Seopa uses awards to compare and contrast

Looking to measure itself against a high standard, the online insurance consultancy sought an external perspective from the Best Managed Companies programme

Greg Wilson, CEO, Seopa Ltd

Established in 2003 as a means of helping people to find the best insurance products to suit their needs online, Seopa Ltd has expanded and evolved, developing and operating online price comparison technology for insurance, energy, and financial services.

Working with hundreds of financial brands and business partners which either feature on, or use, its price comparison systems, the company employs about 80 full-time staff and is supported by consultants, contractors and agencies.

With an innovative outlook, it entered Ireland’s Best Managed Company programme in 2017, and chief executive Greg Wilson believes the business hasn’t looked back.

Impartial insight

“Having been listed in the Technology Fast 50 for a number of years, we wanted to see how we would fare in the Best Managed Companies programme,” he said. “We were curious to see what an external organisation would think of how we are running the company and felt it would be a good way to get some impartial insight into where our management strengths and weaknesses might lie.

“The process for entering the Best Managed Companies was quite formal and took considerable effort, but we found the experience very rewarding. And we had two very helpful coaches appointed by Deloitte, who worked with us on our initial submission.

“Sometimes people don’t like to sing their own praises, and companies can forget to acknowledge some of the progress they have made. So the awards were a great way to do that, and the coaches really helped us to identify various achievements we had made which we had probably just taken for granted.”

The company has recently been named as a platinum winner, and Wilson says there were a few reasons why he believes they achieved success.

Strong pillars and potential

“When we originally entered the programme we were still a relatively small company in terms of staff levels, but we were punching above our weight in financial performance,” he said.

“We demonstrated that we had a strong business in respect of each of the ‘four pillars’ and had a lot of potential for growth. We had solid processes, systems and capabilities and had been able to grow the company in a very competitive environment without the need for any external funding or investment, which is still the case today.

“One of the areas in which we stood out is in how we use data and technology to run the business and how we have constantly evolved and innovated our product, marketing, and management processes over the years.

“When things are going well, it’s easy to become complacent, but we’ve remained very driven: ‘passionate’ is one of our five company values and we have hired, trained and invested in a very dedicated and driven workforce.

“We use the OKR framework in our goal setting, which enables us to ensure that everyone is working towards the same measurable goals, and the transparent nature of it means that every individual in the company can see how they have contributed towards our success.”

Different lens

The Seopa founder said that going through the Best Managed Companies process added an extra set of checks for them in evaluating their business strategy.

“Taking a step back and looking at our business through a different lens has proven to be a worthwhile exercise,” he said. “It has let us reinforce our understanding of the areas we are performing well in, as well as enabling us to find areas where we can improve further.

“I think, particularly in the early years of the awards, having the external recognition that we are doing things well has been reassuring and motivating for our staff. Knowing that our hard work, capabilities and innovation are at an award-winning level encourages everyone to keep going and keeps them invested in what they are doing to drive the company forward.”

Being listed as a Best Managed Company is also something the company has used to its advantage externally.

“When we pitch for new business, we are sure to list the award wins alongside our other certifications and accreditations,” Wilson said. “For companies which don’t yet know us, it is reassuring for them to know they are dealing with a business that is recognised by Deloitte as being well managed and reinforces our credibility in a very competitive marketplace.

“Also, one thing which stands out to me is the impact it has had on our recruitment. We quite often hear candidates mention in interviews that one of the things that drew them to Seopa was that we are a Best Managed company. In these days, with virtual interviews and hybrid working, the best candidates have arguably more choice of employer than ever and so the award is another string to our bow in helping people realise we would be a great company to work for.”

Perspective opportunity

In order to get the most out of the programme, he would advise other companies to “treat the awards process as an opportunity to look at their business from a different perspective and see how well it measures up from an external view”.

“It’s important for CEOs to get their leadership team involved in the process and use it as an opportunity to really evaluate and identify the areas in which they are doing well, but also the areas where they might need more focus,” he said.

“If you are awarded a Best Managed Company accolade, then I’d recommend you include the award in your presentations and marketing material to existing and prospective new businesses. It’s another endorsement of your company and helps you to stand out that bit more than those who don’t have it.

“Finally, make sure you let your staff, and potential employees, know about the award to let them see that they are, or could be, part of a successful, robust company which has a strong future ahead of it.”