By his own admission Garry Partington could be a contender for the title of Manchester’s worst dressed tech entrepreneur.

In a former life his colourful shirts were the stuff of fashion nightmares but that wasn’t the insult that set him on mission to transform Apadmi into the leading digital products studio in the world.

“We kept getting referred to as ‘Manchester’s best kept secret’ and after nine years in business I didn’t want that,” recalls Partington.

“I sat down with my co-founders – Nick Black, Howard Simms and Adam Fleming – and we realised that we’d been running Apadmi as a lifestyle business.

“We had between 50-60 staff but as co-founders we’d gone off and done other things. The ambition to grow wasn’t there.

“As with any business you reinvent yourself and we span out a few companies. In my case I got involved in growing a digital market research company called RealityMine. What we all had in common was Apadmi and we decided to re-focus our energies on our ‘love child’ if you like.”

Fast forward to 2023 and Apadmi is in the middle of an ambitious growth plan that Partington hopes will end with 1,500 staff in five markets, in five years.

Partington admits it’s the sort of ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ – or ‘BHAG’ – that his favourite author Jim Collins wrote about in his hit book ‘Built to Last’.

The 48-year-old will be talking about his journey at the exclusive ‘How to PROGRESS in business’ breakfast event at KPMG’s Manchester office on May 25th.

Big-name speakers confirmed for growth event

He’s one of nine confirmed speakers for the event, which is aimed at business owners and senior managers who are looking to progress.

The business breakfast, which has been organised by Proactive Progress, is different to other events because it tackles some of issues that can stop people progressing in their careers, like imposter syndrome and communicating under pressure.

“I didn’t see anyone focussing on the whole picture,” said Partington. “We talk to people about what are the levers that are really going to change their business. We saw this amazing opportunity.”

Today Apadmi employs 260 staff across offices in Manchester’s MediaCity, London, Edinburgh, Lisbon and also Amsterdam, having acquired Dutch agency The Mobile Company last November as it continues to grow internationally.

The company is the digital product partner for organisations including the BBC, Domino’s, Co-op, NHS, Chelsea FC, and Wattbike. In the past three years Apadmi has doubled in size and is targeting £25m turnover in the current financial year.

Apadmi creates award-winning mobile apps and digital products which solve complex customer and business problems for clients.

At the heart of Apadmi’s success is the relationship between the four co-founders, who all continue to work in the business

“We’ve never fallen out,” said Partington.  “When you set a target of growing to 1,500 staff and being in five markets in five years it creates a lot of pressure but it’s a healthy pressure and it’s one that we can control.

“It felt a bit like a bootstrapped startup at first but we’re in a strong financial place and we’re probably looking to raise investment later this year.

Apadmi records best ever month on back of client wins

“We’ve been going for 14 years now. We’re on an upwards trajectory. My advice to entrepreneurs is ‘don’t give up, make a plan and keep trying’.”

Apadmi has just been included in this year’s Sunday Times Best Places to Work after a survey found 92 per cent of Apadmi employees feel happy in the workplace.

Partington will joined at the  ‘How to PROGRESS in business’ breakfast event next week  by Amman Ahmed, founder of MusicForPets;  Beckie Taylor, co-founder of Tech Returners; former hostage negotiator Nigel Taberner; Alexandra Hatchman​​, CEO of law firm Napthens; Rick Stark, director, corporate finance and KPMG; Laura Sisson, investment manager at YFM; Isobelle Panton, director of student recruitment and international at UA92; and Chris Townsend, MD of video content expert What Media.

The ‘How to PROGRESS in business’ event has been organised by Proactive Progress, a new monthly business group for ambitious companies in the North West.

The co-founders are Chris Maguire, executive editor of BusinessCloud and TechBlast, and award-winning entrepreneur Paul Woods, managing director of Proactive Despatch.

Maguire will be hosting the event. It’s free to attend but spaces are strictly limited. Register here.