Today marks 25 years in business for software services company Networks First, and this week I got some time with two of their directors to learn about a new concept in staff morale.
Sitting with head of operations Sallie-Ann Allen and head of services Daljit Paul, they explained that the company is growing and in an effort to encourage its sales team’s entrepreneur spirit, for three years service with achieved targets employees can claim a £50,000 bonus.
Now before you send me an email demanding their email addresses with CV’s ready to attach, Allen did explain that they are not prescribing what employees do with that lump sum, but she admitted that it is part of building out the Networks First business – they will take a ten per cent stake in any new complimentary venture – and it is the tapping into talent that they want to encourage.
“We have had about 15 per cent staff turnover in our workforce and we took the pragmatic view that if you are not keeping everyone, it is still great if you get longevity and even if there is no one size fits all and we responded to change that people want more and more,” she said.
The scheme was announced internally in December, with Networks First saying that the lump sum is in addition to the salary, commission scheme and benefits that it offers. Networks First believes that the chance of a guaranteed, non-commission based payment which will enable a potential entrepreneur to start their ideal business will be highly attractive to the calibre of employee they are looking to engage with.
Tom Mulvaney, managing director at Networks First commented: “If it does turn out to be a technology business we can work with, then we’ve achieved two things – we’ve created a partner, and we’ve enabled someone to be in control of their own company. As a business with founders who took a big entrepreneurial risk themselves, we know what it feels like to have that burning ambition, and we think it should be celebrated.”
I asked Allen and Paul if this was an effort to boost the UK IT start up scene, and Allen said that the company staff are motivated by loyalty and they wanted to give something back. “When someone leaves we do not slam the door on them, we work with them and keep in touch,” she said.
“Our community can be anything and we try to make this an extension of our sales team as we have the infrastructure in place and work alongside those start-ups.”
Paul said that most of this is about filling a gap; as a business it offers services to help complete tasks and especially as there is a focus on security skills, most companies are struggling to fill those roles.
Allen called the incentive the “entrepreneurs pot” , and said it is a particular challenge for new start-ups is keeping afloat – especially as 44 per cent of start-ups have closed by the third year in business – and as Government cuts have affected the options and the only option remains as a bank loan, this offer was conceived as one to encourage start-ups.
She said: “It is difficult to raise finance and with the £50,000 pot, you can do what you want but hopefully it is enough. If one in ten start-ups fail in the first year, this offers support in the long term.”
Sallie-Ann Allen and Daljit Paul from Networks First were talking
to Dan Raywood