Wednesday January 1st 2020
Directorzone GRID company interview series: Dan Cooper, CEO of Allies Computing, which processes millions of address lookup transactions every week for ecommerce websites and CRM systems.
- The story
- Innovation: change of ownership
- Future growth
- GRID co-ordinates and relationships
If you help your customers to manage their customer data, then you are an important supplier. The customers of ALLIES COMPUTING range from Sky, the NHS and IKEA to 8,000 other businesses that depend on Allies software to validate customer contact details - addresses, emails and mobile numbers - and whose customer databases have to be flawless.
Located in a business park just 3 miles from Norwich and set in beautiful countryside, the newly-renovated offices of Allies project confidence, harmony and efficiency. This sense of well-being has been enhanced by some very important and recent strategic decisions.
Two years ago, as the co-founders and majority shareholders, Rev Dr Lorna and Dr Peter Allies, approached retirement age, the 30-year old company started to consider future ownership options.
The board of four directors thought carefully about how to maintain growth, innovation and adherence to the core principles that had served the company so well.
With the unanimous backing of CEO Dan Cooper and FD Sarah Nice, the co-founders made an important decision: to sell Allies to its employees. That decision, carried out in late 2015, has helped to galvanise the company’s performance.
Innovation: change of ownership
It’s nearly 4 years into Dan Cooper’s tenure as CEO, and it’s obvious from meeting him – and from news articles on the web site – that the company places exceptional emphasis on employee motivation and on teamwork. Explaining that the company’s decision to go for 100% employee ownership through an Employee Trust – rather than to offer shares to individuals or even to seek an MBO - was not a seismic shift. He says that “we have always sought the counsel of employees”.
So how does employee ownership translate into bottom line performance and how a company is perceived by customers, suppliers, partners and others?
In a press release last month, the EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP ASSOCIATION wrote: “it is not the capital that is employed in the business that makes the difference; it is the people that employ the capital that matter most.” At the same time, the EOA published YouGov survey results that point to higher levels of trust in UK employee-owned businesses indicating that, of people polled:
- over 50% think the UK economy would be better placed if it had more employee-owned businesses
- almost 60% of people believe that employee-owned businesses are more trustworthy than other forms of business.
Echoing this, Dan Cooper cites customer service as one of the greatest strengths of Allies - in addition to data quality and integrity. He believes that “it’s personal” sums up the company’s approach to both staff and customers, and says that the results speak for themselves.
The company has had year-on-year growth of 9% for the last 2 years, secured impressive new contracts – including a 5-year contract to develop an addressing application for the UK’s main postal operator – and launched exciting new products and partnerships.
Allies targets all sectors and all sizes of companies anywhere in the world – well, at least in 240 countries. In short, it targets any companies that need to manage customer data and interaction more effectively.
Despite this broad targeting, the company sees turbo-charged opportunities in 2 geographical areas: the US and Ireland.
The company hopes to replicate its UK success in the US using its latest “address autocomplete” technology, which works particularly well in countries with less granular postcodes like the US ZIP code.
The opportunity in the Irish marketplace is more structural. Until recently, postcodes did not exist in Ireland beyond Dublin. As a result, Ireland's first-ever postcode system - Eircode – was launched in 2015 for the country's 2.2 million addresses. Allies made "a little bit of history" by developing one of the first address lookup APIs in the world to support Irish Eircodes.
Sláinte to the owner-employees of Allies!
GRID co-ordinates and relationships
Size: £1.8m annual revenues
Customer base (selection from 8,000+):
Approved Food, AutoTrader, Bridgestone, British Heart Foundation, Citizens Advice, Crown Prosecution Service, Dents, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Find Me a Gift, Gala Tent Harper Collins, IKEA, Inter Trader, KFC, LA Muscle, Love Digital TV, Merlin Cycles, Money.co.uk, Nestle Purina, NHS, Post Office, Prezzy Box, Rick Stein, Royal Mail, Sky, Sport Pursuit, Suzuki, Thane Direct, Victorian Plumbing, Wilco…
- Royal Mail
- Ordnance Survey (OS)
- United States Postal Service (USPS)
- Bluespace, office design specialists.
- Resident Pro - serving the hotel industry
- Tribal Group Plc - selling to the public sector
- WHAT3WORDS - location reference company
- Crafty Clicks
- PCA Predict
Interviewer: Ronan Bryan, Directorzone.