Rage Within the Machine: Simon Biltcliffe on Leading a Marxist-Capitalist Business
Posted on the 26 February 2019
Simon Biltcliffe, founder and CEO of print service specialist Webmart, offered fifty business leaders an insight into his company’s unconventional business model at the first Entrepreneurs’ Forum member event for 2019.
During the event, Simon discussed employee motivation, the secret to creating a thriving organisation in the 21st century and how a passion for business and a rage against social injustice have formed the backbone of his success.
Beginning with a breakdown of global index of happiness and employee engagement, throughout the evening, Simon explored the ins-and-outs of Webmart, offering an analysis of the business, which has made a profit every year since its inception, having ‘never borrowed a penny’.
On track to make £7.3 million this year, Simon attributes the company’s success to its unique Marxist-capitalist business model. The model, as Simon explained, works by measuring the emotional, intellectual and financial return of a company’s employees, or, ‘the things that matter’. While emotional return focuses on maximising fun in the workplace, intellectual return concerns individual value, whereas financial return focuses on working out what is ‘enough’ financially.
Driven by these strong moral values, Simon implements capitalist principles in his business to generate the wealth of the organisation and Marxist principles to redistribute that wealth back to the company and the wider community. As an example, Webmart’s charity arm, The Webmart Charitable Trust, has donated over £500,000 to local charities since 1996.
Stating that business is the engine of all good, Simon advised North East entrepreneurs that, “We have a choice how we act as business leaders and what we want in life. We don’t have to do as the establishment and ‘professions’ tell us we have to act. We can be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Honest, insightful and incredibly passionate, Simon’s presentation offered a closer look into how a 21st century print agency is turning the traditional leadership model on its head, quite literally. Webmart operates on an inverted management structure; at the top tier of the hierarchy is the customer and clients followed by the frontline employee team, while the senior leadership team and managers are in the lower tier.
It’s Simon’s distinct leadership style that earned him the IOD Director of the Year 2010 Award, the Future Champion title in the 2013 National Business Awards and has secured his place on the Print Week Power 100 for the last 10 years.
“You can implore people and say what you’re doing is fantastic, but unless you prove it, it’s just warm words. As business leaders, we have the choice to show people how business can be done.”