Kathryn E. Strachan launched B2B content marketing agency CopyHouse as a one-woman band in 2019. After landing Scottish Widows as a freelancer, she quickly needed to set up an LTD. Four years later, she has a team of 25 employees.
We caught up with Kathryn to find out what building an agency during a pandemic was like, and how she creates a competitive advantage for employee retention.
When Kathryn started hiring in January 2020, just like the rest of us, she had no idea we were a couple of months away from facing a global pandemic. At the time, CopyHouse was a generalist agency, they had clients across lots of different industries, including travel and recruitment.
“We lost a lot of those clients almost overnight,” Kathryn recalls. “So what I had to do was look at what we did have.”
She noticed that both tech and fintech were strong customers, and because they didn’t want to furlough anyone, they decided to invest in their own marketing and go after those spaces.
And that investment paid off.
“Investing in our own marketing created the foundation for all our future growth that allowed us to really expand and boom.”
As CopyHouse went from 4 to 25 employees, Strachan wanted to invest in her team from the start, keeping everything in-house.
“From the beginning, I wanted to build an in-house team because I felt that I could invest in every single person. I could spend time cultivating and developing them in a way that you can’t with a freelance model.”
Building a company culture during Covid
CopyHouse had a work-from-anywhere policy before Covid hit, but just like many other companies, they soon had to adopt a fully remote model.
“Working from home does require that the team take some responsibility for when they log on and off, but we don’t have any hard start or stop times. It’s more about getting the work done and getting it done before the deadline—how you do that is up to you,” Strachan says.
She continues, “If you’re in an office you could see that somebody’s there longer than they should be, and you could literally push them out the door and make them go home—but you can’t do that in a remote setup.”
Today, CopyHouse gives employees the choice between working fully remotely, or working from a co-working space of their choice, for a change of environment – also encouraging the team to meet “in real life” to work together, whenever possible.
Regardless of where employees choose to do their work, it’s about output—not “office” hours.
Launching an employee mental health program
During the pandemic, CopyHouse launched an employee mental health program where each employee gets an hour every month with a mental health professional.
“During the pandemic, a lot of people probably felt like they couldn’t rely on their networks emotionally in the same way, because everybody around you was going through lots of stuff as well.”
That program is still in place today, but Strachan clarifies that “it doesn’t mean they have to talk about any deep or dark stuff, they can talk about anything they want. It’s a safe space for them.”
When it comes to employee benefits, they monitor them to see if people are using them and getting value out of them.
4.5 day workweek as a competitive advantage
After building a highly talented team, Strachan saw a few of her employees get poached by the UK’s tech giants. While flattering, it’s not great when you have projects to complete and clients to please.
“One of the challenges for us is that all these VC-backed tech companies will come in and offer way above the market rate for say, copywriters, and as a small company, we can’t compete with that. I had to ask myself, well, how else can we compete?”
So in August last year, CopyHouse introduced the four-day workweek.
“We launched the four-day work week to try to improve retention, give people more time to unwind, and prevent burnout.“
Having seen the results from trials in the UK and globally, where a four-day workweek has reduced absenteeism and increased revenue, it seemed like an obvious choice.
And so far, CopyHouse hasn’t noticed any impact on productivity. “Our Head of Operations kept a close eye on our project management system to make sure that productivity remained the same.”
Before implementation, they also did an audit of their internal meetings. “We reviewed our internal meetings to make sure we were spending our time wisely. For example, we didn’t need 10 people on what was really a two-person meeting, or we didn’t need two-hour meetings when 30 minutes was enough.”
But being an agency, there were some challenges when it came to client relations.
“Everything might be going really well, but clients don’t necessarily understand why we’re not around on a Friday.”
As a result, they reached a compromise: a four-and-a-half-day workweek. On Fridays, the team signs off in the early afternoon, but first, they make sure any urgent client requests have been taken care of.
Leading by example
While company culture is everyone’s responsibility, seeing leadership teams actively practice what they preach tends to trickle down to the rest of the organization, making people feel comfortable with setting boundaries and taking time off.
When asked about her own work-life balance, Strachan laughs, “I’m not a great example if work-life balance means working 9-5.”
Luckily, it doesn’t.
By now, we all know work-life balance looks different for everyone. And for Strachan, that meant traveling across Latin America for an entire year with her family.
“It was a year before my daughter started school and my husband had a year off work, so we decided to spend an entire year traveling together in Latin America.”
Lessons from the road
In a LinkedIn post, Strachan shares that she’s “learned some important lessons on the road as well as un poco español.”
Those lessons were:
- Never take your family for granted, they’re the ones who are going to be around when it’s all over
- Don’t take life (or business) too seriously (she says she’s still working on this one!)
- No matter what happens, there will always be a way forward
- Life is going to surprise you–knock you around and raise you high–but enjoy the journey as “this too shall pass”
With 79 countries and counting, Strachan is off to plan her next trip—and she encourages her team to do the same.
CopyHouse is a leading content marketing agency for fast-growing fintech and technology brands. They have a team of highly experienced writers, strategists, and creatives with a strong sense of how the use of unique, top-notch content can help clients obtain a content advantage and realize their most important goals.
Clients include Meta, Klarna, Cigna, Travelex, Nutmeg, FICO, Modulr, Money Dashboard, and Instanda, among others.
One of their focuses for 2023 is building and connecting a community of B2B marketers, this includes their live TechTalk panels (next announcement coming soon!), and a new podcast called Tech Marketers Uncorked that’s releasing later this year.
Kathryn Strachan is the owner and CEO of CopyHouse, a leading content marketing agency for fast-growing fintech and technology brands.
Kathryn started her career agency-side before striking out on her own. She’s taken CopyHouse from ground zero to a £1 million turnover within three years, turning it into an established and successful technology content marketing agency.
As well as managing CopyHouse, Kathryn is a respected Forbes contributor and industry speaker featuring at events and webinars from MoneyNext and Semrush Workshops to TechTalks and more. She regularly speaks on topics like SEO, customer-centric content, technology marketing, agency culture, leadership, and female entrepreneurship.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.