Cariad Marketing: an exemplary small business

Top Employer Awards

Justine Perry, managing director of Cariad Marketing, is a firm believer in the importance of cultivating a happy, motivated workforce and says that makes for happy clients.

Her approach to staff engagement and flexible working has just won Cariad Marketing the’s Top Employer Award for smaller SMEs.

Justine set up Cariad Marketing with her late husband Steve who was diagnosed with cancer just a few years after it started and died in 2013. Not only has she kept the business going, but she has seen the business grow and evolve. “Our mission is not to be the biggest digital marketing company, but we do want to be the greatest,” she says.

The Top Employer Award show it is well on its way. The judges praised the company, which has thirteen members of staff, for creating an environment that facilitated people working in different ways, in particular Cariad’s approach to apprenticeships, training and community engagement.

Unusually for a small company it invests heavily in staff training. All members of staff, immaterial of the number of hours they work, benefit from a broad range of training opportunities. These include specific business-related courses as well as those focused more around the individual such as personality profiling. Those staff for whom it is relevant, participate in Google boot camps, sit Google exams in subjects as diverse as analytics and AdWords or take part in Twitter flight schools.

Justine says keeping up to date with changes in the industry is vital in a dynamic field like digital marketing so training is key. Every staff member has a six-monthly appraisal where their training needs are assessed and in monthly one to one meetings managers can keep tabs on how things are going. Training is done at all levels. ‘We have to keep one step ahead,’ says Justine. Staff also attend the Digital Marketing Show so they get a sense of the bigger picture.

Young people
Cariad is also committed to developing young people. It has just taken on its third apprentice. Its first is now a manager and the second one has a full-time position in the organisation. ‘We look to have an apprentice at all times,’ says Justine. ’We don’t just take them on for a year and then they are out the door. They are exposed to a lot of different roles within the business and we build a masterplan for them.’

Justine says: ‘I am really passionate about supporting young people in their careers. A lot of people want to get into marketing, but it is hard. Digital marketing is a big growth area. It’s important to hire the right type of people on the right type of course. They come in with fresh ideas and it keeps the business young and lively. We have a good mix of ages and perspectives.’

Another important factor in creating a strong, diverse team is flexible working which Justine says is about creating an environment where she has the best people to do the job.

Technology is male-dominated, she states, but it is ironically one of the industries where it is easier to have a good work life balance. Depending on their role, digital marketing doesn’t require people to be in the office all the time, she says. ‘It’s about having the right people to deliver to your clients,’ she states.

She cites the case of one of her copywriters, who had been working from home on her own because she felt it was the only way to be able to work flexibly. However, she found it quite isolating. ‘She wanted to do what she does, but in an environment with people and on part-time hours,’ says Justine.

‘She can be at home when her kids come home and in the office for the rest of the day. As her children get older she may be able to take on more hours, but for now she gets the balance right for her and we get the best talent. For me happy staff mean happy clients and, as a working mum, it is important that we take a family first approach so if a child is sick they are your priority.’

Flexible working is not only good for individuals but for business, she says. Some tasks can be done better from home, for instance. To ensure that there is still a sense of team spirit there is a team meeting once a week where everyone is in the office. Team training also ensures people have a chance to get together regularly.

In the community
Justine is also committed to community engagement and Cariad support the Dragon’s Apprentice initiative where young people are given one hundred pounds and have to match that for charity through innovation and fundraising. Justine is a judge in her region and oversees the beginning and end of the process with Year Eleven and Twelves.

She feels community work is vital. She works with businesses in Hertfordshire, where Cariad is based, including several of the biggest charities. ‘It is important to be part of our local community. That is part of our ethos,’ she says. Several members of her team recently took part in a sponsored run to raise money for a local hospice.

Another initiative that was singled out by the Top Employer Award judges was Cariad’s policy of awarding a team bonus. They said this was evidence of encouragement for a collaborative rather than a competitive environment. Justine says it came about because everyone is working on different projects and the team is small. It seemed a better idea to create a team bonus which they could all work towards. ‘It means we are all striving for the same goal,’ she says. Everyone has a personal objective which is specific to them and then there is a team objective which is linked to company revenue. The bonus is shared out evenly between staff.

Other personal touches include Friday cake club where staff take it in turns to bake or buy cake. There are team lunches and Justine believes in entering awards because they are an opportunity to celebrate achievements. ‘I am immensely proud of my team. My business would be nothing without them,’ she says.

*A full case study of Cariad Marketing and all our other Top Employer Award winners will appear in the’s 2016 Best Practice Report in March. The 2015 report is available here.

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