporate culture, which tied in to John Ashcroft’s advice to focus on accountability and responsibility with your teams.
Jonnie Whittle of Method Asset Management advocated a pragmatic approach to evaluating the benefits of technology with a laser-sharp focus on ROI over all other metrics, advice which was solidly backed by the rest of the panel.
Finally, when asked about the benefits of outsourcing your technological development over building a team, all our guests favoured a hybrid mode. Ramona Fuchs, founder of Foxlove Strategy, championed a strategic outlook built around making the most of existing tools your current team can use, backed by external expertise, while Sputnik Digital’s Andy Nicol explained just how the pressures of deadlines ensure that external teams are always driven to deliver a return on your investments.
For the final part of the day, we invited three speakers to explain how brands across the handl Group can reach new audiences.
First, OnyxPDA’s Dan Chesney took a common sense approach to social media. If you take the time to understand your audience and where they spend their time online, if you have a clear goal in mind for what you want to achieve, and if you’re prepared to be consistent in your marketing efforts, social marketing can deliver real results.
Next, Andy Nicol returned to the stage to explain the concept of web performance optimisation. All of your SEO, marketing and messaging efforts will be for nothing if you’re held back by a website that won’t load quickly enough to avoid being penalised by Google. Get the code right, and you’ll see better rankings, an increase in conversions, and even lower costs per click for your paid advertising.
Finally, the day closed out with Hampson Nattan Williams’s Andrew Nattan holding court on the concept of value propositions. Taking a direct approach to demystifying content creation and messaging, Andrew explained that the most crucial thing any brand can do is work out what value they’re offering to specific customers. It’s all simple, when you get down to it. Just answer one question. “If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you?”
With a year of growth to reflect on, and a year of challenges, changes and opportunities ahead, we’re certain that everyone in attendance went away having learned something very valuable.
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