Anna Sutton
Anna Sutton, CEO of The Data Shed.
Rebecca Wayman

Festive Focus: Meet the CEO of The Data Shed in Leeds

Can you introduce yourself and your business to our readers?

“I’m Anna Sutton, co-founder and CEO of The Data Shed, a data services firm based in Leeds.

“We’re primarily a data consultancy and work with clients to help them optimise their data. Frequently our projects include an element of data integration.

“We take data from various sources and integrate them so that firms can derive value from a joined up, centralised database which is then often used to drive real-time insight and predictive analytics models. Data can come from anywhere in the value chain, but most frequently we deal with customer and operational data.

“We also have an in house product development team and are launching our first product in early 2019. Called The Data Refinery, the product aims to remove technical complexity from the process of creating a single customer view.

“We want to make the benefit of consolidated data and the resulting insight accessible to all, no matter the size or technical expertise of the organisation.

“We’re really excited to get it live and see how people use it, the product was the main motivation for setting up The Data Shed and is the culmination of several years work so releasing it to a wider audience will be really exciting!”

What was your company’s biggest achievement of the year?

“The biggest challenge and achievement was going through a dramatic period of scaleup, bringing on a number of new clients and increasing the headcount from 18 to 32, including a new support team.

“It was important to us that we retained our culture and values, and that all staff know who we and what we stand for, no matter how long they’ve been with the company.

“We’ve introduced personal development plans, induction days, and my co-founder, Ed Thewlis, and I regularly take individual members of staff out for lunch so we can all get to know each other better.

“I’m really pleased with the way this year has gone with regards to the culture of The Data Shed. The way next year is looking, we’ll have the same levels of growth so having this foundation in place will allow us to continue to grow with culture at the heart of our business.

“From a more personal point of view, I’ve spent much of the year working with a Leadership Coach to help me deal with some key challenges of leading and developing a rapidly scaling business.

“Focusing on your own development can fall by the wayside when running your own business and I’ve found these sessions invaluable in keeping me focused on the right things.”

How would you approach 2018 differently, given the chance?

“I think the key takeaway this year would be that I would have made some key hires sooner. I came back into The Data Shed full-time at the end of 2017 after my second son started school.

“Ed and I decided that I would take over running the business end of The Data Shed, while Ed focused on technology and new business.

“There were some gaps in my knowledge that meant some tasks were a lot harder than they should have been. As I got up to speed we made the decision to hire in some of the key skills I was missing.

“Where we’ve made these hires (such as bringing in a consultant FD) it has improved the business immeasurably, so I wish we’d made understanding skill gaps a focus sooner.”

What are your company’s plans for the new year?

“To cope with the increase in staff in 2018 and expected growth in 2019, we’re expanding the offices.

“We’re based in Mabgate Mills in Leeds and currently signing the lease for an extra 4,000 sq ft on the floor directly above us, allowing a better working experience for our team, as well as extra meeting rooms and break out areas, which are like gold dust at present.

“We’re also really looking forward to launching The Data Refinery, as well as onboarding a number of new clients, after a series of new business wins.”

What’s your favourite Christmas song?

“I’m going to cheat on this one and go for an album…

“The soundtrack to Home Alone starts playing on our sonos in early December and is played almost non-stop, much to the annoyance of my family. It’s played all day on Christmas Day - it’s not Christmas without it!”

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