Senshi only set up eight years ago but it’s far from a Wookiee outfit under Torres’ guidance
Visitors to Senshi Digital’s offices in Glasgow may be greeted by a lifesize replica of Han Solo trapped in carbonite, but the firm’s progress looks anything but frozen, with a string of contract wins and plans to push turnover over the £1 million threshold next year.
Set up in February 2008, the digital agency offers web design and development, brand strategy and digital marketing services.
Director Chris Torres says the business came about when working at another agency, where he and a colleague felt they were “pretty much” running it themselves so decided to branch out on their own.
“I’d always wanted to have my own business anyway even before that, but we just felt it was the right time and we had a couple of opportunities that arose that allowed us to do that,” he explains.
Torres left school at 16, starting his career by using his artistic talent to produce artwork for materials for primary schools in a job at Jordanhill College.
But he jokes that now, after 25 years working on the design side of things, he is “leaving it to the younger folk” and in the past year has “come off the tills” to focus on marketing the business and generating sales.
Looking at the evolution of the firm, he says: “We’ve always done brand development, website design and digital marketing.
“Website design is our main area of business and expertise. My background is branding as well but the business has just grown into more of a digital agency, more predominantly with websites and digital marketing.”
He points out that a lot of its work is in the tourism sector, which accounts for some 70 per cent of the firm’s current £800,000 turnover.
This started with Scottish tour operator Macs Adventure being one of its first clients, and from there “snowballed into working with other tourism agencies”.
This, Torres notes, led to it working with US tourism giant Gray Line, one of the largest and oldest providers of sightseeing tours on the planet and covering more than 700 locations across six continents.
Having created bespoke web identities for nearly 30 of Gray Line’s 150 destination specialists, Senshi is now also set to provide services to up to 50 per cent of Gray Line’s destination teams, aiming to help double its sales to the US group over the next two years.
Torres describes the contract as “a massive win for us” and “a proud moment for me”. He says: “For a company of their size and stature to overlook anybody in the United States to work with us… was a big win for a relatively small company in Scotland.”
The firm’s “rapid growth and confidence in going after global clients” was rewarded last week in the ScotlandIS Digital Technology Awards, taking the prize in the “emerging” category.
The Gray Line win has in turn led to securing further business, he adds, with Senshi working on the website for East Kilbride Shopping Centre and “even building Santa’s website” for Finnish attraction SantaPark, which Torres says is a “massive project”.
On the subject of destinations covering the Arctic Circle, Torres is set to take the whole Senshi team to Iceland for a week as the annual Gray Line conference is taking place there this year.
Another perk is the company introducing a six-hour working day, now a permanent fixture after a trial in March.
“There’s definitely not been a loss of productivity – if anything I feel the team’s been more focused,” Torres says. “It’s up to them to make it work, and so far it has worked.”
“You can’t really concentrate for eight hours a day in my opinion, especially in a creative industry.”
Senshi currently comprises nine members of staff, and Torres says that while he is looking to bring on more digital marketers and designers, he doesn’t ever imagine growing the business to say, 30 or 40 people.
“I don’t believe in having a design company that sort of size,” he says, citing 15 to 20 as the “ideal number.
“That means each designer gets their own say, and you’re not working with ten other designers and nobody really getting their point across. I feel very strongly about that.”
Other plans include opening satellite offices in locations such as London and New York, but Torres stresses that he can’t ever see the firm moving out of Glasgow.
“I think we rival the big cities… when it comes to creativity,” he says.
30 SECOND CV
Education: Corpus Christi Primary and St Thomas Aquinas
First job: Washing cars
Ambition while at school: Loved art and drawing so always wanted to do something creative
What car do you drive: Mini Cooper S
Favourite mode of transport: Mini Cooper S – that car can go!
Music: I am a big hip hop fan. Favourite band of all time is Public Enemy.
Kindle or book: Book. As much as I love digital, having a digital agency, there is nothing better than a physical book in your hands.
Reading material: The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier – the bible for brand development
What makes you angry: Not much but a pet hate is potential clients who ‘dangle the carrot’
What inspires you: My staff. The ideas they come up with really make me proud and want to do better
Favourite place: Kyoto. Such a lovely place. If I could I would have a home out there. One day!
Best thing about your job: Seeing our clients happy with the leads and sales we help them receive