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It’s time to future-proof your business. Learn how – from the people already doing it.

With a fast-paced digital world comes the need for agility. And no matter the size of your business, it’s an important strategy which lets you shift and adapt to business trends at the drop of a hat. Even though it can be easier for small businesses, anyone can adapt their digital transformation plans by adopting a start-up mentality. You just need to make sure you’ve got the right digital tools and networks available.

We’re taking a look at a digital-first business, Excel Esports, to see how its digital strategies have led to it becoming a leading player in the business field of esports.

But it’s more than just a small business; it’s a challenger to the market and other firmly established sports brands.

Let’s hear what makes Excel Esports tick – and how the business approaches digital growth as the number one strategy within its business model. How has its agility and flexibility paid off?

Changing the sporting landscape, one stream at a time

Esports is a relatively new field of business in the UK. It involves competitive video gaming – and it’s all online. The fans are online, the communication between fans is online and the game itself is all online. It’s a big deal – as it’s changed the way sport is played and consumed dramatically. Never before has a broadband connection been so important for a sport. And this is just the beginning.

Let’s delve into esports.

Two brothers, Joel and Kieran Holmes-Darby, both had experience working in big businesses. But they decided to ditch the normal 9 to 5 job - and create a digital-first business around their shared gaming passion.

They started their company, Excel Esports, and became a global presence in online gaming. But how did they achieve such notoriety in the esports world? By being a completely digital business, having experience of business growth, agile working methods, an online presence and utilising top tech.


Starting from the bottom as a small business

Setting up a business is tough. But Joel and Kieran agree that the first step is simple. Passion. Both of them loved online gaming and decided to turn that passion into a digital business. “Everyone who works for Excel is very passionate about either gaming or esports,” says Joel. But once you’ve got the foundations, and a passionate workforce, what are the next steps for growth?

As Joel says, it takes a lot of “calculated risks’ to grow a business successfully.” Both brothers decided to steer their business towards opportunities and decisions that others may have viewed as being out of their reach.

For example, the company applied to the League of Legends European Championship (a professional esports league). It was a longshot for Excel Esports to be accepted – but it managed to raise an eight-figure investment sum; all within five months.

It may sound all too easy, but as Joel and Kieran explain, “the truth is we had a really convincing proposition in an exciting industry, and were able to present it passionately to intelligent individuals who could grasp the opportunity and move at speed to get the deal done.”

And the rest is history; the team were successful, and the business was catapulted to the next level, leading to the fastest expansion of the company in six years. It pays to take risks, no matter the size of your business.


Adapt and react

The esports market is moving fast, mirroring other markets. With new games coming out all the time, the brothers need to be reactive. New games are the lifeblood of esports. Without games, there’d be nothing to watch and Excel Esports wouldn’t exist.

By having an agile working model, the Excel Esports team can adapt quickly to these changes. This could mean creating fresh content or even hiring a new team to manage the response to a release. The team can assess the opportunity the new game presents and develop their talent and teams. This speed and agility keeps Excel Esports ahead of its competitors and other digital first businesses.

Of course, the brothers couldn’t be agile without the digital technology to back it up. Without keeping on top of the latest tech available, the business wouldn’t be able to flourish. Just like other businesses, having the most up-to-date tools working at the best possible level allows Joel and Kieran to be ready for the next agile move and ready to adapt to new technologies being released. For large corporates, that might be having Managed SD-WAN, or for the smaller SMEs it could be mobile payments and automated communications. Use the tech to your advantage, and the tech will look after your business.

It’s also important to adapt to your business audience. All Excel Esports’ communication is done online – so it’s important to utilise and adapt to different social media platforms to deliver news, information and content. “It’s essentially the business model,” says Kieran, “creating a journey the community want to follow.”

With so many different ways to communicate online, it can be hard knowing where to start; or which platform best suits the needs of your customers. By using digital analytics to help build your online presence, you can see which platforms work well, what content is best engaged with and how your audience likes to be communicated with. By creating this online presence, your business can grow a strong connection with those using your services and improve first choice brand consideration.

Don’t let your business lag

Getting that edge can be difficult in new industries. But sometimes, looking at what your competitors are doing can be helpful. What are they doing better than you right now? Or is there a gap to fill with something completely different? What technology are they using that could benefit your business?

Kieran agrees, noting Excel Esports hasn’t ‘reinvented the wheel’, but has taken good parts of other industries – like traditional sports and tech. He recommends other businesses check out the competition, and tailor the bits that work for you and your digital transformation plans.

The brothers’ long-term goal is to expand – and they have all the right steps in place. Technology has played a crucial role in allowing the business to stay agile and react with speed. By updating to the latest and fastest tech, the company can perform to its highest standard – both in game and across the whole business – to achieve its goals and grow.


The tools of the trade

In a business run solely online, state-of-the-art hardware is a must. “And looking at how you can best use that technology to benefit your business is important for every industry,” says Kieran. But tech also needs to be supported by a reliable and fast internet connection. You can’t have a game lagging with millions of people watching, so the network is essential to competing.

And this is relatable to any business relying on real-time data and flexible working methods. With a lot of businesses moving towards remote working, it’s more important than ever to have the right tech for your business. Joel and Kieran, for example, need to work with an international team based in both the UK and Germany, along with investors around the globe. With so much based online, a trusty network is essential.

With the introduction of 5G, the brothers are excited to see how content will be consumed in the future. Will it change the way businesses produce and publish their content? We’ll have to wait and see. 

What’s next for your business?

We’ve looked at setting up a new business, growing it, adapting to change and having the right tools. But what final advice do Joel and Kieran Holmes-Darby have for us?

“I think my top tip is probably to be proactive in the way you adopt new technologies and adopt new platforms and make sure you’re using them in the most efficient and effective way to help build your business, and ultimately grow.” – Kieran

‘Mine would be to always be bold… never be satisfied or happy with the current status quo and always be looking for ways to go beyond your current limits and find new opportunities because that’s how you’re going to stay ahead of your competition and ultimately stay relevant for years to come.” – Joel

Find out more at ‘The future is now’

This interview comes from our ‘The future is now’ series, hosted by Steph McGovern. Take a look at the full interview - and keep an eye out for more videos and articles coming soon to help you digitally transform your business.

If you’d like to know more about digital transformation for your business, we’re here to help.