Our year of growth drives bigger impact

21 December 2022

2022 has been an exceptional year of business growth for Opencast. As the year ends, chief executive Tom Lawson looks back at success – and forward to a year ahead of making even more impact.

What a year 2022 has been! I knew it was going to be busy and rewarding, but the last 12 months have exceeded all expectations.

Without the contribution of all the people across the OC business, 2022 would not have been the extraordinary year it has been. I want to start with a huge thank you to everyone in the company for their role in that, I’m grateful to everyone for playing their part in this huge team effort.

To service the work we’d won or planned to secure, our plan at the start of the year – Opencast’s 10th in business – was to double the size of our team, from 200 to 400. We now employ 405, so we achieved our target on the people numbers front.

Thanks to everyone’s hard work and commitment, Opencast has also significantly increased its revenues. We started the year with an ambitious target of £30m – and we’re finishing 2022 closer to £37m. We’ve also opened our new HQ, as well as three new city hubs – in Leeds, London and Edinburgh.    

But increasing the size of the team, revenue and profitability is not all we’ve done. While we’re all extremely proud of the results we’ve achieved and our continuing, astonishing growth, it’s the work that we do, and the impact it has on society, that really inspires us all to do what we do every day.

We deliver services that matter. We help to develop and grow our people. We improve the society of which we are part. What we do, and how we do it, is important to us all.

Government projects that we’ve delivered or continue to work on – such as our work for HMRC, DWP, Ministry of Justice, Home Office, ACAS and the Department for Education – have both purpose and impact.

We should be incredibly proud of the work we do – helping people with their health and well-being, with retirement, with bereavement, with ensuring families get the right level of child maintenance, that our borders are safe and helping the battle against economic crime.

All of the above – and far more besides – touch people’s lives and can be critically important to the UK population. We’re modernising, standardising, improving – but most of all we’re helping to make things better.

While the work we do is so vital to so many, we also go further. During 2022 we’ve continued to do our best as a company.

Colour photo of man with beard speaking on stage
"We deliver services that matter. We help to develop and grow our people. We improve the society of which we are part. What we do, and how we do it, is important to us all"

Giving for greater impact

We strive to do good both locally, nationally and internationally. As we said we’d do, we have donated 2.5% of our profits to charity, taking our total donations over the last three years past the £100,000 mark.

Members of our team nominated charities to benefit from our giving, and we helped north east and national charities with some really vital work.

We also helped those suffering from the devastating war in Ukraine. Responding to this seismic European event, Opencast donated £30,000 to Operation Safe Drop, like seed funding for a start-up, to help get vital supplies out to the country and Ukrainian people safely out. This in turn triggered further funding and support from other regional and national companies and organisations.

Our direct and indirect work demonstrates the commitment that Opencast is making as a scaling business to a social purpose beyond our profit.

Social impact is not just a company priority – it is a passion, and we’ll be increasing our focus on the impact we have in 2023 and beyond. That will mean more work to grow and support the region’s tech sector. It will mean reaffirming our commitment to organisations such as the Ministry of Defence (through its armed services covenant). And it will mean more mentoring and STEM activities.

I think we can be more deliberate about our intentions with regard to our social impact. During 2023 we’ll be exploring how we can be even better in this area so that impact is  truly embedded in all we do.

One thing that continues to excite me about Opencast is how the range of what we do interests and inspires our team. It is vital that the work we do has purpose, but also our team enjoys the work we do.

That is certainly true of the increasing volume of government contracts, where our approach and our achievements through our multidisciplinary teams has undoubtedly led to more work from Whitehall departments. Our work with the Government Digital Service (GDS), for instance, has led to new work with specific departments including the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice.

This is all challenging, valuable, interesting work that is helping to recruit and retain talent to Opencast. Looking forward, we see huge opportunities in the areas of health, financial services and green energy.

We have been very successful recently in the government space where we’re known and respected. Our team understandably wants a diversity of work and we have history, credentials, transferable skills and capabilities that can be as successful in the private sector.

We know that we’re at our best when the diversity of work and opportunities is right, so I want to see us supporting more private companies and non-governmental organisations in the months and years ahead.

Group shot of Opencast staff standing on a stage cheering.
Some of our 200 new starters in 2022

Looking forward

It’s not just good for business – it’s also good for our people. Cross-pollination is healthy for us, our clients and individual members of our team who will be gaining valuable experience and knowledge.

Our team is packed with curious, intelligent people who want to try different things and they want challenges from different clients, different sectors and different technologies.

Opencast is known as a great company to work for – our levels of staff ‘churn’ remain remarkably low – and one way we retain our people is to give them interesting work.

While our growth is important, I re-iterate the point I made this time last year: that our growth will never be at the expense of our people or our culture.

We are seeing the results of this approach in the positive impact it has, including the net promotor scores and the some of the other external recognition we've had through awards. This year our people team won a CIPD accolade and our talent team won best in-house recruitment team at the IHR awards. We also won a Dynamites Growth Explosion award, and our co-founder Mike O’Brien was recognised as entrepreneur of the year.

Among the accolades closest to our hearts here was the recognition by Newsweek as one of the UK’s Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces. To be placed at 19th on that list is a source of genuine pride for all across the business.

But what we won’t do is rest on our laurels – we know we can, and will, do more, to be better. This is what drives us, and our culture is what brought people to us.

Our people experience partners – aka PEEPs – are continuing to help make Opencast an even better place to work – somewhere everyone is treated as an individual, where your feel appreciated, your talents recognised and somewhere where you can build a career with the right level of training and support.

So what does 2023 hold for us as a business?

We’re working to refresh our strategy and will be sharing a refreshed purpose, vision and mission with our team in the first quarter of next year alongside a refreshed top-level strategy for the next four years to evolve our business and operating models. The further diversification of our clients, increasing our range of service offerings and offering the best possible people experience, remain key.

We’ve got ambitious goals for 2023 around how we will continue to evolve each of our business functions and are also organising and mobilising around key cross-functional programmes of work, including social impact.

We will also be sharing more details about releasing the first stages of value for all our team through our share options scheme, along with continuing to add all permanent members of our team into the scheme.

If we get all that right we’re hoping to add another 200 people to our Opencast team in 2023 taking us past 600, open three further hub locations around the UK and in the process grow our revenue to £60m.

But our growth must never be for its own sake. It is a direct result of the increasing demands from our clients - the majority of which make a positive social impact. A bigger Opencast means we can make a bigger impact, and I'm looking forward to continuing to embrace that challenge in 2023 and beyond.