Stuart Devlin, Digital Director of e-strategy, explains how creating a perfect equilibrium between work and life can be achieved in Devon.
As Digital Director for e-strategy, a multi-channel marketing consultancy specialising in the tourism, hospitality and leisure industries based in Berry Pomeroy, Stuart Devlin is used to juggling client commitments, interaction with colleagues and family responsibilities. He is adamant that Devon provides the perfect base from which to do this, and encourages any business thinking of relocating to Devon to go for it.
Stuart has always had a deep interest in all things digital and technological, and has worked in Devon for many years. Having studied at Dartington College of Arts, his anticipated move to London after graduation never happened: he liked the area so much that he stayed. He is now reaping the rewards of that decision, balancing a stimulating work life with a home life that generates envy amongst many of his peers.
“Creating an effective balance between work and home life is achievable here. From Dartmoor to the beaches of South Devon, we can make the most of our weekends, while working in an area that is seeing tremendous growth in its technology sector. The last ten years in particular has seen some great companies establish themselves here, and the impact of this growth is visible across the sector. Exeter is constantly advancing from a technological perspective, and that, combined with some of the best tourism destinations and visitor attractions, create a compelling draw for businesses like ours.”
Does this balance create a measurable benefit for e-strategy? Stuart thinks so: staff retention patterns can be dramatically different to that of businesses based in more densely urban areas. “Staff turnover is definitely higher within London-based agencies. People can chop and change between companies quite regularly. In Devon, however, when we recruit someone, we find they want to stay.”
Do clients expect discounted fees because of the location of the agency, though? “Absolutely not. We charge a rate that reflects the value, quality and calibre of our work. Our clients are dispersed geographically, and we don’t adjust our fees according to where they are based, any more than we feel we should adjust them according to where we are based. Location is no barrier to pursuing every client opportunity.
“I think our biggest challenge is the outward perception of Devon. Recent weather and travel disruption hasn’t helped, and we’ve played our part in reminding people that Devon is open for business. Personally, I travel to and from London regularly – often a couple of times a week. We regularly fly from Exeter to other parts of the UK to meet clients. People don’t realize how easy it is to travel within and beyond Devon. When this is combined with video conferencing, email and phone contact, we make sure we are with our clients when we need to be, and make the most of technology to connect at other times. Location and travel shouldn’t be a barrier to business.“
Stuart takes travel to clients in his stride, and is frequently to be found on the train, making the most of his time catching up on emails or working on award winning projects. “Good phone connections, wi-fi and 4G are essential: as you’d expect, we have state-of-the art connections in our office. Connections when travelling can be inconsistent, but we work round that.”
Finally, the appeal of Devon to those with a more entrepreneurial spirit is undeniable. “Devon is most definitely an entrepreneurial place to do business: the prospect of a balanced lifestyle attracts freelancers who embrace the spirit of the many beautiful things on their doorstep and, not beholden to a company, are determined to make it on their own. For individuals and businesses that don’t fit the normal ‘nine to five’ way of working, the scope is here to create that balance. It works and it’s hard to beat.”