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Growth Engines: The sum of the parts creates the whole magic

In this article, originally featured in Business Leader: We take a look into the growth journey of Leeds-based digital product consultancy Parallax

“I could sell websites and my housemate at the time, Andy, could build them. So, we started a business. Our friends Lawrence and James could build backend systems, so we joined forces,” says Dario Grandich, co-founder of Parallax, a Leeds-based digital product consultancy.

Established in 2010, Parallax has navigated the rapid evolution of technology with a clear vision of digital innovation centring on AI and internet-of-things design and development for companies prioritising innovation. What sets the firm apart is its unique ability to tackle complex problems that other established digital consulting and software development players could not solve. Its mantra for client selection is: ‘Give us difficult problems to solve’, an approach that has also attracted the in-house talent that makes up its 50-strong team.

Where we are today

How you start shapes the habits and practices of a business. As young, ambitious innovators, the four co-founders of Parallax established a framework of values, operating approaches and leadership principles. This framework has fostered a culture of continuous innovation that was instrumental in its early success.

About two-thirds of its business has involved project work, primarily classic waterfall development and maintenance (which involves doing development work in linear sequential phases from an initial spec). While it provides a predictable budget, it often results in expectation gaps and scope creep, making it challenging for clients and developers.

“To build great software and innovative solutions, we needed to work iteratively, showing value early on. We switched to a consultative and agile development approach. Now, we identify a problem, create a small proof of concept, and iterate. This method leads to quick, affordable wins that build trust and relationships, paving the way for future projects and positioning us as a closely integrated partner,” Grandich says.

Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Successful digital products or solutions provide a significant competitive advantage, acting as a catalyst for perpetual innovation. Companies must commit to ongoing digitisation to maintain digital leadership, fostering a digital culture and embedding agile methods. Continuously evolving with new technologies keeps the company ahead of competitors and sets industry standards. This relentless pursuit of digital excellence drives sustained growth and innovation, ensuring market leadership.

“For us, leading in digital innovation is important. Commoditised work carries little margin and bores our teams,” says Grandich. “Keeping them – and us – interested and excited about our work is vital to building and maintaining our team. We see clients build internal teams that want cool work and farm out commoditised work. Because in-house teams don’t get the exposure we do across many clients, we bring and feed their innovation and excitement, making Parallax a key partner.”

The future

“Our north star is to be one of the UK’s leading digital innovation consultancies building cutting-edge products for the world’s best organisations. By clearly focusing on our objectives and adapting to the evolving market landscape, we aim to build a legacy of innovation, excellence, and sustained growth.” Grandich says.

To achieve this, Parallax needs to scale up for growth. “This means increasing revenue, profit and headcount, while maintaining healthy margins and our company culture. Effective scaling requires meeting market demand with our talented people. We focus on generative AI and IoT niches to gear up for sustainable growth and invest in business development and marketing efforts.”

Leading in this context means being first or at the front of a competitive, growing industry. It’s a lofty ambition and in the growing, noisy constellation of stars making up digitisation service providers, it will require a formidable achievement to shine biggest and brightest.

Growth and value perspectives

Striving to be the leading company in an industry is a lofty ambition. To make it tangible and actionable, clear metrics are needed. Without measurement, it’s just an anecdote – a platitude many companies claim as their destination.

Could it be market share? The digital transformation market in the UK was valued at approximately $35.11bn in 2022 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27.7 per cent from 2023 to 2030. Would leading mean capturing a significant percentage of that possible revenue?

Could it be customer metrics? Many can be created, but few are universal. Leading would mean being considered the best across a universal metric, but in B2B digital solution consulting no single metric encompasses all players in this fragmented landscape.

One preferred metric is company valuation because it’s within the control of a business once it understands how to engineer it across the company. Five levers enhance company valuation:

1. Positioning: What sets you apart? Parallax, for example, focuses on solution design and product development in IoT and AI technologies. The more it concentrates on these areas, the more its expertise deepens. One step further is to narrow the number of industries it serves. Positioning involves product expertise and delivering an exceptional client experience by understanding customer buying behaviour. Specialising strengthens positioning, as less is more; spreading too thin dilutes the ability to create unique experiences.

2. System of delivery: Design, build and execute processes to create a remarkable customer experience every time. These systems involve sequential activities that generate measurable outcomes that are teachable and delegatable. Systematising a defined customer experience lays the foundation for growth.

3. A purposeful team: Employees aligned with the company’s purpose – defined by who we serve, the problem we solve and how we do it – build confidence and find meaning in their roles.

4. Growth: Growth that aligns with the foundation increases profitability, indicating business health.

5. Dependencies: Founders must switch from doing to leading. Leaders must make themselves redundant in daily operations to lead, coach, mentor and seek succession.

All five levers directly impact a company’s valuation and are within your control as a business leader. A healthy valuation is the sign of a healthy, vibrant company and shines brighter than most of the other metrics.

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