Click here to read part one of “A brief history of GPMD”.
The Stuart & Paul Era (2014 - 2016)
I’d been thinking for a while about bringing on board a partner, or partners, to work together and build the agency. I’d been working with Lawrence Anderson for many years but I wanted an ‘in-house’ team, working together to really excel at delivering client services. I was introduced to Stuart Gardner by Lawrence and I liked him immediately, whilst he had no direct experience in an ecommerce agency he was an entrepreneur and had great business brain.
He wanted to pursue the ‘digital nomad’ existence, travelling and working from different places. This suited me as I wanted to fully embrace the remote working model and I thought we would work well together so, after much discussion, we went ahead and became partners. From the start Stuart was great. Working closely with the team, he was able to focus solely on the business and he brought a more rigorous approach to HR and Admin than I had ever been able to achieve. We had a great 2014 thanks partly to him and also to a bit of luck.
I had known Will Lewis for a number of years, he had worked with Angus and Innes previously and had kept in touch. We had done a little work for him before, and he called me up one day and said “I think I have something that will suit you” and invited us to come and meet with Fenwick. I love the history of the company (there is a book if you’re interested) and it was a privilege to work with Mark & Adam Fenwick and Will.
Above: The Brew, Eagle House, Old Street
We moved offices to The Brew @ 163 City Road in April 2015. This was our first move into a co-working space. The flexibility was great and the move has been really good for us, and supports our remote working module very well.
In July 2015 Paul Rogers agreed to come back as a partner to join Stuart and I. Paul had started a Magento, SEO and PPC auditing business, and he brought this with him. To begin with, everything went really well. Then in 2016 we lost two of our biggest clients within the space of a few months.
Fenwick had always been a temporary assignment, originally planned as 6 months to 1 year project to build a non transactional site to lay the foundation for ecommerce, the contract was extended to 3 years until coming to an end in 2016. We had plenty of warning for this and so had planned for it, but what we hadn’t planned for was The Watch Gallery leaving us for Lewis with only a months notice (I learned a hard lesson on notice periods).
This meant we had to take drastic action. I decided that the best route forward was to focus entirely on the Design & Build of ecommerce sites and I made the very hard decision to close the marketing side of the business making 4 people redundant. I was gutted that we had to do this, but it was the right decision for the business. I’ve been very pleased to see everyone go from strength to strength after leaving GPMD.
Above: Matt and Alex in our old office
Paul also decided to leave in May, and in August Stuart also agreed to leave as we could no longer afford his salary. It was a tough time but, with the support of Matt Bailey and Alex Corradi who worked hard to get things back on track, we came back with a renewed focus and determination. The old adage “what doesn’t break you makes you stronger” was certainly true in my case.
Time to focus on Design & Build
In September 2016 we had a bit of luck - Sam Ban agreed to join us as CTO. It had been a year since Adrian left and we had not had a strong lead in development. Sam was well known in the Magento community having run the London Magento Meetup for many years and he, like Jamie, is a brilliant problem solving developer who has an amazing ability to get things done.
Sam starting was the beginning of a new era. It’s been fantastic to have him onboard and we have grown the Design & Build side of the business by 30-40% every year since he joined. We’ve had a few bumps along the way but, on the whole, it’s been a great and enjoyable journey.
In 2017 we changed our strategy to become platform agnostic. To add to our Magento capabilities we became an Enterprise Partner for Shopware in May 2017, and then Partner for BigCommerce in Aug 2018. Becoming agnostic as been a fantastic move for us, and the whole team have been 100% behind the initiative to learn new platforms. We are always researching and evaluating additional platforms to add to our capabilities.
The only low point in the last few years was the departure of Alex Corradi. Alex started as a Project Manager in 2013 and became Operations Director in 2017. He left to join the Born group in Feb 2019 and we miss him! But as one door closes another opens, and we have added 4 new people in the last year; John Brolly (a very experienced Ecomemrce Consultant), Rabia Qureshi (Chief Customer Officer - in line with our drive to put customer satisfaction above everything else), Charlie Cummings (Ecommerce Project Manager) and Daniel Fernandes (Joined in Dec 2019 as a Solutions Expert).
We now have an amazing team of 14 people, and 12 clients for whom we are very proud to be a trusted partner: 31DOVER, Affordable Art Fair, Aram, Balance Me, Winterson, Bears Ice Cream, Mywalit, Proviz Sports, Shoes For Crews, Atelier Swarovski, The Fish Society, and Soho House Retail (Soho Home & Cowshed).
In 2020 we are planning to launch our first product, 3 years in the making, this will be a huge milestone for us so watch this space….
Thank you so much to every company that we’ve worked for, every person that has invested their time to work at GPMD, and every partner that has supported us. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will deliver!
A few words from Graham…
When Mark asked me to send him a quote to include in a blog for GPMD’s 20th birthday I immediately had two thoughts… first - I would be delighted, second - 20 years!! When reading through the article one thing that was immediately evident is the sincerity Mark has put into it. Being lucky enough to be Marks best friend and business partner this came as no surprise to me. Mark mentions the early days of setting up an agency is not easy and we would frequently have heated discussions on how to improve the cash flow, one area Mark would never compromise on was the quality of the delivery… no matter what! Whilst my initials (GP) remain in the name, the DNA of GPMD is entirely down to Mark. When we do manage to catch up socially I can’t wait to find out how things are going to and hear what he has planned for the future, which is never a small list. I’m immensely proud GPMD are going from strength to strength… they deserve it! I wish Mark and the rest of the team at GPMD every success for the future.