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The office: Alchemy Viral

Matt McAllister

Alchemy Viral

Andreas Voniatis is the managing director of Alchemy Viral, which provides SEO and analytics services to agencies. The company is based in Richmond-Upon-Thames

Your company is based in Virginia Woolf’s old house, is that right?

Yes, she actually set up Hogarth Press here. Part of what we do is publishing, so it’s a coincidence that we ended up moving into premises where there was once a famous publishing house! It really resonates with us.

We found out about the place because we were looking to move out of a Regus office, and a friend of ours mentioned he was moving his firm out of a room in the house. It looked really good, with oak-panelled walls, a secret staircase and wooden shutters.

We’re just in part of the house at the moment, but we’re growing and I’d like the whole house one day!

Do you spend the majority of your day based in the office?

I do. I’m very much hands-on, which is probably easier in a company of our size, and I spend time on both business development and SEO strategy. But I do go off to meet clients and new business. That includes flying around the world  – I’ve just returned from visiting two clients in Sydney.

Do you think there’s a different atmosphere at a small company compared to a large corporation?

I think so. We try to make it a nice environment and have a fun culture, but the emphasis is very much on results and working hard. There’s no room for mindgames or anything like that here – though I’m not saying you get that at all large firms!

The benefits of staff working in the office are that they are more collaborative and engaged in the way they approach their work.
Are your staff office-based or do you encourage flexible working?

We have a hybrid. We do ask people to come in most of the time, but allow the flexibility for people to work from home 40% of the time.

The people who come in mainly hot-desk. The benefits of them working in the office are that they’re more collaborative and engaged in the way they approach their work. And it helps create competition: if one writer is writing fast then the other writers take notice and want to be faster! Healthy competition is a result of them being together.

But they also appreciate the flexibility of being able to work from home. It keeps the juices flowing and there isn’t that fear of asking permission to see the doctor or other day-to-day stuff. There are pros and cons to both ways of working, and we’re trying to harness the best of both.

What are the advantages of being based in Richmond?

People sometimes say, “Why don’t you have an office in Covent Garden or Farringdon?” And I always say, “Well if it’s good enough for eBay it’s good enough for us!” As well as eBay, there are a couple of other multinationals and a number of web and mobile app companies based here.

The first pop-up shop was based in Richmond too. So, while it might be a while before it can compete with, say, Old Street, we’re not looked down on for being based in Richmond. And it’s nice to be based in a town that isn’t just made up of lawyers and accountants!

What I also like about Richmond is its relaxed atmosphere. The overheads are relatively low compared to somewhere like Farringdon, but we’re still ‘London’ enough for talented people to travel and join us. And there are lots of bars and lunch options!


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