Dawn Alderman of Network Scientific shared the secrets of the success of this business, which was named best small company (sponsored by Harrogate District Chamber) at the Harrogate Advertiser Business Awards this year.
Dawn said explained how the company had grown and the steps it had taken to ensure its success. She also introduced Paul from Skipton-based accountancy firm Pearson & Associates, who had been a fundamental part of Network Scientific's approach.
Paul described the changing roll of an accountant, saying he believed a traditional accountant was becoming less and less relevant as technology evolves to enable businesses to manage more aspects of their own accounts. However, advice on business growth and tax management were always going to be needed, and leading accountants are now adapting what they offer in this light.
He said: "I don't have all the answers for Dawn and her team. They do. But sometimes, they get caught up in doing the doing, and don't work on the business – they work in it."
Paul recommended three books: The E Myth by Michael Gerber, Good to Great by Jim Collins, and Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
He concluded by asking: "Do you have a road map for your business? If you are going somewhere you've never been before, you always use a map. It's exactly the same for your business: decide where you want to go, then work out the best route to get there."
Also speaking was Paul Parkinson of Synergy Automotive, a company celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and having just moved to larger premises – allowing Network Scientific to find a new home in the offices it vacated!
Paul told the audience that having a plan was the single most important thing any business could do.
"The best thing is scaring yourself to death with the numbers," he said. "There was a time I didn't have the bottle to write my plan down because I was scared to fail. It meant I was committing to numbers, and what if I didn't achieve them?
"Actually, it was the opposite effect. It's when you visualise something and put the numbers down somehow, you find a way to make it happen."
Ten years in, Paul and his team have not stopped setting goals. With a focus on outstanding customer service, they have a close relationship with ratings agency Feefo and have received almost 1,000 reviews in 17 months. They get a 50 per cent response rate (the average is 12 to 14 per cent).
They now aim to be in the top five companies in their sector, and have clear reasons for not aiming for the top spot. Paul believes being number one requires a focus just on reaching that position.
"If we get to number five, we do that by being very stable and great at what we do, in a very volatile sector," he said.