For organisations considering expanding to a new location, Cornwall has a huge amount to offer. In this article, three companies who have expanded into the region talk about the many reasons to choose it as a secondary business location, including:
Read the article to learn about the experiences of King’s Service Centre, Smart Working Revolution and London Pain Clinic, and to find out how you can get help to expand your business into Cornwall.
What do companies look for in a new business location? For some, it’s all about lower operating costs. For others, it’s the opportunity to tap into specialist talent pools and knowledge networks. And for forward-thinking businesses, it could be the chance to give employees a better quality of life in a beautiful natural environment.
Few places in the UK can offer everything on the list. But a growing number of businesses are finding all this – and much more – in Cornwall. We talked to three companies that have recently expanded into the region.
King’s Service Centre: delivering world-class IT support from Newquay
A 10-minute drive from Cornwall Airport Newquay or step off the train at Quintrell Downs station, a few miles inland from Cornwall’s rugged north coast and a short walk will bring you to Quintdown Business Park.
Since 2015, this purpose-built office complex has been home to King’s Service Centre (KSC), the IT support operation of King’s College London. Here, a 120-strong team provide 24/7/365 days a year technical and operational support to more than 30,000 students and 8,000 staff at King’s.
King’s is one of London’s most central universities, with four campuses bordering the Thames and one at Denmark Hill, South London. So what brought its IT and operational support teams to Cornwall?
“Our aim is to provide a world-class service to support the university’s strategy, Vision 2029,” says Gareth Wright, Director of IT Services for King’s and Managing Director of King’s Service Centre. “We took this as an opportunity to explore other avenues, due to a high dependency on contract staff in London and the availability of office space to enable the co-location of our IT Support team. Our objective was to create a sustainable support model that would deliver high quality customer service to the university and would address those challenges.”
A veteran of business relocation projects at News Corp and ITV plc, Gareth realised his native Cornwall had a huge amount to offer the King’s IT team, over and above its considerably lower property costs.
A sustainable pipeline of IT skills
When researching the business case for establishing a service centre in the region, for example, he was quickly able to dispel one of his initial concerns: the availability of skilled professionals to deliver both general and specialist IT support.
He identified that there were already people fulfilling similar roles in Cornwall-based organisations, and that there was a strong talent pipeline emerging from vocational IT courses at local schools and colleges – including the Cisco Network Academy at Treviglas Community College in nearby Newquay.
Today, King’s Service Centre works closely with Cornwall College, Newquay Tretherras School and Treviglas to create high-value apprenticeships across a range of IT specialisms. That’s helping to build a sustainable pipeline of skills, not just for King’s Service Centre, but also for other businesses in Cornwall’s blossoming tech sector. For the second year running Cornwall was singled out in the 2018 Tech Nation report for its “impressive growth”.
Super-fast fibre broadband enables collaboration and flexible working
For a remote support operation that’s working daily with customers in London, connectivity was another key consideration. Cornwall’s fibre broadband infrastructure, rolled out across the region under the ERDF-funded Superfast Cornwall programme, makes it possible for King’s Service Centre to provide support and attend meetings remotely using Skype and videoconferencing. It also enables King’s Service Centre to connect to JANET, the high-speed network that connects the UK’s higher education institutions.
And because the fibre coverage extends to more than 95% of addresses in Cornwall, the benefits aren’t just felt at the office.
“That connectivity means our staff can work remotely as well, using Skype, Microsoft Teams and Office 365 to collaborate and get work done” says Gareth. “Work-life balance is a big consideration for us and Cornwall provides the best of both worlds in that respect. That’s definitely a factor that contributes towards happy staff and a great working environment.”
A local support network like no other
For any business seeking to set up an operation in a new location, the availability of local support can make a huge difference. Gareth describes the support available in Cornwall as “unique”, citing the help he received from Cornwall Trade and Investment and other organisations to connect with local recruitment agencies and to negotiate the planning process for the Quintdown Park premises, among other initiatives.
Funding secured through Cornwall Council’s arms-length economic development company also helped with setup and recruitment costs, in turn helping to deliver the results outlined in the business case.
“There’s a fantastic support network in Cornwall to make these business cases happen” Gareth says. “It’s fair to say that without that network in place, the business case wouldn’t have proceeded.”
The right location to deliver on the King’s mission
King’s College London now benefits from a skilled and committed IT and business support team that has had space and scope to grow as the university has expanded. A team that in London was dispersed across five locations now works from a single building in Cornwall, where the open-plan environment fosters collaborative working and problem-solving, further improving the quality of service delivered.
Gareth says. At the same time, the university has been able to reassign the freed-up space in London for teaching and learning, enabling it to provide additional valuable facilities to improve student experience.
Three years on, King’s Service Centre continues to expand the team and deliver additional services from Cornwall, creating more efficiencies for the university and more skilled jobs in the local economy. Its current plan is to expand the team from 120 to 140.
“King’s has a mission to be in service of society, and we’ve been able to fulfil that here,” says Gareth. “By investing in apprenticeships and creating new jobs, we’ve been able to provide opportunities for people in Cornwall who don’t want to have to relocate to Exeter, Bristol or London to develop an IT career with an enterprise the size of King’s.”
Smart Working Revolution: tapping into Cornwall’s customer service culture
A little further down the coast in St Agnes, Ruth Gawthorpe, director of flexible working consultancy Smart Working Revolution, also sees huge potential in Cornwall for businesses looking to expand to a second location.
Like Gareth Wright, Ruth has identified an exceptional talent pool in Cornwall. But while KSC is tapping into the region’s rapidly-expanding pool of IT professionals and tech students, Ruth is thinking of the thousands of locals who spend their summers working in Cornwall’s hotels, restaurants and shops, but who struggle to find employment once the summer visitors have gone.
Customer service skills in abundance
“There’s a wonderful wealth of customer service skills in Cornwall,” she says. “They’ve been honed around tourism, and people in that industry are in full-on customer service mode for six months of the year. The skills they’ve developed are marvellous, but for the other six months of the year they’re just not used. Businesses could be tapping into all of that capability”.
Cornwall’s customer service culture will seem especially attractive after Brexit, Ruth says, citing a 2018 report from Mercer Group that suggests organisations in London and the southeast will have a hard time finding young talent when the pipeline from Europe closes.
“London will be the most affected by the fact that we won’t have as many 20-35 year olds coming from Europe to take up jobs,” she says. “At that point, organisations are likely to go out to the regions and try to source people.”
But that may be a challenge too far for organisations that can’t offer the kinds of benefits that will attract people to move to the capital. “Councils especially are really going to struggle, because they can’t afford to increase wages,” Ruth says. “Plus there’s an ageing population in London that needs to be serviced, which exacerbates the issue.”
Create work in areas where the talent is
A former HR director with a track record of implementing phenomenally successful smart working initiatives, Ruth is on a mission to encourage organisations to think differently about work, people and skills. She suggests an alternative solution: instead of trying to attract talent from the regions, organisations should think about locating operations in the areas where the talent already is. And for any function that relies on customer service, Cornwall offers the right skills in abundance.
“All kinds of businesses could benefit from this model,” says Ruth. “A council that needs to service an ageing population in London could maximise its frontline capabilities by basing its back-office operations, or its customer service centres, in Cornwall. Telecoms businesses and financial services companies could easily do it.”
Even some jobs that have traditionally relied on meeting face to face could be done remotely in Cornwall, thanks to the region’s high-speed communications infrastructure. Ruth cites Pushdoctor, a service that offers online GP consultations via videoconference, and suggests that the NHS could offer similar services nationwide from Cornwall. That would allow it to benefit from lower overheads while offering clinicians a more rewarding work-life balance.
London Pain Clinic: remote admin support for the UK’s leading pain consultants
One healthcare business already benefiting from a second location in Cornwall is London Pain Clinic. This Harley Street clinic is home to some of the UK’s leading pain medicine consultants, who manage chronic pain for patients across Europe, the UK and the world.
That expertise is in high demand, leading to an increase not only in clinical staff, but also in the back-office operations that support their work. But while its consultants have to be in London to meet face to face with patients, the company identified that many of its support operations did not have to be physically co-located with them to be effective.
A new approach to administrative support
“The medical team work directly out of Harley Street, but the administration – including practice management, medical secretaries, administration, customer services and marketing – is all done remotely,” says Janice Rose, Managing Director at London Pain Clinic. “We’ve expanded the business into Cornwall with the aim of growing a team here to help sustain and drive the business forward.”
While one reason for that model is to avoid what Janice calls “the cost-prohibitive nature of having office space in central London”, she’s keen to stress that lower overheads are far from the only reason for locating the clinic’s support functions in Cornwall. “When I was looking into setting up in Cornwall, I was actually surprised by how many benefits the county has to offer – including some I hadn’t expected,” she says.
A community of like-minded people
One of those things is the ability to tap into the knowledge and expertise of other businesses. London Pain Clinic has set up its operation in a new development, Mor Workspace in Newquay. Here, the space has been specifically designed to foster collaboration between tenants, with co-working spaces and special events that make it easy to connect and network with others.
“We’ve been able to integrate with a ‘ready-made’ community of like-minded people,” says Janice. “That provides countless opportunities to bounce ideas around, and the ability to collaborate with other local businesses and take advantage of the skills and expertise in the region.”
Connectivity and talent make Cornwall an attractive location for healthcare businesses
London Pain Clinic has also been able to take advantage of Cornwall’s broadband connectivity and extensive transport links.
“I frequently travel to London to meet with the medical team, and Cornwall Airport Newquay is perfect for that. There are three flights a day to Gatwick, and the commute from Newquay to Harley Street only takes an hour and a half, door to door,” Janice says. “We also benefit from the superfast broadband on a daily basis – it was a huge draw in attracting the business to the region, as it allows us to easily engage with clients in the UK and overseas.”
Like Gareth Wright and Ruth Gawthorpe, Janice has also been impressed by the quality of the workforce in Cornwall. The region is home to a fast-growing community of businesses that are operating at the cutting edge of healthcare, from software startups to medical device manufacturers, and Cornwall’s collaborative culture means that knowledge, skills and expertise are continuously shared and augmented.
“There’s no shortage of talent here,” Janice says. “We have huge ambitions for the future, and we’re excited about being able to grow the team in this location.”
Find out more about locating your business in Cornwall
Businesses like King’s College London, Smart Working Revolution and London Pain Clinic are expanding operations into Cornwall every day. To learn more about what Cornwall has to offer, or to enquire about help with your own business, contact the Cornwall Trade and Investment team.
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