Studio Visits: Cleversteam
Cleversteam is a digital agency that came about in January 2010 by Daniel Nicolson, Managing Director. Located in the heart of Liverpool, the team of nine are shifting gears in the world of Work & Travel and Sports Delivery, working with organisations and companies such as Smaller Earth, Camp Leaders, Sports England, Total Swimming and Total Gymnastics to help them with all their development and design needs.
You get the feeling after having met the team here that there’s a real sense of unity amongst them. It’s lovely, actually – Cleversteam seems to as much as a way of living as it is a way of working. We sit down with Daniel to find out more about who they are, what they do and what they stand for as an agency.
“I was a freelance developer at the time and one of my contracts was a company called Smaller Earth. We were getting on well and after a short amount of time they offered me a job as a web developer. I politely declined. I really enjoyed the business side of things and on the coding front I didn’t really want to be tied down to one project,” says Daniel. “They came back to me with an idea… They proposed setting up a new company to sit within the international group of companies they run. This business would service the needs of all the firms within the group but also be free to pursue other work. That sounded much more up my street and we set upon building a team to bring.”“ It’s amazing to think that 24/7 people are using our software to achieve their ambitions.”
As an agency they “develop large web applications, the kind of systems that really empower a business to function. We work in two distinct sectors; work & travel and sports delivery,” he explains. “Work & Travel is the industry that facilitates the placement of people in seasonal work abroad. It could be going to work at a summer camp in America, a ski resort in Canada or a hotel in New Zealand.” They work with companies in this sector including Camp Leaders, Work and Traveller, USA Summer Camp, Smaller Earth and Resort Leaders to provide them web solutions. “Sports Delivery is what we call organisations and companies that deliver sport in one form or another. This could be the a publically funded institutions or the large national commercial Sports clubs teaching kids to learn to swim.” They work with some of the biggest brands, such as Sports England, Total Swimming, and Total Gymnastics in the country and some of our most famous Olympians, including Becky Adlington, to provide bespoke booking systems that help tens of thousands of kids engage in sport each week. Impressive, huh?
When they’re not focusing on client work, they’re busy building their own products that help and support the industries that they’re working in. One of which is their flagship product, Hanover, that they’re ultimately very proud of and has been a highlight for them as an agency. “We bill it as the Work & Travel CRM. It processes tens of thousands of people into work abroad each year. Recruitment agencies and visa sponsors are the world use it to manage the entire process from participants signing up to employers finding the right people to hire to someone arriving in the host country and knowing where to go. It’s amazing to think that 24/7 people are using our software to achieve their ambitions.”
It wasn’t a surprise to us then when Daniel shared another highlight, which was when they were awarded Edge Hill University Employer of the Year 2017. “We’ve always maintained a strong relationship with the uni and it was great to be recognised at a ceremony in spring.”“ Our clients often expect agile developments and support and I believe this can only be achieved when staff have the trust and autonomy to get on with things without fear.”
They’re an agency that see the people that they do work with “as strategic partners” because “reliance and growth can work both ways.” Intrigued by this we ask about their creative process, “from the outset we’ve been about creating meaningful relationships with the people we work with,” says Daniel, “it’s easy to build a simple website, throw it up on a server and move onto the next. It’s much more difficult to ingrain yourself into a business and understand the problems you’re solving through tech solutions. But the latter, for me, is far more fulfilling, satisfying and sustainable.”
It’s clear that Daniel and his team wear their values on their sleeves and strive to do something for a living that isn’t only something they enjoy, but also something that’s going to be impactful for both their clients and the world. “We’re a fairly young team working in a relaxed environment,” he explains, “our clients often expect agile developments and support and I believe this can only be achieved when staff have the trust and autonomy to get on with things without fear.” We asked Daniel what four words described Cleversteam, “Ambition. Excellence. Innovation. Passion. Trustworthiness. Self Development. Relationships. That’s eight, yes. But they’re our values.”“ We’ve just returned from Montreal where we were pitching our Hanover product at a world youth travel conference. This has led to strong interest in the software from companies across the globe.”
“It’s important to really enjoy what you do,” he reflects, “it’s a cliche but life is short and your work takes up too big of a part of it to be unhappy with your job. When hiring we look for passion. We look for people who are going to come in on a Monday morning and want to be there. Luckily for most coders it’s a lifestyle, not a chore and as a result I believe we’ve always had a team of people who are passionate about what they do.”
Their structure is different to a lot of agencies we’ve spoken to, they’re a part of a larger family and sit alongside a group of international companies. “This gives a global feel to what we do. We meet up with the rest of the group employees once a year and whilst it may also mean the odd late night call, it does also open up a world of travel opportunities.”
Such opportunities are beginning to take their team and their products to the next level. “We’ve just returned from Montreal where we were pitching our Hanover product at a world youth travel conference. This has led to strong interest in the software from companies across the globe.” More closer to home, they’ll also soon be moving into their new office at the Albert Dock as they embark on growing the team in 2018.