When I first met the three founders of Skillcast, they were seeking to build a board in order to meet their obligations as a public company. With a background of doing just that within a number of small-cap public companies, I recently joined with my fellow non-executive directors to help fulfil that role.
What struck me during our very first meeting was the enthusiasm that all three founders had for the business. They were so passionate about what they do and the companies they work with, and it was clear just how much the business meant to them. And that really resonated with me. I work with a lot of different companies, and I'm especially motivated by people with that high level of focus, intensity and enthusiasm for what they are trying to achieve. In that respect, Skillcast hit the spot.
Following its successful admission to trading on the AIM, I asked the co-founders to talk about some of the highlights of their 20-year journey.
- Practising what we preach - Vivek Dodd, CEO
- Customer first attitude - Catriona Razic, CCO
- Driving compliance transformation - Anthony Miller, CTO
With a listing on AIM, the company now has a timely opportunity to build on the foundations that it has laid and open up to a much wider customer base. This will enable the team to accelerate the adoption of their products that provide effective solutions to the many workforce compliance challenges that businesses are facing and take advantage of where the market is currently.
1. Practising what we preach
Vivek Dodd, CEO & Co-founder
Going public is a significant milestone for a company, and we are proud to have reached it at Skillcast. However, a company must take this step with care. The process is strenuous, and it's easy to become distracted and lose sight of your core business. So, our top priority throughout this process has been to stay focused on delivering a 5-star service to our clients.
As we look at our future as a public company, our expectations are high, but our feet are firmly on the ground. We're most excited about how being in the public eye makes us relevant at a time when compliance transformation is resonating with companies everywhere.
The demand for the technology and content that we provide for helping companies raise staff awareness and manage compliance processes has existed for many years. However, the post-pandemic hybrid workplaces are exposing deficiencies papered over in the office environment.
While money laundering, bribery and data breaches are still some of the biggest concerns, companies recognise the need to address a wider range of issues. In a recent survey of compliance officers attending a Skillcast seminar, mental health emerged as the biggest compliance concern – ahead of financial crime and data protection. Over two-thirds of the attendees stated that remote workers are at greater risk of mental health issues than those who regularly come to the office.
Companies that aspire to create more ethical, inclusive, and flexible workplaces must implement robust staff training and compliance processes – and that's what we do for our clients. We improve their employees' compliance experience with positive engagements. We help them improve their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) credentials, which are increasingly important to their customers and the talent they want to attract to work with them.
These imperatives apply to us too. Our growth plans are entirely dependent on attracting and nurturing talent. In speaking with investors, one frequent question was how we would recruit new staff in the future. In practice, this hasn't been too difficult for us – perhaps we serve a social purpose, empower our employees, trust them with responsibility, and reward them for delivering on our values.
Employees owned nearly eight per cent of our company before the IPO, and we have granted share options for a further five per cent at the time of the IPO. We are proud that every employee has some ownership stake in our company.
In taking the company to the next level, we did consider private equity, which is more commonplace for a company of our size. However, despite our relatively small size and the costs of the AIM admission process, we consciously chose the public route because it fits in with our message of compliance transformation, integrity, and good governance.
Our AIM listing demonstrates that we can practice what we preach to our clients. We are most excited about the opportunity to help businesses create more ethical, inclusive, and resilient workplaces. That defines our purpose in the world.
2. Maintaining our customer first attitude
Catriona Razic, CCO & Co-founder
Over the last two decades, Skillcast's overriding theme has been about integrity. We believe it is vitally important to deliver on our promises, be as transparent as possible, and innovate with our clients.
I am firmly committed to the promises we make to our clients. Skillcast is a safe pair of hands with a committed team who understand our value to the people and the companies we work with.
After 20 years, I wouldn't want anything to impact our business that would jeopardise the progress that we are making for those customers. As our business grows, it remains crucial to my co-founders and me that we continue to honour our promises.
Our stock exchange flotation gives us a mechanism to fast-forward our growth without the need for private equity funding and potentially losing control of our strategy and vision which would feel like a huge disservice to our clients.
Being admitted to trading on AIM helps ensure we continue to lead the market whilst accelerating our innovation faster than we could have with our existing strategy.
Unlike many companies who IPO who install a new executive team to run the business, we will continue to build on what we have achieved and work with our clients in a way that they know and trust. It all comes down to integrity.
The nature of corporate compliance itself has changed dramatically in the last few years. It is no longer simply a response to regulatory breaches. The concept of compliance has started to filter throughout organisations, becoming more central to how people approach their job.
It is about changing the behaviours within companies to foster a more proactive and mindful approach to compliance. The product and services we offer have also changed to reflect the increasing focus on employees behaviours.
The Bribery Act of 2010 was a real game-changer for many companies outside of regulated industries that lacked a compliance department. The introduction of the legislation acted as a catalyst by raising business awareness of the need to become more ethical and instigating behavioural change.
Nowadays, companies increasingly expect employees to think about how they are dealing with stakeholders and be more mindful of that social, economic governance that is the company's lifeblood when going about their work.
Helping people do good business is what Skillcast and compliance are all about.
3. Driving compliance transformation
Anthony Miller, CTO & Co-founder
Looking back over the last 20 years, arguably, the company's most significant achievements have been to change business perceptions of compliance and regulatory training as a chore into a powerful enabler.
By enabling your workforce to know your procedures, they become completely confident in what they can and can't do. Then they can take more risks and be more innovative, knowing where the boundaries are. Powerful for any company.
What differentiates the Skillcast Compliance Learning Management System from the average LMS provider is that their training involves pushing information out to people from the centre, whilst our systems also capture information.
At Skillcast, our philosophy is that happy, well-motivated workforces are essential to business success, a belief we share with many of our customers.
By conducting and analysing surveys, Skillcast can create valuable insights into the general well-being of staff for senior management. The results can shape decisions that will improve the working lives of all employees, but particularly those who work remotely.
We have made huge progress in improving the accessibility of our services for smaller businesses. Twenty years ago, only the largest organisations had digital HR systems. The rest were using spreadsheets.
The evolution of technology led to solutions for medium-sized companies. But it was the advent of SaaS that finally allowed smaller companies access. Skillcast is pioneering the same transformation in compliance and regulatory training, with the ultimate goal of putting it within reach of customers with five employees.
For me, the most notable of Skillcast's landmark achievements is our role in transforming how some of the UK's largest employers train their staff.
A major UK supermarket had completely paper-based training as recently as three or four years ago. We worked with them to very quickly move all of that online. Their employees are not seated at a desk all day; they are stacking products or serving at checkouts, yet we trained around 300,000 people within just two weeks, saving the company time and money and keeping the shelves full!
More recently, some of the same staff became frontline workers during the pandemic because the stores had to stay open. Within the first lockdown period, the company had to hire over 50,000 temps, who couldn't start work until they'd done their essential training. Without our system, they would not have been able to get so many people in place so quickly.
Their smaller stores often have only one manager. We trained thousands of existing staff to step up if their manager had to self-isolate to keep the stores open. In a crisis, that ability to quickly bring in new people or retrain and reskill existing staff to do different jobs makes your organisation stronger and more resilient.
From a personal perspective, I'm very passionate about diversity in the workplace. In the Tech industry gender diversity is a real challenge. Positions advertised may be lucky to get one female applicant, and that's a real source of concern. So I was delighted to recently take on two female T-Level students as interns, on an industry placement with Skillcast.
Looking ahead to the next stage of our journey, our listing on the AIM is very exciting. We made a conscious decision to move into the public arena and hold ourselves accountable to the higher standards of transparency and governance while retaining some control over our destiny. We aim to use the investment to make a step-change in the company's growth while retaining some flexibility and prudence. Going public is a momentous landmark in our journey.
Looking to the future
Skillcast is already hugely successful, and in the few months of my involvement, I've seen that it is a very well-run business. Of course, to date, it has been very much run as a private business, focusing on the things that are important to the founders as owners and managers of a private business. Transitioning to a public company requires things to be done slightly differently, requiring different tools, processes and procedures.
The challenge for me and my fellow NEDs is to help them on that journey without disrupting and destroying the ethos of what they've successfully built over the last 20 years. The most exciting challenge for me is striking the right balance between what they need to do as a public company while maintaining the values on which that company has been built.
Going public allows us to build on the company's past achievements and, with the additional resources and funding, capitalise on the growth opportunities that this next stage of Skillcast's journey will bring.
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