Guy Redwood, founder and managing director of SimpleUsability tells Business Matters what defines his way of doing business.
What do you currently do?
I’m the founder and managing director of user experience and behavioural research consultancy, SimpleUsability. I’m responsible for the day-to-day business operations including business development and budgeting, at our office in central Leeds. I’m a creative individual, so my favourite part of the role is driving innovation across the business; through its services and company culture.
The ultimate aim of my work is to connect our clients with the needs and desires of their consumer base. I’m always considering how neuroscience can be applied to user experience and to aid market research. I’ve led the SimpleUsability team to create a unique user research methodology, combining proven psychology principles with technology to observe customers’ natural behaviour.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I founded one of the early web agencies in 1996, then spent a few years in a huge system integration company working on some of the biggest ecommerce projects around the turn of the millennium. In 2001, I left all that behind to start SimpleUsability, originally as a way of working with old customers on their digital start-ups.
What defines your way of doing business?
Innovation. I love improving everything, continuously. The brands we work with are innovating in their space. Their competitors usually copy them, so they look to us to drive and inspire their innovation. It’s something I’m naturally good at and love the buzz it brings.
In an industry striving and often failing to promote more females into senior agency roles, I’m proud to be the only male in our executive team of five. I’m surrounded by talented and passionate people in the SimpleUsability office, there is a huge range of personalities, skills and attitudes. This means we’re constantly learning from one another and pushing boundaries to progress in our careers. The team is empowered to make decisions, guided by our shared vision and values.
The future for SimpleUsability is incredibly exciting. The behavioural research team is doing an increasing amount of service design. I see this as the natural evolution of UX – as we move away from thinking about digital and just focusing on how people engage with brands/organisations.
Our research facilities and participant recruitment team, Research Helper, has recently doubled in size to cope with our ambitions to quadruple its turnover. We’ve just won a half million-pound contract with a government department, and we’ve worked hard to get to this point.
Who do you admire?
I admire David Hieatt, founder of ethical lifestyle brand Howies, and now cofounder of Huit Jeans, which I believe to be the best jeans in the world. His story is really inspiring. He is reviving a Welsh a jean factory which closed in 2002 putting many residents out of work, by starting a new denim company in the same building. He has a considered, respectable way of doing business and lives his company and personal values. He runs an annual conference on his farm called The Do Lectures where disruptors and change makers share their stories. 1,500 people applied to attend in 2019, I was one of the lucky 100 invited and he says; “don’t come if you aren’t willing to say goodbye to the old you.” A believer in paying good deeds forward, he helps a huge number of people without any expectation in return.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
With hindsight, I would have been completely open with everything to do with the agency, including salaries. We have an enormous amount of transparency within the team, there is little the team don’t know, but it’s harder to be transparent about things retrospectively, so I wished we’d have started this way. I admire the cultures created in the companies I’ve spoken to that have 100% transparency.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to network, I aim to meet 30 new people a month to fully benefit from it. Studies have shown that agency owners can add a million pounds to their bottom line by meeting at least 30 new people a month. Make it a priority to continually meet new people, get yourself in new situations as you never know who you’ll chat to or what you may experience. The world is such a small place now, so it is even more beneficial for as many people as possible to be aware of your story.
I’d also advise working on yourself, call it a personal MBA. Set regular time aside to concentrate on your own development and look after yourself. Success in business can only follow. Happiness is infectious. It is so important for a business leader to be happy in themselves and to be continually learning. This year I’ve really pushed the boat out and learnt about baking on open fires and navigating by only using nature.