Candour, Norwich

Based in Norwich, Candour is a creative digital agency which has been growing rapidly since it was formed in 2013.


John Skinner is Creative Director and co-owner of Candour, an agency which has gone from strength to strength over the last nine years and has worked to support companies of all scale and sector in improving their digital presence.

The business has very much grown organically, and now has a total staff number of 22.

“Would highly recommend”

“Very responsive and thorough. Had a good understanding of our industry. Provided a very comprehensive and professional service. Great at communicating.” Read the full review

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The background

Candour had previously relied on adhoc HR support or self-education, when it came to accessing information to help manage its expanding team.

This coincided with a chance introduction to MAD-HR, and an opportunity for John and fellow director Mark Cook to reassess the needs of the business in terms of policies, procedures and employee strategy.

The case for support

Having grown to a business of 22 staff, now working with an even more developed use of remote and hybrid working than it had in place prior to Covid, Candour required a more consistent HR approach, appropriate for the company’s size and needs.

While the agency had not faced ‘significant employee issues’, its directors were keen to embed newly developed corporate values and to develop a suite of contracts and policies, along with a staff handbook.

Given the new landscape, John felt working with a consultancy HR service would be perfect.

“We were fortunate to have met MAD-HR in other circumstances, and from doing so, realised that they understood us, and would be able to quickly get up to speed with our business and our growth ambitions,” says John.

“We were at a point where we couldn’t really afford a full-time HR person, but there was no escaping the fact that we needed more expertise in this area.

“To some extent, when you’re only a team of six or so, you don’t face major HR issues everyday or feel you need to call on an expert – but as we grew, it became clear we wanted and needed that.

“It was also a great opportunity to formalise a package of benefits for our staff, as that’s something we had considered for sometime, and yet didn’t know where to start.”

The approach

MAD-HR quickly set to work in hearing from John and Mark about the day to day, as well as longer-term HR specific issues and needs for Candour.

They conducted a full audit of the business, and carried out employee interviews which gave the founding directors a significant amount of insight and reassuring confirmation about their reputation as employers.

“The audit process was something of huge value to us,” says John.

“We had always tried to carry out surveys with staff to see how they were feeling about our way of working, but this revealed so much more, and it certainly gave us a lot of confidence, while at the same time reminding us of areas where we needed to focus to achieve our ambitions.”

The audit’s report set the ground for the creation of the policies, handbook and other resources which John and Mark had long been wanting to get in place.

It has now pathed the way for further strategy-setting, to help Candour move into the next chapter of their employee development journey.

The verdict

Candour is now working on a retainer approach with the MAD-HR team, which enables them to tackle different areas of need, as they arise.

John believes it is the perfect solution for his busy and dynamic creative company.

“There’s no doubt the retainer is the best route for us – it certainly gives us huge flexibility,” he says.

“We have a great relationship with the team members, and can always pick up the phone to the likes of Victoria with any issue or concern which comes to mind.

“Recently, Victoria proposed a solution for a particular HR issue which would never have considered, and as a result, it has resolved things in a really smooth way and given us such peace of mind.

“The next step is for us to move forward into focusing on our strategic approach.”

Top client tip

John says: “As a business owner, you don’t know what you don’t know, so there’s huge value in working with a specialist who can guide you and advise you on issues which, if left to develop badly, could cost you dearly.

“I personally think there’s a danger in entrepreneurial business owners simply writing off an HR function as being just ‘risk management’.

“My view is that it’s so much more than that, and we’ve certainly gained as a result of having MAD-HR in our corner. I would urge anyone thinking about HR to look into a consultancy solution like we’ve found.”

*Find out more information about Candour and its work