This week Robert Brown speaks with Mark Duerden of Westerham-based web agency Beyond Local Limited.

1. Thank you for speaking with me today Mark. Please can you tell us about your typical Monday morning

My typical Monday morning starts with getting the kids ready and walking them to school and nursery. In the office Beyond Local starts our day with a team catch up regarding the status of all the ongoing projects and then a ‘Sprint’ Meeting with the development team. A ‘Sprint’ Meeting gives the developers a chance to let us know what they worked on during the previous working day, what they are planning to work on today and if they need any help or resources from Nina or I to help them complete the task. Then I write my list of things I need to do!

2. What gave you the idea to create Beyond Local Limited?

It came from a mix of several ideas that I had long been mulling over. Firstly, I love that Westerham has a vibrant mix of small businesses and wanted to not only be a part of the business community, but to hopefully provide a service for local SMEs that was a little beyond the norm. This is how we came up with the name.Secondly, before Beyond Local started I was working at City & Guilds and was constantly frustrated that we could never find enough software developers and often had to outsource work or hire people from overseas. Then when we had the opportunity to grow our own developers via the apprenticeship program. After a couple of months of working with these young people, it was clear that they had an intuitive grasp of the technology and a different perspective, particularly when it came to developing for smartphones and tablets. This was the eureka moment!The two strands came together and Beyond Local was born. We have two aims.Firstly, to produce high quality digital products and services at a price that gives SMEs a chance to realise a good ROI. Secondly, to provide real opportunities for young people to learn the skills that the UK economy needs.

3. Excuse the pun, but are you going beyond local to find new clients or is a lot of your business local?

We planned to concentrate our efforts on working with local businesses, but to our surprise we have started to get work from further afield, even managing to get some Graphic Design work from Switzerland!

4. It’s fantastic that you are so heavily involved with an apprenticeship programme. Is this your main route for recruitment?

Totally! There is a massive pool of talent available and Apprenticeships provide us with an opportunity to tap into that. In fact, we are just putting together a job description for our next advanced apprenticeship. We are hoping to recruit a Design Apprentice to work with Nina.

5. Chamber Patron Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP visited Beyond Local earlier this month. Can you share with us the purpose of the visit?

We contacted Mr Fallon’s office in the run up to National Apprenticeship week to see if he wanted to attend our ‘drop in’ event that was promoting the benefit of Apprenticeships to Businesses as well as for young people. He had another engagement on that day, but were surprised and delighted when he said he’d love to come by on another day.So when he came to meet us, we thought the focus would be just on apprenticeships. Mr Fallon met with Daryl and Scott and discussed apprenticeships with them but then he also spent time understanding how we operate and the services we provide. During the visit, we were lucky to be joined by Karen Metcalfe from Manuka Shoes who we have worked with for the last year. Mr Fallon was very interested in hearing how her business was responding to the increasing proportion of sales happening online and how we helped her capitalise on that.

6. What’s the next big thing in web? What should we all be including on our web sites?

Assuming that your website is responsive, optimised for Search Engines and you have some form of analytics installed. Then the next thing to do is to get some video on your website. According to research conducted in the States in 2014, 96% of consumers find video helpful when making purchase decisions online. To see the truth in this, just consider how video could work at all stages of the sales process from social media engagement to post-sale support. It is a very cost effective and smart way in increasing engagement with your customers.

7. If you were in charge of the Sevenoaks District for a day with free rein what would you change or make happen.

I believe that the barrier to growth for many Small Businesses is the difficulty in finding and employing the right people. I also believe there is a wealth of talented young people who would love the opportunity to build their career locally.So I would love to see some form of network that allows businesses who want to grow and train their own staff to have a way of meeting and talking to young people who are considering whether to get a traineeship or apprenticeship as an alternative to going to University.

You can follow Beyond Local Limited on Twitter at @BeyondLocal_