We are hugely proud of our new website and have been very impressed with the professionalism and customer service provided by our chosen web designers, Nexus Design & Print. Aside from the quality of their work, the overriding first impression is that it is a friendly and close-knit business where people are happy to work. This reflects the ethos of owner and MD Claudine Young, who took over the reins just over 18 months ago.
“When I took over the business, I wanted to ensure it was much more family-friendly, and geared to a work-life balance. I’m aware that our staff need to have time with their families, so we are flexible on hours. However, it’s very important that we get together and we stay focused as a team. You need to be able to run ideas past each other and talk about projects.”
Claudine has been with Nexus since its inception, almost 25 years ago, and seen many changes. In fact, the whole nature of the business has changed dramatically over the years. She describes Nexus today as follows: “We’re a creative marketing agency and we work with you on everything from designing your logo, designing your website, printing your stationery, supporting your marketing or helping with your digital marketing. We help you create a strategy to move forward and are here to offer advice.”
The original Nexus was very different, as Claudine recalls: “The company was started by Steve Wadman in February 1993 and I was one of the first members of staff that he recruited. I began in sales, although I have worked in all departments.
“At the start our main business was selling computer stationery, such as paper, diskettes, and Magnetic tapes - any computer consumables.
“We did a little bit of design such as letterheads and it wasn’t until we’d grown that business that we decided to open up a studio which I headed up. We also became print agents.
“Our business model now is geared towards design but we still offer computer stationery sales. There is still a market for it, which is quite amazing. There are still users of dot matrix printers, as the ribbons are more cost-effective way of printing than using toners. A ribbon will last you a lot longer and it’s a lot cheaper. For us it is good repeat business.”
The leap from sales to running a design studio was a steep learning curve. “Starting a studio was quite daunting,” says Claudine. “It was something I’d never done and I had to learn very quickly. I was never what you would call a designer, I was always more of an art worker. But soon there was enough business to employ a junior designer, James Morrison, who is still with us 12 years later and now heads up the studio.
“I moved over to office manager, which then progressed to general manager. I ran the business for the MD in his semi-retirement and then took it over as owner when he retired in April 2016.”
Claudine is the first to admit that the move from manager to owner was a big change, and entailed more pressure. I asked her what the main difference is between being a general manager and an owner. She quickly replies: “About nine hours sleep!”
“You can certainly have a few sleepless nights. I think when I first took over I remember sitting down and thinking ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing’, even though I virtually ran the office. I made a lot of the decisions prior to taking over, but someone else would authorise the decision. When it’s you making those decisions and it’s you who’s responsible for what happens after you’ve made those decisions, it is quite different.”
When asked what was her best decision as an owner, the ironic reply is taking on a marketing manager - ironic as there was no-one marketing the marketing company.
“The most difficult thing for many small businesses is that marketing is always at the bottom of the list,” she says. “It’s the last thing they do when it should actually be the first thing because it’s this that gets you known.
“We were just as slow. We were looking for a salesperson, but I realised that what we really needed was a marketing manager, so we took on Milly Stone this year. Marketing is something that people don’t always see as a selling tool when in fact it most certainly is. Everything comes back to how you’ve marketed your business and whether you’ve done it correctly.
“Taking on Milly was a great move as she is completely honest with me, which is what I need. I don’t need people to just fan my ego because what’s the point?”
If they were slow on their own marketing, the opposite applies to the work they do for their clients. Nexus offer a free marketing health check and are about to launch a new product especially aimed at start-ups.
“We are launching a Stepping Stone Package for brand new companies that are just starting up. We’ve put together a mini-marketing plan for them and we’ll put together a mini website and business stationery package to get them on the ladder.
“We like dealing with smaller businesses because it’s nice to see them grow through the advice you’ve given them. We work with people, not for people. Somebody doesn’t come to us and say ‘I want a logo, get on with it’. We want the client to be fully involved and always encourage this.
“What sets us apart from others is that we have plenty of experience. We have younger designers but most of our designers are mature and they have a really good work ethic plus all the experience in their field. We have an old mindset but a very modern outlook.
“We are always looking at new trends and technologies. The guys go to a lot of industry events, in order to network with others in their field. We do a lot of research as well. And we want to harness the creativity of the younger generations. It is important to understand millennials and what they look for in a job or career.”
So what does the future hold for Nexus?
“We aim for steady growth,” stresses Claudine. “We don’t want to grow too quickly and become too big. We are a niche little creative agency that’s got a good personal touch and I don’t want to lose that. As much as we’ve got high expectations of what we can achieve, we want to achieve it while keeping our feet on the ground and sticking with our boutique approach.
“Our staff stay with us. James has been here for 12 years. Steve Elford freelanced for us for about nine years prior to joining the company, so he’s been with us for ten years. Fiona Edmunds-Prosser has been here five years and Suzanne Ford for four years. There are eight staff including me.
“I think everybody is really involved in the future of the business. They want to make the business future-proof. That’s important as well. It’s my pension but also I want our people to be able to have a job in 10 or 20 years’ time. They’re young enough to see the business grow. Part of that business will be shared with them hopefully as they get further down the line. So it’s important that we don’t spread ourselves too thin.
“We have a very loyal customer base. We want to build relationships. You may start with doing a brochure, and then from the brochure you get to do their magazine, and from the magazine they need to re-design their website. And you can grow a brand with them. We grow with the brand that they’re trying to create themselves.”
The word nexus is defined as an important connection between the parts of a system or a group of things. This could be a good description of Claudine’s role at the company. Her interests outside work include a passion for holistic therapies and with the business she takes a similarly holistic approach. There’s no doubt that the business is in safe hands.
Nexus Design & Print, Studio 38, Adur Business Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 5EQ
Phone: 01273 702525