It’s been an exciting few months at RJJ, as our CTO and founder, Jamie Taylor, has won yet another award for his work with the company, a reward that celebrates not only the hard work we do at RJJ, but the values we represent.
Recognising Visionary Work
As part of their annual awards for 2023, SME news have awarded Jamie the Managing Director of the Year award for Most Visionary Software Development & Consultancy MD.
SME News is a publication focused on small and medium-sized businesses based in the UK – businesses just like us. Through their quarterly magazine, online articles, and social media presence, they celebrate and support businesses that aren’t giants of their industry, but that are vital to a healthy economy and society. The companies that are new and still growing; that serve small niches; or that are simply happiest working at a small scale. While multinationals grab the big headlines and investments, SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy, a space where innovation, creativity, and strong principles can thrive without the cumbersome bureaucratic scaffolding needed to hold up a large business.
This is also the part of the economy where more people get to be their own bosses and set their own agendas, just like Jamie. The pride of owning a business, and the sense of agency it brings, can be rewards in themselves.
This is such an important part of the economy, it’s great to see it supported by a publication like SME News. The Managing Director of the Year awards are now into their second year, and we’re honoured to play our part in celebrating British business.
A Long Journey
Like many of the best business leaders, Jamie followed a long and winding path to this point. He spent time in retail and trained as a teacher before turning to a career in software development. From there, he built up the skills and experience to establish his own company, alongside his brother Mark. A big fan of podcasts, Jamie has turned that interest into a part of the business, and RJJ now offers expert services in both software development and podcast production.
Being his own boss has given Jamie the opportunity to pursue not just his interests but his dreams. He works on projects that interest him, to standards he’s set, and his passion for the job is reflected both in the company’s success and in his Managing Director of the Year award.
That doesn’t mean that Jamie’s pre-RJJ experience is relegated to the past. Far from it, that eclectic experience has helped him to run the company. Lessons in empathy and communication that he learnt from teaching, as well as those about business and retail from the shop floor, help him to meet the needs of clients, to understand their concerns, and so to provide them with the best results he can, while recognising that there’s always room for improvement.
Making a Difference
One of Jamie’s biggest aims in running RJJ has been to establish a company that makes a difference.
Some of this is apparent in the everyday activities of the company. The services we provide in the e-commerce and finance spaces help companies to handle their transactions more quickly and efficiently, improving the experience for their customers. This allows companies to thrive whether or not they have the benefits of being a big business. And when we need to source materials and services, whether that’s computing hardware or specialist skills, we go to local SMEs, boosting the local economy.
It’s also about the compassionate practices embedded within the company. Our working practices are relaxed and employees are encouraged to take regular breaks, encouraging both health and productivity. From the start, the company has put home working front and centre, giving staff the opportunity to work in a way that suits them. Flexible working hours and an outcome-based approach lead to better results and happier workers. And in recruiting and training our first apprentice, we’ve tried not just to spread these values but to teach cutting edge skills to a new generation, helping someone get the best start in the world of software.
Jamie has always encouraged a strong ethical framework for the company, as embodied in our code of conduct. Unlike most companies, we apply this code to clients as well as ourselves. Many companies whitewash their behaviour by ignoring the supply chain, allowing poor behaviour as long as it’s not directly linked to them. We look to encourage an ethical, empathetic approach in all the work we touch.
Looking to the Future
Jamie is always looking to improve both the company and his own leadership. However good your work, it’s never perfect, and Jamie takes the time to learn and apply new skills and approaches on a regular basis. As he says, “be prepared for continual learning, but don’t be scared off by it.”
Over the past year, that has led to developments such as our code of conduct and first apprenticeship. It’s also led to more work with more clients, who appreciate the skills and values that RJJ brings.
Jamie himself has become an evangelist for a more empathetic way of working, giving talks on this topic. He’s approached schools and colleges around Leeds to see whether he and RJJ can provide guidance and opportunities for experience to sixth formers, giving something back to the community. Rather than seeing other software developers as competitors, he approaches them as colleagues from whom he can learn, and who can learn from him, improving the industry and so lifting everybody up.
Leeds itself is an ideal place for a business like RJJ. The city is growing into a major tech hub, and the northern corridor from Leeds through Bradford to Manchester is home to many of the biggest games studios in the UK. With the games industry growing, that means a lot of tech opportunities in the region, opportunities which RJJ can both benefit from and contribute to. And as a fan of games himself, Jamie’s more than happy to see things swing that way.
Awards are strange things. Whether based in work, hobbies, or public service, they can feel arbitrary or confusing. Even in a situation like this, with a thriving company and an MD who has put in hard work both in the office and beyond, it’s tempting to ask “so what?”
But there’s value in being seen, in having your achievements acknowledged. That can be hard for a small business, with a limited public profile and customer base, doing the work behind the scenes that lets others put their best foot forward, whether by building their software or producing their podcasts. It often feels like that work goes unacknowledged. An award like this helps to overcome that imbalance, providing a boost to morale, a reminder that you’re valued, and a higher public profile.
As the awards pile up, so does their value. This is Jamie’s second award in less than two years, following a Microsoft MVP Award in 2021 for contributions to his professional community. This second award recognises his contribution to the economies of Leeds and the UK, his hard work in establishing a company, and the compassionate leadership that does so much both for RJJ and for the local community. One award could be a fluke, but two proves that something good is going on.
A lot of our time is spent working in the shadows, coding and editing by a monitor’s pale glow, alone in our workspaces. A moment like this is a reminder that we’re more than that, that we’re part of a business community that makes a difference in the world. That difference, more than the profits or the award itself, makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Congratulations, Jamie! Here’s to the great work you’ve done to far, and to doing even better in the future.