Since its founding in 2013, Bespoke xyz has established itself as one of the leading providers of business intelligence platforms to many businesses across the UK, including; Savills, DLA Piper and Airbus. Based in Manchester, Bespoke xyz started out as an Excel consultancy, but has since incorporated more Microsoft technologies into its armoury, and uses these to help businesses become more accurate, productive and efficient. Having been awarded Microsoft Gold partner status in early 2020, which has recently changed to Microsoft Designated Partner status, the team have fast become experts in deploying solutions that help their clients work smarter and faster.
We chat with founders Sam Bright – Managing Director and Jordan Brookes – Commercial Director and discuss a variety of topics; from how they started the business, to what the future looks like, and everything in between.
What made you decide to start Bespoke xyz?
Sam: Jordan and I met at Loughborough University, and it was during our placement year that it quickly became obvious that businesses were overly reliant on Microsoft Excel. Key decisions were being made using spreadsheets, but nobody checked to see if they worked.
Jordan: It was during that time that we realised we could really help businesses by supporting them in building spreadsheets more productively.
What problem is it that you are trying to solve?
Jordan: Data and extracting business intelligence from it, can be complex – our aim is to simplify it for our clients by providing them with increased access to insights and improved adoption of technology, therefore making them much more data-driven. Sometimes, something as simple as one central dashboard which features a variety of business information has the power to transform how a business works.
Sam: As the business has evolved, our work has become less about creating development-grade spreadsheets, and more about ensuring the appropriate software is in use for a specific problem. Often, that means recognising the limitations of Excel and utilising other platforms, such as Power BI. Development these days don’t have to have a long lifecycle with heavy investment, by leveraging Microsoft technology we’re able to deploy low-code applications – quickly, which work within Office 365.
And how would you say that your solutions create value and impact for your clients?
Jordan: We bring data to life, providing clients with usable intelligence so they can make better business decisions…
Sam: …which in turn saves them so much time. The solutions we build massively reduce the burden many of our clients carry of having to manually manipulate data.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since founding Bespoke xyz?
Jordan: Until six months ago, I would have said scaling a business where the skillsets required are so unique for every different project. But now, I would say managing a business through a global pandemic pretty much takes the bill! That said, our team have adapted amazingly well, using technology such as Microsoft Teams to stay in touch and still deliver some amazing projects, all whilst working from home.
Sam: For me, it’s the time it has taken to build a team that is as passionate about solving a problem for our clients as we are. But whilst that might have been a challenge, I would also say that it has been our biggest success so far as well. To go from starting out as a two-man team to having a team around us whose livelihoods rely on the success of the business has been very rewarding – despite so many people telling us that there was no likely success in creating a business around spreadsheets!
What is the best thing about your job?
Jordan: The variety of people that we get to meet across multiple industries. Learning about the challenges that they face and knowing we can create a solution that will help them is incredibly rewarding.
Sam: It’s that insight into specific business challenges that allows us to be innovative. We’re able to create new solutions that haven’t been considered so that we can solve a problem in a different way.
What mistake have you learned the most from?
Jordan: Don’t over diversify for the sake of it – focus on what we do best rather than just chasing the next shiny opportunity.
Sam: Jordan’s right, trying to be too many things to too many people for a time was our biggest downfall – but when you’re just starting out and trying to grow a business it’s easier said than done. A stronger business strategy has helped to alleviate that problem and ensure the team are happier and fulfilled in their work.
What are the 3 things someone should know if they are thinking of starting their own business?
- Do what you love – as you will be living and breathing it, so you better enjoy it!
- Reputation is everything, so when it comes to the output of your work, don’t accept ‘good is good enough’
- Humility is a critical success factor, don’t take anything for granted and be humble in both success and failure
- Just do it – learn as you go. If you plan everything to the nth degree to start with then you would never do it
- Price to what you’re worth – don’t think that as a newcomer you have to undercut everyone else to establish your business
- Work out the reason you are starting your own business and then build a business that complements those reasons. Reflect on what you’ve achieved. Keep reminding yourself how far you have come.
What does the future look like for Bespoke xyz?
Sam: We have a great opportunity to allow our existing team to diversify their skill set, as well as complement the team with new additions. This will allow us to continue solving data problems but on a much larger scale.
Jordan: Collaboration will be key – we’re excited to further explore the Microsoft channels and partner network. This will mean we can grow our reach, through working with other partners that have a similar proposition to ours and create more impactful solutions for our clients.
What’s likely to be hot in the industry and how will this impact your clients?
Jordan: Microsoft’s Power Platform – Power BI & Power Apps in particular, with so many businesses moving to the cloud and more and more people embracing data, the need for companies to not only understand but create insights will be a huge focus point in the future. Creating user-definable applications to feed live data reporting will soon become an expected minimum standard rather than a nice to have for all companies looking to stay ahead of the competition.
Sam: By helping our clients with the adoption of the Power Platform, we can in turn help simplify their data. So many people have spent years collating data but don’t know what to do with it. We ensure that they’re not just mining and storing data, but that they’re leveraging it to make a continuous change and gain a competitive edge.