5 minutes with the founder: insights from 21 years at the helm

4 min read

In the first of a series of meet the team articles, we speak to Jill Davies, founder, and MD, to explore Jill’s experiences and insights from life at the helm of Granite 5 for the last 21 years.

Never a conformist, Jill started her career as a successful commercial pilot, however after the birth of her son, needed an alternative career option that would fit with her change in circumstances. That’s when Jill came across web development and spotted an opportunity to build a company to create websites. Having never coded before, but not one to back down from a challenge, Jill trained herself in HTML and all aspects of web development and launched the company.

The company started by focusing on local community websites with the original name of ‘Round Your Way’ and quickly created a name for itself as a specialist in this area. However, with the web gaining momentum, the opportunity to support businesses of all shapes and sizes became apparent and Jill pivoted the company to focus on this wider market.

Supporting charities has also been an important focus for Jill, and this can be seen throughout the journey of the agency. The first charity website was created for Screen Reader, a blind charity in 2006 and the agency continues to specialise in charity websites still today with recent launches for the University of the Third Age in Cambridge and the children’s charity, Paperboat.

Throughout the evolution of the agency, Jill has remained focused on fostering a culture of teamwork and collaboration and creating an agency that truly cares about its clients and goes the extra mile. She has transformed the business from a web development agency to a digital transformation agency, which is no mean feat!

Find out more about the company milestones in the recently published company timeline.

Granite 5> Jill, it’s been quite a journey for Granite 5 over the last 21 years. What’s been your focus during this time?

Jill> When I came across websites back in the 1990’s I could see the potential impact they could make for a business and I was hooked! I knew I wanted to create an agency that would support businesses to harness this new asset as it was relatively unknown back when we started.

From there my focus has been to create an agency who are real specialists in website development so they can support clients but also challenge them to create the best solution possible. We always go the extra mile and treat a client project as if it was our own with the same dedication and focus. That’s what I’m really proud of.

Granite 5> Tell us about the team culture at Granite 5.

Jill> I have always strived to create a team of specialists who are passionate about what they do and a culture that’s fun and encourages collaboration. I believe my role is to bring talented people into the agency and support them to do their best work by delivering outstanding outcomes for our clients. Simple! An example is one of our longest serving team members, Ricky, who joined us back in 2011 as an apprentice, and has evolved into an outstanding front-end developer who is a real asset to the agency.

Our company values are passion, integrity, teamwork and learning and these are embedded in everything we do as an agency which very much guides our culture. I very much believe in living and breathing your values and not having them as a corporate tick box! This has allowed us to build an agency with a unique culture that breeds outstanding work with an excellent cohesive team. I know I’m biased but I think our clients would agree too!

Granite 5> How has the agency transformed from web developers to a digital transformation agency?

Jill> The agency has gone through a big transformation from the early days of community website development to the digital transformation agency we are today. Throughout this development though, I have always ensured we stay true to our core values as we have expanded our services to a full digital agency. This has meant enhancing our skills to offer the current and best digital solutions available while maintaining the highest level of integrity in our service to clients. We never promise something we can’t deliver or don’t have the expertise in.

More recently, we carried out a digital transformation internally to adapt to the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. This has included moving to electronic signature software, remote recruitment, new HR software and onboarding, digital client kick off sessions, workshops and online collaboration tools. This transformation hasn’t been without its challenges, as I’m sure every business is feeling at the moment, but the outcome has certainly been worth it.

Granite 5> Is there anything you would do differently during the life of Granite 5 if you could go back?

Jill> To be honest, I’m pretty happy with the journey we have been on as an agency and where we are today. However, if I could go back, one thing I would change is putting all our eggs in one basket with Rackspace hosting, and not using various hosts including Amazon Web Services and Nimbus. We quickly realised this and changed to using multiple hosts to offer segmentation of services and reduce our risk, but I would start out in this way if I had my time again.

The other thing I would do differently is I would have worked on vision and values earlier on in the life of the company and embedded them in the company culture. I always had an idea of what these were, but they were in my head! By drafting them with the whole team we were able to come up with values that we all believe in and are at the heart of the agency. These have become the bedrock of the company and form our guide for how we recruit, how we work as a team and how we work with clients.

Granite 5> What’s next for Granite 5?

Jill> Well the sky is the limit! Seriously though, our focus is to continue to grow by supporting businesses in our core specialist areas of membership organisations, charities and large businesses by providing outstanding digital services. And of course, always living our values and having fun doing it!