Meet the MD: Matthew Williams of Quba
Leading his team with strong values, Matthew Williams talks to us about his company, Quba, and why despite working in technology, he's learned that business really is about people.
What is it the company does?
Quba is a 22-strong web technology agency that designs, builds and manages large websites and applications for clients across a range of sectors, including airports, financial services, charities and manufacturers. I co-established the business in 2000 and over time we have developed an in-depth knowledge of Microsoft .NET based Content Management Systems. We also have strong design and user experience expertise. Our roster of clients includes London Luton Airport, Ideal Standard, Education Development Trust, The Grosvenor Group, Markel Corporation, University of London, The Pensions Trust and Rape Crisis England & Wales.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Because of the nature of the tech sector, my main role is to ensure the team embraces and is aware of new innovations and to stay ahead of the curve. Our clients rely on us to deliver the most technically advanced websites possible, so the onus is always on us to be at the very forefront of new technology and its development. I work with lots of young people who have grown up with that mindset and I find them hugely inspiring.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I worked in marketing agencies and client-side for nearly 10 years mostly in Leeds, which is where I learnt the ropes and how an agency should be run on a practical level.
Co-founding Quba was a leap of faith, but I knew that it was the right time and an opportunity to run things in my own way.
Over time, I’ve learnt that while technology matters, people matter more. Technology is the enabler; it makes things happen. But ultimately it's all about the people - the team here at Quba, our clients and, of course, their customers. By putting people first, we create products and services that get results for our clients.
I’m also a big believer in having a set of values that bind us together as a team. They make us the people we are and mould our behaviours. This seems to work for our clients too.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
The most important thing is to never be complacent. You can’t sit back and think ‘that’s it, job done’. I firmly believe that there is always room for both change and improvement as nothing stands still. A great leader is always on the lookout for ways to be better, whether that’s as a person or to grow his or her team and business.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Recruiting the right kind of people who have the right mix of skills but who also share our vision and values is always a challenge. We manage it though! Also, aligning our resources to our pipeline of work and client briefs can be tricky. But, again, it’s something we handle pretty well.
On a wider perspective, there has been a huge step forward in tech, which has seen clients become more capable of delivering some of the work agencies have typically done in the past. The upshot is that the agency world now tends to work on a project to project basis rather than fixed retainers. This is more challenging as there are huge variables in each sector that we work with.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Like most business owners, I find it hard to switch off at the end of the day, but my passion for cycling gives me the headspace and the freedom to unwind. Being outdoors and focusing on one thing is a great leveller and even after a tough week being on my bike for a few hours brings a sense of perspective and clarity. I also own a camper van so I try and get away as often as possible in that.
“I’ve learnt that while technology matters, people matter more.‟-Matthew Williams, Managing Director of Quba
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always been creative so my ambition was to either be a designer or an architect. The need to create has been with me since I was a child and it has driven my career at every stage. Even though I now run a business, that has never left me and I hope it never does! I never went out looking to work for myself but the opportunity presented itself and Quba is the result.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
The single biggest one is not being thoughtful. Caring is a core value of Quba and it runs throughout the business; from how we deal with our clients to how we treat each other - it’s fundamental.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I want us to be widely recognised as a leader in our field. We are already a long way along the road to achieving that, but you can never stop developing and growing. I also want the firm to be known for its approach and values, namely being inquisitive, authentic, pragmatic and thoughtful. If we get those right then everything else will follow.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
To never sit back or be complacent and to always dig into the detail.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
That Rome wasn’t built in a day! If you’re serious about being in business then look at your long-term goals and aspirations. Running a company is a constant learning curve and you will get knocked down but the key is to get up, learn from what’s gone wrong and then forge on. It’s not a race and if you set unrealistic expectations then you’re bound to fail.