2nd Fastest Growing Company in Scotland!

Last year we were the 2nd fastest growing technology company in Scotland!

But we didn’t win an award… because we didn’t know about the competition.

I recently found out about the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards. It’s an annual award for fast growing technology based companies. We didn’t enter last year because we didn’t know about it.

I’ve never really had the personality for self-promotion and the business has developed around that. We’ve never really had a marketing department or a press department. We’ve never really gone out to look at things like awards to see what we could enter or win. We work hard and we innovate in our own way, and we don’t really shout about it.

It came as a bit of a surprise to find out about this award, and presumably there must be others like it. It came as a bigger surprise when I realised that if we had known about it, and if we’d have entered, we would’ve been ranked 15th in the UK and 2nd in Scotland!

FreeAgent top the Scottish list at position 8 with 2128% growth, while second in Scotland is Skyscanner at position 22 with 1033% growth.

In the 5 years up to 2013 we had 1343% growth. Imagine having higher growth over the last 5 years than the behemoth that is Skyscanner. I went to a talk by a couple of the founders of Skyscanner a few years ago and they had over 100 development staff if I remember correctly.

In the 5 years to 2013, 3 of them was just me, or I had a friend helping me out, 2 of them I started to take on staff, and today, there’s only 6 full time members of staff.

We’re definitely proud of what we’ve achieved and I like to think that we’re doing something bigger than just selling products. We’re building a company that does things a little differently, and we work a little differently. I’ll probably write some posts about that soon, but some examples are that we’re nearly entirely cloud based (we prefer to save the trees than use paper if possible), we offer generous pensions and profit shares to staff, we have flexible working arrangements, we give all team members the ability to have input into the way the business is run, we’re entirely open about our financials within the team…. and lots more.

Perhaps this year we’ll start entering some of these awards so that we can get the badges to reflect our smiles.

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Tuesday’s Special Request

On Tuesday we had a lovely customer, Kade. He livened up a cold day by asking us for a special request. Along with his kilt order, he added a little note saying: ‘Please include drawing of a dinosaur fighting a giant baby alongside the kilt. Thank you greatly for this.’ Our artist in house, Gary, couldn’t pass up such a tempting opportunity to get involved. Here’s what he came up with:

Baby Fighting Dinosaur

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Great Customer Service

I bought an expensive Logitech mouse about 5 years ago. It was the top of the line mouse at the time and it was pretty good.

About 2 years after having it, it started double clicking when I single clicked. I read around some forums, and it turned out to be a common problem. I called Logitech, and they promptly shipped me a new mouse, the updated version.

3 years and 6 days after receiving it, it’s doing exactly the same thing. Although it only has a 3 year warranty, Logitech is going to replace it again for a new one, which will come with a new 3 year warranty.

Great customer service. Although, not feeling great about the fact that they keep breaking. Although they’ve definitely got good systems in place to deal with the problems that are arising, including making a special case for someone just outside the warranty period, I can’t help but think that they should spend more time on making the product perform better.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about what our company stands for, what our vision and mission are, and what type of company we want to be in 5 years time. Creating great products definitely feels like a key part of that, alongside a constant desire to make those products better over time.

I firmly believe in change, and the process of constant re-evaluation and improvement. Nothing in our company is written in stone, it’s constantly challenged to see if it can be improved.

While I’m happy to buy a Logitech product because I know I’ll get great service, I have less confidence that they’re focussed on making better products, or even making their existing products better. Perhaps with a little of that strategy, they’d be pushing forward new ways of interacting with computers that will help to ensure their place in the market in 10 years.

Hopefully that strategy will help to cement ours, and hopefully we’ll create some great new products along the way, while also providing fantastic customer service.

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Military Discount Offered

We see lots of customers from the armed forces across all of our sites.

Whether it’s for highland accessories on buyakilt.com, a tankard from buyatankard.com to toast a long service award , a hipflask from buyahipflask.com to celebrate a passing out or a quaich from buyaquaich.com to commemorate a retirement.

We’ve been happy to offer a discount to our armed forces but we’ve now partnered with Military Personnel Discounts to officially offer their members a 10% discount.

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Friendship, Rivalry and Safe Cycling

We’ve all known for a few years now that team member Rachel was the safest cyclist in Wales, in 1996. Well, we got a little extra insight into that story today.

It turns out, that Rachel was in stiff competition for years with her best friend Laura. Every year, the two friends engaged in a battle to the death (technically I suppose not quite ‘death’) to claim supreme safe cycling victory – the number one spot – the Safest Cyclist in Wales.

It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that at the tender age of 12, this must have torn great rifts in their relationship, and a dark, deceptive rivalry must have been born between the friends.

For years they must have tirelessly practised their craft. Waking up early every morning and going through the ritual of strapping on the knee pads and elbow pads, dusting off the helmet and putting on the reflective vest before venturing out onto the road to hone their safety skills, all in strict secrecy from their best friend (and greatest rival!).

Laura must have put in the extra hours of practice, for she scooped the big prize every year. Years later, she probably gave an emotional interview to a documentary crew reliving the most difficult days of the ordeal and it must bring tears to her eyes to think of the scars, the hurt, the pain she went through on her rigorous routine to develop such a high level of safe cycling.

Rachel Way - Safest Cyclist in Wales 1996

Rachel on the left with her trophy

Then, in 1996, it all changed. After years of being in second place, the underdog, our hero, Rachel, gave it everything. Cycling more safely than she ever had before, acknowledging and respecting all the rules of the highway code, she took safe cycling to a new level and claimed the big prize!Although there were smiles in the photo, I imagine that the tears must have been flowing for hours afterwards. Rumour has it that the best friends never spoke again and now are both well respected safe cycling consultants, educating children the world over with their years of experience (well, perhaps in their spare time).

On the other hand, some say that they were best friends forever and they didn’t let their tense rivalry get in the way of their friendship. I’m not sure I believe that, do you?

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Top tips for Christmas shopping

Online shopping can be a lot easier, quicker and cheaper than visiting the high street. We try to make the process as easy as possible for you. You’ll find a range of great gift ideas across all of our sites and over the next few weeks we’ll publish gift guides to help with your selection. Make sure you’re signed up to our newsletters to receive these updates.

To make the Christmas shopping process as stress free as possible, follow these top tips:

  1. Don’t use a shared email address. After going to all the effort of finding the perfect present, you wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise by the recipient seeing the order confirmation email.
  2. Have the parcel delivered to work.  Most of us have better things to do than wait in line at the post office to collect a parcel. Why not have the parcel delivered to work or to a relatives house where you know someone will be available to sign for it.
  3. Gift receipts. If the present is being shipped directly to the recipient (within the UK), add a note to the order and we can send the  order without an invoice.
  4. 365 Returns. Don’t worry about the gift not being quite right. We offer Free 365 returns which means you don’t have to rush to get this back to us for refund or exchange. We also have prepaid labels available in the returns section of each site so it won’t cost you a thing.
  5. Allow time for postage. We can ship worldwide, but please take into consideration the last postage dates wherever you are. Some items do take a little time to make before sending so order as far in advance as possible.

Follow these top tips over the Christmas period and enjoy stress free gift shopping. Please feel free to share to help others.

 

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How to Make a Good Job Application

We have a job vacancy advertised at the moment, and are receiving a large number of applications for the position. We’re a small company, with only 5 members of staff at the moment, so taking time away from the daily business to read CVs and assess candidates can be difficult. Therefore making a good first impression on the person reading your application is vitally important.

After going through some 500 or so applications for various positions we’ve had advertised over the years, I’ve put together a short list of key ingredients to a good application:

Key Ingredients

  • Spelling: Make sure you use a spell-checker on your CV/covering letter. CVs with spelling mistakes fall at the first hurdle – especially if you’re going for a job that requires you to write!
  • Personalisation: If you really want the job – show it. Don’t send the same application to lots of jobs without changing it. At the very minimum, personalise your covering letter to the specific job you’re applying for. Say why you’d like to work there and why you think you would be good at your job. Ensure your CV re-enforces this.
  • Up to Date: Make sure your CV is up to date, and has no mistakes. If you’ve just finished a job or education, make sure you update your CV.
  • Brief: Make your CV brief and to the point. It’s not an essay, it’s a summary of your most important information. Employers will contact you if they want to know more about you.

Also Useful

  • Accessible: Make sure it’s easy to read. Font size should be at least 11 point and it should be spaced out adequately.
  • File Format: Ideally send it as a PDF, if not a Word document is fine. RTF and other file types may not load correctly, and could end up with horrible formatting which could make it unreadable.
  • Reasons for Leaving: If you’re in a current position, saying why you want to leave can be very helpful to help employers understand what you’re looking for.
  • Gaps: Explain any gaps in employment history.
  • Travel: If you give an address more than 10 miles from the job location, explaining how you plan to get there (assuming you’ve checked yourself!) can be helpful.

Less Important

  • Layout: We receive lots of different styles and layouts of CVs. I remember when I created my own CV, I was really concerned with layout. 1 page or 2, bold or underline titles. For us, this really isn’t that important, the content is far more important.

Hopefully this will help you improve your job applications. If you’re applying for work with us, it will definitely help your application to follow the above advice. Good luck!

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Revealed: What’s under a Scotsman’s kilt

We recently supplied Prince Charlie kilt outfits to Jackpot Joy for their latest ad, which you can see below:

The advert which is also a game online, asks the audience to pick the “real” Scotsman from a line up of 3 gentlemen. The kilts are then blown up to reveal what really is under a Scotsman’s kilt.

GB-KRYSThe producers of the advert ran into a problem when shooting the advert; Our budget 8 yard kilts were just too heavy to be blown up and were unable to feature in the advert. These kilts are usually worn for casual or formal events, where you definitely don’t want to reveal what’s under your kilt!

It’s great that Jackpot Joy tested the quality of the budget kilts for us. The weight of the budget kilts really do stand up against our traditional kilts.

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New Quaich Store

I’m proud to say that we’ve just launched a brand new store, specialising in quaichs.

We’ve been selling quaichs for over 6 years, but always through our kilt store as they’re a traditional Scottish item. However, we felt that they deserved a bit more prominence and have launched a dedicated store called buyaquaich.com with our full range of quaichs.

We’re also pleased to say that we’re now offering free UK delivery on all our quaichs, so you don’t have to worry about extra charges when ordering your quaich.

Our new site has a nice purple colour scheme, and existing customers will be pleased to know that their login details for buyahipflask.com, buyakilt.com or buyatankard.com will work on buyaquaich.com as well.

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Small Story from Hurricane Sandy

As you probably know, Hurricane Sandy is causing devastation across the Eastern Coast of North America. As a techy person in the UK, the severity of the situation hit home for me when one of my favourite web apps Trello went offline.

Initially I wasn’t sure if this was related, so I dug into it a little bit, and found out that they host with Peer1 in their New York data centre. Peer1 are pretty reputable in hosting terms, so hearing that they had manually shut down one of their data centres was pretty big news for me.

Most data centres have backup generators to accommodate loss of power. At 14:40 on 29/10/2012 they switched power supply to their backup generators due to mains electricity supply being affected.

By 19:30 that evening, they were still running on their generators without problems. The basement of the building they are in began to flood, but they estimated they had 12-24 hours of fuel available (some 5000 gallons of diesel). By 05:00 the following morning, they estimated 4 hours of fuel remained. By 06:30 they begin a controlled shutdown of the whole datacentre. Thousands of websites which host there began to go offline, including Trello.

It turned out that the issue they faced was that even though the diesel generators are on the 17th floor of the building, the pumps that pump fuel up to them were located on a floor that was subject to flooding, and were submerged. Not being able to run the pumps to get fuel up the generators meant that they had a finite amount of diesel fuel left.

In situations like that, people club together. Groups of people began carrying 55 gallon drums of diesel up 17 flights of stairs to power the generators and they managed to get the data centre back online within a few hours.

For me, this was one of the first major experiences of the cloud going down. There have been instances in the past, but I was less connected to and less aware of them. Indeed as single data centre is not the cloud, and the point about idea of the cloud is that you’re not dependent on any single data centre so that events like this do not have any impact on service or data. However, it’s amazing today how many people still rely on a single data centre and don’t necessarily consider it a risk to do so.

I believe that Trello have now moved to a true cloud solution where their data is spread across multiple data centres so that they’re not vulnerable to this type of situation again.

From my point of view, it’s amazing how something on the other side of the world can have immediate impact on people across the globe, such is the interconnected world that we live in today. My thoughts are with all those people affected, including a good friend currently holed up in a New York hotel room, unable to get a flight out.

Some photos of the aftermath from the hurricane via The Atlantic.

Read updates from the Trello team here.

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