Remote Employer Award Shortlisted Winners

Helen O' Grady Shortlisted Winners

In association with  Remote Worker Awards in association with BT Business


Remote Employment and BT Business are delighted to announce the short listed winners in the national hunt to find remote working employers who could demonstrate how remote working and home working has made a beneficial impact on their business and home life for
The Remote Worker Awards.

The Award appealed to hundreds of budding enterprisers as well as larger home based businesses across the country, and remote workers, home workers as well as freelance consultants.

There was also a flurry of entries for the other innovative awards namely The Open Skills University Award, who are giving away a study grant, The Netmums Work from Home Award, where five winners get handed a business start up and The Helen O’ Grady Special Award, which will change someone’s life with their own home based franchise. One of the shortlisted winners also gets to take home a Penthouse Garden Office worth £10k!

Winning Ceremony
The Remote Worker Awards will culminate in a winning ceremony at the stunning
Cliveden House in Berkshire on 10th September, where the shortlisted winners will find out if they ahve won this superb prize that will change their working life!

Short Listed Winners
These companies are the best entrants who demonstrated how their remote and home working solutions benefit both the company and their staff. They are now in the running to win a range of fantastic prizes!

What's On 4
From Tadley, Hampshire
Sam Willoughby's business was born from a personal need for a flexible career after having her daughter.
Remote Employers of the Year Her employer had no interest in a flexible return to work policy so she decided to take the plunge and make my own flexible role.

The idea for their first website came about from wanting to take her baby to activities but she found it really hard to find out what was available. This spawned the first of three online activity directories, namely 
www.whatson4littleones.co.uk , www.whatson4schoolkids.co.uk and www.whatson4kidsparties.co.uk .

The What's on 4 websites now attract over 30,000 parents a month and has 18,000 listings across the UK. The two main benefits of remote working for their team are the flexibility it gives them and the time and money saved by not having a commute.

They can easily fit around their families leaving for the school run on time and being available if their children are unwell. They also save the cost of travel and of course the lack of commute reduces transport miles and therefore has a positive impact on the environment.

What's on 4 is in the running for The Remote Employer AwardThe What's On 4 Team's forum, is a great example of how they communicate in an innovative way. It gives them an informal, but direct communicate route to the team and makes them feel part of the company. They also have individual one-to-one check-ins every week with the team members ensuring that issues can be raised and progress monitored.

Using SKYPE and other systems they can accurately monitor working times and success. The best example of how remote working is working for this growing company - two of the team have progressed from sales people, to running the sales team and now each run one of the websites.

Sam is proud that she has been able to give these talented woman this opportunity whilst still giving them a flexible role at the same time as giving them the motivation for hardwork and dedication. She keeps a beady eye on the team for the next member's promotion and believes it is crucial that she lead by example - she works from home and has done for 3 years.

And she balances her business with her family life by working harder in school terms so she can take a bit of quality time with the kids when they're on holiday. Her team knows that this is what working for What's On 4 is all about!

Document Direct
From Liverpool, Merseyside
Document Direct is a 100% remote service business. They  are an outsourcing typing agency giving theirRemote Employer of the year clients access to a team of remote secretaries 24 - 7. Their secretaries work from the comfort of their own homes and choose their own hours of work to suit their lifestyle. They work as a team around the clock so their clients can have the same flexibility when they need it.

Their technology is internet based and their file servers are based somewhere in the UK. Their clients work completely remote from their office and all of their dictation and documents are sent to their server. Their secretaries work completely remotely from wherever their computer may be (as long as it's UK based) and they connect to their secure server.

As far as Document Direct employees and service providers are concerned, the business is as green as you can get. The minimum amount of travelling is spent on marketing and sales activities, their service provision does not involve any paper or printing and their home workers do not have any need to travel to/from work. The ability to choose where you work, when you work and how you work lies completely with the individual and this would not be achieved without home working.

Document Direct was driven by a desire for flexible working. It was difficult coping with standard 9-5 asDocument Direct is shortlisted in The Remote Employer Award a working mum of two and childcare stresses (let alone work/family balance) and the guilt of working or not working is always there.

Jayne’s personal experience of flexible working hour, during the evening and night , was implemented in her business to suit a number of people and enable the company to provide a 24 hour operation. Document Direct is 100% remote and home based workers.

The business has been developed around technology and the ability to use home workers. Without a remote workforce there would be no business as the costs would probably be prohibitive in providing office space, equipment, furniture, etc. One of the hardest obstacles to overcome was recruiting and training remote workers.

Whilst they do have an office address, it is not practical for a remote worker (who can work anywhere in the UK) to attend for on-site training. It was especially difficult to recruit the right type of person who can ‘distance-learn’ their systems, work unsupervised and have the characteristics they need for them to liaise directly with their clients.

This forward thinking company retains clients such as large international law firms, small and medium sized legal practices and individual barristers as well as other legal service providers. Their clients’ businesses have improved because they have been able to make use of this fast, efficient and reliable service.

Document Direct have a rigorous recruitment process to filter candidates for a remote service. Communication is the key to their business. At the very least, excellent communication skills are needed between their secretaries and their clients and they rely on excellent telephone and email writing skills.
Their secretaries working remotely have constant help on hand and this brings the team together.

They communicate by emailing, using MSN instant messenger, Facebook and Twitter. They have good systems of training, e-learning and knowledge bases for their secretaries to hook into so they’re never totally alone. Their systems are built on Windows Terminal Services which remain very secure and their telephone system is also internet based (VoiP) so they can transfer telephone lines/calls between each other when needed.

Jayne believes her system is an overall win-win situation and her flexible working policy has proved both secretaries and clients are very happy with the business model.

More winner to be announced soon! 

Pinnacle Business Solutions
From Nairn, Highlands

Pinnacle Business Solutions Limited is an information systems and technology services company providingRemote Employers of the Year complete business solutions, since 1995. Services provided include business process analysis, custom systems design and development, systems integration and technical support. They help their customers obtain maximum business efficiency savings and benefits through effective selection and implementation of appropriate technologies.

Subject areas include marketing (applying latest web 2.0 methodologies and techniques), customer relationship management, supplier and associates relationships, as well as all internal processes. The Pinnacle Business Solutions team also possesses many years’ oil and gas industry experience, and has used that experience to develop the MatriX Project Management system for controlling and progressing engineering and construction projects.

MatriX consists of various modules; drawing material take-off / bill of materials, estimating, requisitioning, request for quotation (RFQ), material control, procurement, stock control (warehousing), time and attendance, document control, welding quality assurance, pipe spool and pipeline fabrication, and weight control.

They believe that their business is both unique and innovative because:
* They have developed a comprehensive, industrial strength, sophisticated project management solution that is capable of supporting all aspects of major construction projects, and have provided this solution to major companies internationally, including Middle East, Asia, Australia as well as UK.
* All development & support services are provided remotely, from their Highlands base. They employ 7 permanent/core staff, supplemented by various associates. They have a small office in Nairn, which they use mainly for staff meetings and some project activities. Their staff work on average 50% from home, 50% in office. They offer total flexibility to their staff, this is mutually beneficial, as their customers are worldwide and support may be required within normal UK working hours. Their approach means that their carbon footprint is negligible.

When their staff visit the office, a number of them walk or cycle. Development of MatrIX has been completely self-funded and this was a major challenge in the early days. In 2000 they sought financial backing from a venture capitalist in order to progress the development and market the product.

Pinnacle have run a successful remote business for the past 14 years, providing extremely cost effective as well as very environmentally friendly services to major customers in different parts of the world.

At the same time they have provided their employees with a very flexible lifestyle that allows them to live in the north of Scotland and enjoy the natural environment. The impact on their customers has been to provide services at much lower cost without compromise on quality. This has had major impact on these companies efficiency and cost of operations.

This great remote working company employs seven permanent core staff, supplemented by various associates. All staff work partly from home and partly from their small office in Nairn. All their staff are remote workers.

Amphora
From Binfield, Berkshire
Amphora Research Systems is a software company that provides a system for any type of researcher toRemote working champions protect and secure their company IP. It is mainly used in very early discovery process when writing up their laboratory notebooks.

They started as a spin-off company in 1996, after producing the very first ELN within Kodak, things have just moved on from there. They now have a very unique product in a niche market. They pride themselves not only on having a unique product but also being a unique company.

Their stance on things is, Why does work have to be boring and set in stone? So they ensure that they allow flexibility on everything, they feel working this way in fact they get more from employees. Giving them the latest gadgets and toys, to allow for easier working from home or away or being that many of us are mums, alot of work gets done at the poolside. So iPhones have not only been a bonus for employees but they see more ownership of everything.

Amphora has focused on understanding the niche they wanted, which reflects the company ‘personality’ and they have been incredibly careful to maintain that ethos. It's the ethos that they believe makes them special.

The Amphora ethos is giving their people enjoyment and fun at work and the freedom of choice, which in turn brings innovation. Rather than having a staid, set, heavily managed working environment, they  make their employees understand the contribution to the company and take ownership, this paves the way for an open happy office environment.

This remote working company allows people to work as they wish. If it's a lovely day – they can take their kids out for the day and work in the evenings. They advocate that this open policy takes away employee stress.

Amphora pride themselves on creating real relationships with their customers, being on a first names basis all round and little communication innovations such as direct contact via instant messenger confirms and cements business relationships.

Amphora retains eight employees, seven in the UK and one in the States, who is a totally remote techie based on the West Coast. The importance of ensuring he feels 100% part of the company is paramount with regular UK visits and daily contact via Skype.
Flexibility is key and available to everyone

For the most part they all like to be in the office together as it creates a great office vibe which comes across when they are talking to customers or prospects. They try to be a green office and feel strongly about the environment with recycling and organic products, even down to free trade tea and coffee.

As a technology company they want to remain at the forefront of trends and constantly experiment with new ways of working . They set up a home work station for each employee, along with a wireless router, Mac books and iphones.

This way of working opens up working opportunities to people who have commitments beyond their control, for example some of their employee mums have retained good careers beyond their kids and family roles

Amphora believes that there are people out in the work place who have great capabilities, yet this valuable resource is not tapped into enough. They would like to spread the word and encourage more businesses to look beyond the ‘norm’ for modern work initiatives and thus become more open to this vast pool of talent.

Achieving Quality Leads
From Chiswick, London
Achieving Quality Leads’ main activity is using the telephone to arrange high-level appointments withRemote working employers senior decision makers who, through their skills and efforts, have expressed an interest in doing business with their clients. When they developed the AQL business plan and began trading in January 2004, their objective was to create a remote lead generation and marketing business, where all staff as well as the two Directors, work from home.

There is no corporate facility, which makes it possible to ensure a high proportion of the revenue goes to their remote workers, and the above average rate of pay helps attract the caliber of consultant that sets their business apart from competitors. From the beginning, they aimed to attract people who may once have had traditional highly professional jobs, but either could not, or chose not to continue with them, due to family or other commitments, or that they didn't want to commute or work full time.

Their remote working proposition is highly attractive, especially to women with families, people made redundant or who are retired, and those who want more balance and control over their work and home life. They believed this would be highly suitable for professional women with families, and it has proven so.

In January 2009, they received an award as the top small UK company for bringing mothers back into the work force, from Prime Minister Brown and Minister for Women Harriet Harmon at Downing Street.

Creating the right team has been far more difficult than expected. T
hey developed a recruitment process designed to exhibit skill and acumen, and interact with a decision maker confidently and professionally.

They began with no technical infrastructure, yet slowly built one, learning as they went. Initially they purchased a remote server, which they placed in one of the director's homes. To build resilience, they later purchased a second server that would back up the first a number of times during the day, which was placed in the second director's house.

Using the internet, they found a call management system that met their needs, but could not find a telephone system that could link to it. That was a significant obstacle to growth and would become a major challenge over the next 4 years. At first, they purchased, for their consultants, a telephone service that included all calls. The downside to this was no being able to monitoring the approach. They were able to see how much time consultants were using their call management system, but they had no idea how long they were on the phones, they had to take their word for it, which proved unacceptable, as they theyre being paid by the htheir.

Technology proved to be a challenge and after substantial research found their ideal call management system, which is iTMS, and the linked telephone solution is via Revocall.

Achieving Quality Leads is a highly professional company and everyone works remotely. Even their IT infrastructure is managed remotely. When a new consultant joins, they are set up on their system remotely. Their IT support contract provides them with regular remote upkeep of their two servers. Even as a fully remote business, Achieving Quality Leads has a distinct culture, which they believe is the result of their transparency to their clients and to their consultants.

They strive to give their remote workers constant challenges, with opportunities to use their minds. They trust them to speak to and communicate via email directly with their clients, treating their consultants as the mature professionals they are. Remote working can be isolating and they try to reduce that as much as possible through constantly being in touch.

Their consultants know their two directors are always available, either by email or at the end of the phone to discuss issues and concerns. They are also encouraged to phone each other for help, guidance, and to share and to moan.

AQL consultants are trained to research each company before they call. When they engage a decision maker, they take pride knowing they are speaking professional to professional. In this type of business where employee churn is endemic, they have one consultant who has been with them for nearly the entire time they have been operating, and another for more than three years.

With appointments well qualified, their clients report a higher than expected level of conversion to sales. They currently have ten employees and all are home workers. Their infrastructure means they can grow or contract as business dictates. They built flexibility into their business.

AQL save costs by not retaining an office and therefore have an almost non-existent carbon footprint. Everything is done electronically. All communication is done via telephone, conference calling, web-cams and email. The two directors meet regularly via webcam, to monitor calls and evaluate performance, set strategies, review finance, etc. They only meet as a group is for training in North London once every 4-6 weeks, and for the occasional company sponsored lunch.

AQL's remote working system allows all their staff to work from home, or from anywhere in the world. They celebrate good practice in a number of ways. When they have identified an exceptional call, they email the mp3 audio file to the other consultants, and put it on their server in a 'best practice folder' for them and newcomers to access.

When a consultant does well, they email a 'Herogram' praising and congratulating that performance. They also give regular performance feedback, training and coaching. They believe it is important to provide a brief profile of some of the people who are AQL Consultants:

* Susan has been with AQL for four and a half years. She previously had been a marketing director at a short break travel company for 20 years.

* Judith has been a consultant for three years. She was an HR executive at a telecommunications company who left to become a teacher. After that, she joined AQL and has recently become a magistrate one day a week.

* Sarah has been with AQL for around 2 years has three children at home, one with special needs who requires being taken to and picked up from school.

* Angela is a family law barrister who says she 'burned out' from the pressure of that, she has two pre-school children, and works remotely, from Belfast.

* Leonie, their most recent newcomer, has a 9 month old baby and this is her first job since becoming pregnant.

Cuddledry
From Nether Stowey, Somerset

Cuddledry was founded in September 2006 and is now the market leader in baby bath towels. CuddledryRemote working employers manufactures and supplies award winning, top quality, organic bath and swimtime towels and accessories for babies and children up to 3 years of age.

Their goal is to become the ultimate global brand denoting the very best bath and swim products for babies and children. Their Flagship product, The Original Cuddledry Baby Bath Towel, has won 12 national awards and is the current winner of the ‘Must Have’ nursery product of the year.

Cuddledry has won more praise from parents, midwives, nannies and children’s charities than any other baby towel company. Media and trade interest is huge, and the Cuddledry range of products has been featured on television, radio and magazines nationally and internationally.

Cuddledry has a unique business plan in that they actively seek to employ home based personnel. They have discovered that like themselves, who are working mums, there are many many people who are no longer able to work full time in high powered roles due to the commitments of childcare. Many of these people have given up very senior roles and are highly qualified, intelligent people, but are unable to find a part time or flexible job to suit their abilities. They need a role to be flexible and usually home based, in order to continue their careers at the same level.

Many part time or flexible roles on offer are at a much reduced level of seniority or responsibility. They do not believe this has to be the case and offer flexible part time roles where each person is absolutely the head of their own department within an expanding successful company. The biggest challenge they faced in order to get the business started was working out how they were going to give the company the commitment and time it needed to succeed, but without their children having to go into full time childcare.

They created a unique business model required to run a successful business with their way of working Helen and Polly are in the running for The Remote Employer Awardremotely and around children, and their office in cyber-space! After a successful launch and immediate positive reaction from the trade, Cuddledry was taken on by the largest nursery retailer in the UK, Mothercare!

The reason they believe that Cuddledry should be Remote Employer of the Year is simple. They believe they have used home working to their absolute advantage, and demonstrated that home businesses using remote workers can be global, fast-growth and significantly exceed financial projections. They believe in doing this they have challenged the assumption that a ‘lifestyle’ or remote working business model cannot be a highly profitable business and attractive investment or acquisition.

They believe home working now has a clear place in serious business practice, and that this is increasing in significance all the time. Technology and clear business strategy permit home businesses to achieve even greater success than some office-based enterprises, with greater profits resulting from lower overheads and higher productivity.

Cuddledry has excelled as a new business and a new exporter, exceeding targets set nationally and internationally. They have taken advantage of all the advice and information available, as well as having realistic expectations of their own abilities, sharing roles and responsibilities accordingly. With solid business principles and well considered decisions, maintaining high standards and excellent customer relationships has been their absolute priority, regardless of the fact that they all work from their kitchen tables!

Their Key Selling Points are clear, and have resulted in a hugely successful flagship product that has won 12 awards including the current winner of the nursery industry’s Must Have Product of the year. The founders have put profits back into the company, aiding rapid expansion nationally and internationally, increasing personnel with dedicated international sales, developing a range of products, as well as utilizing their marketing skills to achieve fantastic results.

Their marketing plan utilizes the entire marketing mix and they understand how to take products to market, nationally and internationally. The current business plan is ambitious and financial projections are equally impressive, and they aim to continue to exceed projections. There is no debt, and they have strong financial management, taking as little risk as possible, buying currencies forward at best rates to best suit their international trade, and they keep a tight control of budgets and credit control, particularly through the recession.

As well as focusing on growing Cuddledry nationally and internationally, they try very hard to benefit the local community. Helping retailers with in-store demonstrations and promotions to drive footfall into shops, working with charities and NCT groups, speaking at local schools and coaching young people to encourage entrepreneurial spirit, are all part of what they do.

Norland College chooses Cuddledry in training their world-famous nannies. The National Childbirth Trust sell Cuddledry towels, The Child Accident Prevention Trust say that Cuddledry contributes to safer parenting, and they make towels for BLISS which raises money to support their important work caring for premature babies and their parents.

Cuddledry has additional target markets, covering not just nursery, but gift and ethical/green/organic, as well as both trade and consumer customers. Trade customers, nationally and internationally, are fully supported with proactive Cuddledry marketing activity and assistance. Cuddledry was the first business in the South West (and possibly the UK) to sign up for G3, a new government scheme to help companies with fast international expansion. They’ve been accepted on EVOLVE a government initiative aimed at helping fast growth companies.

Cuddledry’s management team has been named among the 40 top Young Entrepreneurs in Europe. Cuddledry owners have appeared on television sharing business advice about remote workers and home working (BBC News 24, BBC Working Lunch) and take part in business forums as business advisors.

Helen is the current Young Enterprise Alumni Award Winner. The Cuddledry team has grown to nine full and part time staff, one dedicated to international sales, and another one in Hong Kong. Cuddledry is available in 29 countries worldwide, and they have a network of independent and multiple retailers nationwide.

All nine of their employees work from home and they are taking on three more remote workers.
In addition, they try to be eco-friendly across their entire business, not just the home offices. Eg - The packaging on their products is recycled and biodegradable cardboard and they have opted for the most eco friendly minimal packaging possible. They believe communication and technology to be key to their success while parenting forums and blogs are essential for word of mouth marketing and they utilize every possible marketing method and technical advantage to create a global

They are very proud of their achievement to combine busy family lives with running a successful expanding international business and having the foresight to create a company with no central office other than in cyberspace targeting home based employees, and in particular to utilize the fantastic mostly untapped resource that are mums (or dads) at home.

They refused to accept the idea that a lifestyle business would never achieve the same targets or considered as successful as a conventional business. They have carefully considered all their options and made decisions that work for the company as theyll as their lifestyles, and they have proved that their unique business model of running a team who all work remotely CAN work. They actually believe it is an advantage over other companies who do not work in this way and have even been invited to discuss this on live television earlier this year on the BBC’s Working Lunch.

They are able to select from and recruit more highly skilled staff members, because they can work remotely and flexibly, who otherwise would be unable to join any workforce due to other commitments. They have proved their way of running a business can be every bit as successful in as a conventional business models and even more so.

The company has been shortlised for Small Business of the year, and is entered for Somerset business of the year. Cuddledry is also currently shortlised for the 2009 ‘Gift of the Year’.


TJL Marketing
From Harpenden, Herts
When Tracy Light founded TJL Marketing in 2003 it was always her aim that flexibility would be at theRemote working employers core of her business and it would not be structured within the restrictive 9 to 5 corporate world. TJL Marketing is passionate about helping small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs to succeed.

It operates very differently from many other marketing companies and consultancies. It's team of flexible, high level marketing and PR professionals who provide their services as and when companies require them; an arrangement that means they can access a large pool of proven marketing and PR experience at a fraction of the cost that would be incurred if someone was employed in-house.

In the last six years over 70 companies have benefited from the cost effective and practical marketing and PR support that TJL’s flexible team of marketing and PR specialists has provided. As well as offering her team full flexibility in their working htheirs (and location), Tracy also has some customers with young children who have required her to work outside of the normal working day.

Even though, they have an office, TJL Marketing allows everyone in the team the option of working from home or from the office. The biggest challenge is managing such a flexible model, but over the years the processes have been put in place to best serve the customers.

They are a member of Climate Care are through joining this organisation they are able to offset their carbon emissions. As most of their team work from home the carbon emissions are very low. They have Microsoft Exchange Server set up and they are just about to install a digital phone system that will enable us to direct calls direct to individuals at their homes. They also use Skype for calls and conference calls. They have a customer who has set up offices in Australia and their remote working fits really well with communicating to this particular customer as often late evening calls are required.

They have been able to offer small businesses access to high level marketing skills at a low cost. Small businesses need flexibility and through the flexible team they are able to offer a full marketing and PR team which is bigger than a lot of large corporates, but for a fraction of the cost. They are upfront with customers about their model and they really relate to this and help to make it work. They are constantly striving to improve their processes and communication to ensure good practice and have feedback systems in place.

For many people having children can potentially mean a huge change in their career as they find that their demanding jobs are no longer achievable with the needs of a young family. TJL actively supports workers with young children and appreciates their need for flexibility. TJL Marketing can then use highly qualified individuals, with ca lear specialism.

In turn the individual benefit as they are able to work remotely if they wish, still use their skills, but at the same time feel part of a team. They strongly believe that all employees should be able to work flexibly including working dads and people without children. They have some people in their team who are starting businesses themselves and working for TJL Marketing means that they can build up their own business gradually. Working remotely gives them the chance to do this with the full support of TJL.

They have 12 flexible workers. It is up to the individual whether they choose to come into the office or work from home. Most prefer a mixture of the two so they can meet up with the team. They also offer the school holidays off. It is important that people do not feel isolated so they are in constant contact via Exchange Server as well as by telephone and hold regular team meetings. TJL employs excellent technology which ensures that its model can flourish. 


Tray said: “We are delighted to be recognised for these awards. There are many skilled individuals who want to work but are unable to do a traditional 9 to 5 day. At TJL Marketing, we support the fact that people have other things in their lives apart from work and allow people to work the hours that they are able to do to fit around existing commitments.

In our team we have people with young children, some are setting up or are already running their own business or they are semi retired.  We are very close knit team as everyone really appreciates the flexibility and shows the company absolute professionalism and loyalty.”

Prior Analytics
From Richmond, Surrey
Prior Analytics was founded in October 1998 from a kitchen table in Kingston-upon-Thames. Over theRemote working employers course of the last decade it has grown to be a highly respected and successful Customer Relationship Management (CRM) consultancy with a turnover well in excess of £1M.  The business has retained a 'family' feel and has a core team of staff who have all worked with the company for over five years.

Prior Analytics are specialists in CRM Solutions, providing flexible and affordable customer relationship, contact management, customer service and helpdesk solutions for sales, support, service and marketing professionals based in a variety of locations around the UK and abroad.

Interestingly, the early adoption of the software and associated solutions from which Prior derived its own revenue shaped its own growth and culture as an organisation.  Because everyone was 'joined up' right from the  beginning home working, to a degree, has always been feasible. However, in the beginning, traditional values held, and everyone trekked to the office regardless.

Prior's Head Office and training centre is based in Richmond, Surrey -  a short train ride from Central London  - but with all the leafy tranquillity of the Thames and Richmond Park a mere ten minutes away.  Whilst the Grade II Listed Arts and Crafts House which is home to Prior is loved by all, anyone familiar with Richmond house prices (even post credit crunch), will know that it's practically impossible to buy a family house in the neighbourhood for less than £1M. The 'escape to the country' syndrome has lost thousands of companies some excellent employees because they could not match their lifestyle expectations with the demands of a challenging commute, especially for those with young families,  and Prior was determined to avoid this skills drain.

When James, a gifted young Prior CRM developer with a passion for football won a coaching contract inPrior Analytics shortlisted for The Remote Employer Award the United States, he became the first Prior employee to work from home on a different continent and continues to work in this way some five years later.  Football and programming are a happy marriage for James and the arrangement works beautifully with communication via MSN, email, Skype and, of course, the Prior Analytics' browser-based Sage CRM customer service database coupled with GoldMine (used over terminal services) for sales and marketing.  Adam, the father of two young boys, commutes all the way to his home study (based in Norfolk) and Liz's customers often comment on the background noise of birdsong when they are speaking to her on the phone (her office is in her conservatory).

Interestingly, one of the biggest challenges to business in the early days when everyone was based in the South East was the logistics of servicing the nation-wide customer base.  Prior has always operated on a UK wide basis and it was not uncommon to need a Consultant in Manchester to upgrade a system on one day and then one in Exeter for a meeting the next.  This was leading to an embarrassingly large carbon footprint and tired and disgruntled employees spending half their lives in a snarl on the motorway.  Basing individuals in home offices in key locations around the UK has significant environmental and cost benefits, increases the motivation and productivity of employees and promoted a much better life/work balance.  Abandoning the daily commute has saved some of our workers at least an hour and a quarter per day, which based on an average of 232 working days a year could amount to 39 working days every year.  Prior employees are happier, healthier and more productive as they spent more time with their families, relaxing or fitting in exercise routines that would otherwise be forgotten.

Part of Prior Analytics' mission statement is to help companies or organisations to 'win and retain' customers.  Both customer and staff retention are critical to Prior from both an internal and external perspective.    We deploy a range of carefully selected 'best of breed' solutions from FrontRange, Sage and Microsoft which are all designed to promote communication, support the sales and marketing function and improve the quality of the customer experience. Estimates vary but it's typically claimed that it costs up to eight times as much sell to a new customer than to retain an existing one.   Strangely, however, the  sales and marketing budgets of many companies are typically geared heavily towards new customer acquisition rather than retention. 

Overall, our business aim is to help companies to promote a true service-led culture and the technology that we sell, whilst vital,  is still just a piece of this jigsaw.  The emphasis is on people, process and technology and fitting them together to achieve a profitable outcome. This results in a positive financial outcome for the company coupled with an investment in the customer and employee in terms of their experience whilst providing or receiving the service.

The vast majority of Prior's ten full time employees will work from home or remotely (from client sites) at some point during their working week. Strategic partners can also be granted access to certain parts of the systems as appropriate.  Of course, there are logistical points to be taken into consideration when this way of working has become such a main stream part of corporate culture.  Prior employs a rotation system to ensure that the Head Office is adequately staffed at all times. This has the added benefit of ensuring that there is time allocated for internal face-to-face meetings and ensures that remote workers are not isolated and have time to socialise with colleagues.  Trust plays a significant role but those selected for home or remote working are typically more self-motivated than their clock-watching 9 to 5 counterparts.  Technology plays a large part in ensuring that employees working from home are always in the loop, can collaborate effectively and don't feel marginalised.  

Prior Analytics undertook a major review of internal process, policy and systems in 2008 and adopted a new environmental policy as part of this process which has led to some significant changes.  Customers and prospects are encouraged, wherever feasible, to have configuration, upgrades and data migration work performed on their systems via a remote connection. The same is true of sales presentations which are frequently conducted via webinar.  Employees are encouraged to take the train rather than driving (especially as trains now have power and internet connections).  Car sharing is encouraged and Prior is currently signing up for the 'Ride your bike to work' scheme for employees who do live nearby and work regularly at Head Office.

Prior's contact management and customer database is GoldMine Premium Edition from FrontRange solutions.  Remote workers access this via a Terminal Services Connection. This system is interfaced to Sage CRM - a browser based solution from Sage plc which manages the customer service element with automatic alerts and workflow to drive and measure service level agreement targets.  These systems are interfaced to a text messaging service from Clickatell which enables anyone to send texts to co-workers or customers alike directly from the contact database either singly or 'en-masse'.

Calendars and diaries are managed via a shared GoldMine calendar. This, along with email, can be accessed by the Consultancy team via GoldMine Mobile on their Blackberries. Day to day conversations are carried out via MSN.

The use of NTR remote support software has significantly reduced the need for site visits over the years and made it possible to carry out maintenance to systems when all the users are logged out in the evening which has resulted in productivity gains for all concerned and another set of 'green' points for Prior.  Anyone who has a problem that they need a Prior technician to work on can either ring the office, email the problem or simply log it using the 'Self Service' page on our website.

At that point they can click on the link to log them into the NTR support and a technician based in any location working remotely can take over the problematic PC, diagnose and, hopefully resolve the issue quickly. This same technology can also be used to demonstrate software and solutions and provide 'webinars' to customers on demand.

Claire said: "I am delighted that Prior Analytics has been shortlisted for this innovative award which spotlights the important message that remote working can be both economically, socially and environmentally sustaining. With the right people, process and technology remote working brings significant benefits to both employer and employees."


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