47WORTHERS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
Pete Worthington, founder
Project team working through
a solution for a client
The UK technology industry has a reputation for innovation
and being forward thinking. But Pete Worthington,
founder of award-winning Bristol-based web development
company Worthers, believes that continued success must be
based on building strong, collaborative relationships – both
internally and externally.
You cannot neglect the human aspect of technology. As a web development
company, we deal in complex coding, intuitive design and robust data architecture.
But to me, that’s just what we
do
. Who we are, and how we relate to our clients, is
far more important.
In 2000, I led a team within a large corporate company where we saved several
million pounds by using web technology to connect people and deliver efficient
business applications. It was this that ignited my desire to work with businesses
and non-profit organisations to develop web-based solutions that would positively
impact people’s lives.
Worthers launched in 2004 to do just that. Since then, we’ve had the privilege
of working with organisations like the Church of England and international relief
charity Samaritan’s Purse, as well as many mission-led businesses.
Based in a converted barn near Bristol, where we work alongside creative
freelancers and other small companies, we’ve grown each year and are committed
to reinvesting profit into funding new initiatives, expanding our capability and
making the world a better place.
FACTS ABOUT
WORTHERS
»Headed by Pete Worthington
»Established in 2004
»Based in Tickenham, Bristol
»Services: Web-based software
development and hosting
»No. of employees: 9
»Main market: Charity, social
enterprise, mission-led
business
»Organisations worked with:
Church of England, Methodist
Church, The George Müller
Foundation, Samaritan’s Purse,
Wycliffe Hall College, The
Cotswold Perfumery
»www.worthers.com
Worthers
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
48 | WORTHERS
Business through relationship
It’s easy to refer to the “client-supplier
relationship” without really looking at
that last word: “relationship”. For us,
it’s not enough to work on a project.
We want to journey alongside our
clients, working collaboratively to help
them achieve their objectives.
Sometimes this means challenging our
clients’ assumptions, or questioning
them about the specification they’ve
provided, and this takes trust. The
client must trust that we know what
we’re talking about and care about
the solution – that it isn’t just a
profit-making exercise. For new clients
who have a history of working with
suppliers in a certain way, it can take
time and patience to adjust.
But working collaboratively usually
results in us coming up with better
ideas together, or adding new
elements that hadn’t been thought of
before. It also means we stay flexible
as the project develops.
For example, we’ve been working
with over half of the Church of
England dioceses – each existing as
separate businesses – to develop a
key web application that enables
management of and communication
with their countless staff, volunteers
and contacts. Where the original brief
asked for a standardised approach
that could be used across all dioceses,
by working together we came up
with a system that standardised core
data and allowed each diocese to add
customised data to suit their needs.
Many would describe this approach
as “agile”, but it goes beyond that.
Our goal is to use the best tool for
the particular project and not get
focused on only one approach. You
simply cannot do that without building
rapport with the people you work
with. Whatever the job, for us it’s
people first and the project second.
That’s why we continue to invest
more in fostering relationships than
in mass-marketing techniques. Our
business is mainly grown through
referrals, motivating us to consistently
do our best. We also want to provide a
positive impact within the industry and
market. We are energised by working
on projects that benefit others, and
pursue relationships with clients whose
objectives and values fit our own.
Creating a relationship culture
Our relationship-centred approach
extends beyond our clients. One recent
project required us to develop an
interactive digital experience helping
school children explore life issues. The
solution needed to be installed into an
articulated lorry that would travel to
schools across the UK.
Open plan offices
encourages good
communication
We want to
journey
alongside our
clients,
working
collaboratively
to help them
achieve their
objectives
»EXTRA FACTS
»Developed project grants and funding software for one of the
largest non-profits in the UK
»Created an innovative digital platform helping over 15,000 young
people explore life issues
»Designed software to securely manage data and communications
of 130,000 volunteers and staff
»Developed a donation and payment system for a leading UK charity
handling 10,000+ transactions per day
»Built powerful application management software for an educational
college
»Developed a web-enabled production management system for a
factory
49WORTHERS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
We realised this was an opportunity to
collaborate with other creative people
we had strong relationships with.
Assembling a team of writers, illustrators
and film-makers, we developed the
software platform and built the
hardware infrastructure around the low-
cost and durable Raspberry Pi computers.
But where “relationship” really begins is
within our own team. We’ve deliberately
developed a healthy culture of supporting
one another, asking for help, seeing
failure as a positive step towards learning,
not assigning individual blame and
fostering a sense of team responsibility.
Our open office environment naturally
supports good communication and
positive team dynamics.
Not only does all of this make for a
pleasant working environment, it’s
ultimately very efficient. Working
collectively results in us doing better-
quality work, because as the saying goes,
our whole is greater than the sum of
our parts. We have weekly training
sessions, and use a technique called
pair coding which allows developers
to work together, applying two sets of
skills and learning from each other.
The team knows that asking for help
is not a weakness. So often the work
culture around us means you can’t admit
to not having the answers – failure is
frowned upon or simply not tolerated, so
people pretend to be someone they’re
not, try and cover things up and blame
others for their mistakes. At Worthers,
we strive for excellence, but the reality
is every person on this team has had
moments when they have failed at
something, including myself.
A vision for the future
Going forwards, I genuinely believe that
to succeed, technology businesses will
have to deliver more than just innovation.
Buyers and decision makers are human
beings after all, as are programmers,
analysts and engineers. Unless we treat
and work with them as such, we will
lose out to organisations that do.
The term “relational” is already
widely used, but often as a marketing
technique to try and get business.
It is in reality investing in genuine
relationships that will set you apart. If
you don’t demonstrate this and follow
it through, it’s just a hollow word.
As human beings, we are designed to
work together. Technology is very good
at trying to individualise and separate
us. Even social media is a sort of
virtual, unreal representation of being
together. While it is a positive and
powerful force in the right context, if
you take the human aspect away from
technology, you lose something.
I think the 11 awards we’ve won over
the last eight years are testament to
the fact that relationship and success
are not mutually exclusive – quite the
opposite. I do not wish to suggest that
we are there yet. Like every business,
we are constantly learning and
improving. It’s an ongoing journey, but
we are committed to our approach.
Our hope is that in the future we will
be able to expand on this approach
by growing our collaborative
working space to enable more small
businesses, entrepreneurs and social
transformation visionaries to work
together within a supportive and
creative environment.
At Worthers,
we strive for
excellence, but
the reality is
every person on
this team has
had moments
when they have
failed at
something,
including
myself
The Worthers team
are friends as well as
colleagues