Meet the Yorkshire-based tech consultancy cutting through the competition
At Business Leader, we profile some of the UK’s fastest-growing companies in a feature called Fast Track. This time, we spoke to Yorkshire-based technology consultancy, Razor about their incredible journey.
Founded in 2009, the firm has this year been recognised in the FT1000: Europe’s Fast Growing Companies list, published by the Financial Times and Statista – highlighting Razor’s exponential growth over the last few years. The list features businesses across the continent that have the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
In 2018, Razor reported revenues of £560,000 with 14 employees at its Sheffield headquarters. However, in 2021, the company reported increased annual revenue to £2.5m, and 39 members of staff.
Co-founder and CEO, Jamie Hinton, comments: “We don’t start with supplying tech solutions, we start with helping people. As a business, we have everything from usability experts, testers, software engineers, data experts, data scientists, project managers, account managers and everything in between. The purpose of the business is to accelerate technological advances and digital transformation. We do this to keep businesses relevant – we are called Razor for a reason. We are at the cutting edge of what we do.”
Learning on the job
Now in its 12th year, the company is being recognised across Europe as a fast-growing tech firm, but its beginnings were far away from the success it is now experiencing.
Hinton and his Co-Founder (Steve Trotter, COO) started Razor while they were both still working together in a different business: “Whilst working at another large agency, building banking software and similar platforms, it was almost like we were held back. We had our own views on how to do it better. Not only could we be the technicians, but we were involved in every aspect of running a business already. So, we understood where changes could be made and in a better way to how our previous company was running things.
“Many people in our position who are experts in one area – in our case technicians – don’t realise what else happens in a business; like the sales, marketing, relationships, finance and operational processes – there is so much that goes on aside from the delivery of new tech. However, we engaged in the other areas and had experience in how it all worked. As a team, we had the range of skills to run a start-up and when we took the leap and left our day jobs, we totally believed in what we were doing.”
‘It’s taken 10 years to be an overnight success’
Razor was in existence for nine years and went through two rebrands before it started on its exponential growth journey.
The digital transformation market is valued at more than $400bn, as is the global software sector. This highlights the enormous size of the industry that Razor operates in. However, despite their recent success, Hinton is aware of Razor’s current position and how it can provide a platform for future growth.
He comments: “We are like David vs Goliath. Unlike our much larger competitors, we are a sharp scalpel that can quickly and professionally help transform a business. We operate in a way that is opposite to the larger firms that just say ‘yes’ to everything. If you want people to just agree with you, don’t employ us. We’re not the cheapest by far.
“We are the Vivienne Westwood handmade suit, as opposed to the one from Next. We’re going to tell you you’re wrong, and we’re going to tell you why. We will tell you if you don’t even need us. And it seems to be working because we’re not trying to be everything to everyone. My advice to businesses in this industry is don’t try and please everyone, be really niche and be the best at that.”
It was this attitude that has then led to Razor’s CAGR becoming one of the fastest-growing in Europe.
He explains: “We’ve turned down big contracts and then a few years later, they’ve come back to us with something else they know we can help with because we have built that trust – and it is normally for a much larger contract. This has been key to the last few years of our growth.
“If you think short term success, you won’t last very long as a business. Our recent exponential growth hasn’t been overnight. It’s taken 10 years to be an overnight success. And it’s because we’ve done it the right way. We have stable growth at a level where we can maintain our high standards. You can take the hard path and it’ll create a business with long term success. Others could take the easy path, and it creates problems in the long run.”
Keys to exponential growth
As well as focusing on the niche element of their service, Razor has showcased several key tactics that have led to the firm being able to scale quickly.
Primarily, when Hinton and Trotter started the business, being opposites in their approach to business led to its initial stability and created a base for the firm
Hinton explains: “I think it’s absolutely imperative to create a business with someone who has a different mindset and approach to running a business – and have a varied set of skills – no one can do everything themselves. No one is brilliant at everything, because there just simply aren’t enough hours in the day to focus and do it to a high enough standard.
“Sometimes I hear that co-founders need to be exactly the same to drive a business forward, but I completely disagree. If there was just two of me in this organisation, it would not have gone anywhere.
“It is vital to find your polar opposite when you start a business. You get more diverse thinking, a unique perspective, and different ways of tackling a challenge.
“This means that you can both focus on the parts of running a business that you are good at. It’s the synergy of those two different modes of thinking that create a successful business – it is the Ying and Yang that makes this business tick.”
And to have someone who you trust to challenge your decisions, yet collaborate on ideas, has also helped Razor overcome the biggest challenge for start-ups – fear.
“When you’re on your own, that fear grows so fast, but when you’ve got someone else to cheer you on, or take that fear, or just to talk to, that reduces it and leads to productive discussions on the best way to proceed. Fear is ‘false evidence appearing real’ – and your co-founder challenges you on that to find the best resolution to a problem. My advice would be to have someone else with you, because the journey is far, far more fun. The journey of a business leader matters if you want to grow a successful company.”
Once the company was established and started to create a stable footing within the industry, Hinton learnt the best practices for keeping the business on an upward trajectory.
He comments: “You start to gain momentum when you grow a business, especially when you get known for delivering within your industry. Once the ball started rolling, we thought ‘what are we scared of?’. As a business leader, if you are tentative in that moment of the growth journey, and hold back on recruitment, investment in the business, etc, you’re not going to go anywhere. And we went balls in – we hired some big shots for the right job roles.
“This is something that I think many aspiring, fast-growing companies don’t do, especially early on. It is also important to get rid of the people who are toxic and not the right fit for the business.
“This changes the culture massively in such a positive way – and as a result, the right people step up. People are the most important part of any business.
“This creates a culture where employees know how important it is to challenge the status quo if they believe there is an alternative. I want people to challenge me, I want them to come and tell me what I’m doing wrong, and not to have any fear of negative repercussions.”
In regard to employment within a scaling tech business, Hinton offered this piece of advice: “Do you always need more people when scaling a business? The answer is no. Give me 10 people in a room who are all programmers, there will be one person in that room who will outdo every single person – hire them and pay them well. Don’t get 10 of them. Don’t get nine of the others, you get lower output. That’s how we have scaled our business.”
Following nine years of steady growth and overcoming the challenges facing tech start-ups – followed by its explosive scaling since 2018 – what is next for Razor?
With regards to the future trends Razor will look to move into, Hinton comments: “The future trends I see are going to be compounded by the need to update your business to the most up-to-date technology – it’s going to be automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, VR/AR, and how they all work with businesses across all industries.
“However, the trend that’s only going to get bigger is technology adoption. And if you’re not already on it, you’re far too late. This has been amplified by Covid-19 and the need for digital transformation.”
As the world continues to accelerate to an even more tech-focused future, Hinton believes Razor are ideally placed to continue on their own growth journey.
He concludes: “The future is bright. The future is big. We’re taking on the world. We want to open in new locations. This whole thing of ‘the office is dead’ is nonsense. It is the human beings and interactions that make a business. That is magical. We want to continue growing by helping other organisations accelerate their journey with technology and innovation.”