1 May 2023

The voyage (so far)

“With no maps to guide us we steered our own course

We rode out the storms when the winds were gale force

We sat out the doldrums in patience and hope

Working together we learned how to cope.”

“The Voyage” – Johnny Duhan

By David Smart, director

In May 2019 DWS Associates Limited was registered with Companies House and an idea I had mulled over multiple times at around 2am following a fine dram with friends had become a reality. There was nothing strategic about the birth of the organisation, it was driven by circumstances and a hunch that there was a need for an organisation to provide skilled resources to help owner-managed businesses based in the rural west coast of Scotland to develop and thrive. There was absolutely no map!

I remember the initial excitement of being my own boss being rapidly overtaken by the nagging question “How am I going to get work?”. Fast forward four years and the same question remains “How am I going to get work?” – the difference is that in addition to finding something interesting to keep me gainfully employed, we now must find work for the team that includes six, and soon to be seven, colleagues. The growth of the business has been achieved by setting and delivering ambitious targets each year and by being agile, reactive, and open to opportunities as they presented themselves.

It became apparent around a year ago that this method of working and the legacy DWS Associates Limited vehicle were not adequate to achieve longer term ambitions and goals for a whole host of reasons. The team agreed that addressing these weaknesses was a priority and a way to do that would be to re-brand and re-launch the business, thereby allowing us to tell our story and promote ourselves more effectively. We secured financial support from the Argyll and Bute Business Gateway team and appointed a fantastic design house Haiwyre to work with us to develop thoughts and ideas.

Right at the beginning of the rebranding process, we took time to reflect on why we do what we do and if a continued focus on growth was appropriate. At a personal level, early in the life of the business I committed that I would do everything I could to provide opportunities to recently qualified graduates to get their foot on the career ladder. This remains a personal goal, so, for me, growth is necessary to allow us to provide more opportunities for talented young people.

It became clear in discussions that growth for colleagues was not around ego or personal wealth – colleagues wanted to be able to help more communities, organisations, and businesses working in challenging environments to find solutions to intractable problems and to become economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.

We have included this rationale in our published vision and values statements. We wanted these statements to capture both the ethos and personality of the organisation, and the whole team was involved in their development. Our vision is

‘To bring our energy, skills and personalities to projects and use our expertise in business, economic and community development to make a positive difference to the people and organisations we serve.’

When developing the new brand, we wanted something that acknowledged our west coast Scottish roots and told a story about who we are and what we bring. It was surprisingly easy to find our new identity – it took us around 20 minutes. A rummage around Google Translate threw up the word ‘Glic’. Glic is a Scots Gaelic word meaning wise, sage, sound, clever, and sensible. These are all characteristics and traits we aim to bring to our work with clients. This new name also acknowledges our origins and our continued presence in the west of Scotland.

Early in the life of the organisation when asked what we do, I replied ‘stuff’ – this response was less than ideal and reflected the rather ad hoc approach the business had in its very early life. The rebranding exercise forced us to consider and agree the areas we are competent to work in and where we can deliver solutions and value for clients. Reviewing our body of work allowed us to identify our core skills; these include research and analysis, strategy development, business and community planning, investment and funding, and impact assessment. The review also identified that we have a spread of work across the public, private and third sectors. Looking to the future we will continue to work across all these competencies and sectors as consultants, interim managers and project managers. We have plans to augment our core skills in the coming months and years to meet the emerging needs of clients.

Two weeks ago on 17th April 2023 at 10.30am, following nearly a year of planning and activity, the new website and entity went live as planned. Our IT partners, Matrix Computers of Oban, were their normal wonderful selves and managed the systems and data migration with no drama or crisis.

I am so proud of what the team has delivered through the rebrand and the creation of our new identity. The management of this internal project reflects what we can offer our clients. Alice expertly led an internal team through all stages of the assignment. Hazel managed the procurement of design services and ensured all administrative details were covered, Nina planned and produced the content for the new website and our external communications. Anne and Sue proofread, challenged, and validated every word and phrase on the site. The clear roles and robust project management saw the rebrand delivered on time, to budget, and with no issues.

Looking forward, we have ambitions to develop into a recognised, respected consultancy practice that delivers positive social, economic, and environmental impacts primarily in rural locations across the globe. Within five years we will be employee-managed and owned. With a clear understanding of who we are and what we can offer, Glic can begin the next stage of its journey. We are now able to communicate our offer clearly to clients and directly align our work with our vision and values. In the coming weeks and months, we are looking forward to sharing planned developments that will lay strong foundations for the future.

After four years we now have a map.

The development of this website is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the 2014-20 Structural Funds Programmes.