Dipsticks Research shakes up its team after expert advice from Oxford Innovation

Hexham firm gets help from growth experts to assess how to keep its marketing intelligence ahead of the competition

Simon Williams/Crest Photography Fiona Raglan, founder of Dipsticks, with Mike Jobson from Oxford Innovation
Fiona Raglan, founder of Dipsticks, with Mike Jobson from Oxford Innovation

A Northumberland company that provides market intelligence to some of the best known high street and media names in the UK has enlisted specialist business coaching to support the growth of its own brand.

From its Hexham base, Dipsticks Research works to keep its client list in tune with audience and customer feedback on how their products and services are being perceived.

Its founder and director Fiona Raglan has now turned to growth experts, Oxford Innovation, to provide business development support to her team of 50 employees.

“I’d read about Oxford Innovation’s delivery of the Business Northumberland High Growth programme in the local press but I admit to being quite sceptical at the outset,” she said.

“I took the view that if business support is free it might not add any significant value.

“However, once we met the Oxford Innovation team and started working together it became very clear this wasn’t the case and now we’re ideally placed to grow the business.”

Dipsticks’ clients already include the likes of Tesco, O2, National Express and Red Bull, as well as local authorities, the NHS, ITV and Sky.

However, Raglan felt the structure of the business was becoming a barrier to further growth.

“We’ve previously divided the business into stand-alone divisions according to whether the client was in the private or public sector and what their precise requirement was,” she said.

“However, we grew at such a rate that our people were highly skilled in their own area but there was little or no opportunity for them to contribute to the overall business development and growth strategy.”

In addition to the Hexham-based staff, Dipsticks retains more than 215,000 panel members across the UK in its consumer panel brand, ‘Panelbase’, providing audience and customer feedback.

Mike Jobson, Oxford Innovation’s Business Northumberland High Growth programme manager. who has previously worked with big brand names like Guinness, Colgate Palmolive and Alcan, said of the firm: “This is very clearly a highly impressive business that is in great demand from clients.

“However, the organisation structure and even the culture within the team - where lots of people were all working in small silos - were not conducive to the business maximising its full growth potential.

“We had to break down the barriers and introduce an account management-style of operation where team members can see beyond their own roles to look at how Dipsticks can offer a more holistic service to clients without compromising on quality.

“Once the team recognised what was holding them back they fully embraced the concept of coaching and what we were trying to achieve together.”

Despite initial doubts, Raglan said she would now recommend coaching to other businesses with high growth potential.

“There is a raft of business support out there but the key is to tap into the resource that best fits your own circumstances and requirements,” she said.

“I was won over by Mike’s very impressive track record of working with brands not dissimilar to our own clients so I quickly became confident his experience would add value to the team’s work and he has gone on to become a very valued mentor to me.”

Oxford Innovation delivers The Business Northumberland High Growth programme on behalf of Arch, The Northumberland Development Company and Northumberland County Council.

The programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Oxford Innovation’s methods have also proved successful elsewhere in the UK, where the organisation has worked with over 2,500 high growth businesses, helping its clients access over £100m of funding, and creating or safeguarding more than 2,000 jobs.

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