Meet one of the Martin James Network’s very own entrepreneurs, Tim Luft

Meet one of the Martin James Network’s very own entrepreneurs, Tim Luft

I have always had a passion for technology – from my early days in school operating a BBC Microcomputer where I would play the latest games (many of which were extremely basic, 2D, with very poor graphics). 

Jump 20 years on and the games industry has changed beyond all recognition, new games consoles have appeared, Apple iTunes have brought out mobile games and computers that are able to process highly engaging 3D graphics.  It is from this that I recognised an opportunity to create highly innovative products from the skill set of the games industry. However, instead of building entertainment games, I felt we should look towards gamification and 3D virtual environments to assist with everyday tasks such as teaching and learning. 

Before I set up my own Virtual Reality Studio I went through the process of running other businesses – my first being a French Restaurant (but my cooking skills were pretty questionable and I am not sure whether Wolverhampton was quite ready for Crepes in the mid-1990s), I ran my own consultancy business (advising blue chips and the UK Government on Innovation and IT) for many years and then decided the time was right to go it alone with a technical development studio in the West Midlands. 

As a small business focusing on Virtual Reality and Simulation I was able to slowly build up a company and generate a mix of clients from Arriva Trains to the Gwent Police. But it was clear, I needed to invest in products if the business was going to grow, at this stage I started with the Rail Industry, developing a learning tool using a virtual 3D environment to increase safety on railway platforms – it worked, our first client experienced a 60% reduction in incidents on the rail stations as a result of training their staff with our software (Result!). This gave us the confidence to explore similar products for the UK Police and before long we had two titles in the market. 

As I progressed the business I often presented at events, conferences and workshops, it was at such a presentation that Jim and Ayyab happened to be in the audience. They had an interest in VR/ AR and it wasn’t long before I had a call from an old friend of mine, Faye. One thing led to another and the opportunity to join the MJN family of businesses became real – this was an easy option for me, I recognised that as a small business with little or no investment we can only grow at a certain pace, but being a smaller part of something bigger (TalkOut Group) we could grab with both hands the real opportunity to innovate and scale. Jim and Ayyab recognise the potential of technology as a source for good if developed properly, they have also created an enviable group of companies, all of whom I felt could be great partners and collaborators going forward. 

I feel that we are still on an exciting journey and with the support of the Martin James Network, and the wider teams across the globe I am very excited to see where this journey takes us. The appointment of Paul Putman as our new TalkOut CEO and a focus on combining our VR tech team with world class experts in mobile development also offers tremendous potential for growth. We recognise how significant the TalkOut App will become and are fully onboard to support the company with a portfolio of Virtual Reality Worlds. Watch this space!

Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham-based business, the Martin James Network, has expanded its portfolio further with the acquisition of VR company, VR Simulation Systems.

Headquartered in Edgbaston, and employing over 1,200 people globally, the Martin James Network is formed from a variety of organisations ranging from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.

The network has gone from strength-to-strength over the last two years, having started as a team of ten in rented offices in October 2018.

This latest move sees the network expand its mental health group, TalkOut, as it looks to help businesses navigate new ways of working and support staff wellbeing following the coronavirus outbreak.

Headed up by CEO, Jill Mead, TalkOut will now be able to offer workplaces across the country access to the best employee mental health support using the latest technology, in addition to its existing training and consultancy services.

As well as the new VR offering enabling employees to better understand and manage mental health through simulated environments, TalkOut has launched an app to help businesses connect and engage with teams as the nation adjusts to home working.

Rigorously tested for 18 months, and developed to work across countries and continents, the app helps businesses encourage collaboration, boost engagement, break down silos and provide crucial mental health support and counselling through a specialist chat function.

Ayyab Cockburn, chief operating officer at the Martin James Network, says: “We’re an ambitious network of businesses and we’re always looking at ways to diversify and grow, whilst keeping an eye on emerging trends.

“This latest acquisition is our response to what is a global issue. We’ve all been forced to work remotely, and whilst flexibility is an attractive benefit, this way of working can lead to isolation or silos.

“Businesses now more than ever are faced with both emotional and physical barriers that can and will impact on their success. Accepting that we need to change how we communicate with our employees, will be key in driving businesses forward during this challenging time.”

For more information about the Martin James Network, visit www.martinjamesnetwork.com or www.talkout.com.

Martin James Network awarded runner-up in Disruptive HR Better Normal Awards

Martin James Network awarded runner-up in Disruptive HR Better Normal Awards

Martin James Network awarded runner-up in Disruptive HR Better Normal Awards

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve been named runner-up in the Disruptive HR Better Normal awards.  

Recognising our leaders’ responses to the Coronavirus pandemic, the network was given runner-up status for the ‘Who Knew Our Managers Were This Human?’ category.

We were congratulated in particular for our innovative and disruptive initiatives during lockdown and beyond, including:

TribeOut

Creative director, Dan Osadciw, launched free daily HIIT workouts to help keep us fit and healthy during lockdown. Now, Dan is running three sessions per week and the Facebook group is open to anyone to join.

Wellbeing Wednesdays

Each week, TalkOut interviewed key leaders from across the business who spoke candidly about their life, careers, mental health and how they were finding lockdown. This included an interview with our very own chief operating officer, Ayyab Cockburn, who talked about the importance of creating cultures of care and wellbeing in the workplace.

Our Mini Tribe Adventures

Managing partner, Michelle Ivins, set up a Facebook community group to support parents and spread positivity throughout lockdown. Featuring kids activities, home schooling tips and general positive news, the group has nearly 5,000 active members.

This is Us: diversity and inclusion

Our people team amped up its diversity and inclusion strategy, This is Us, with a new employee forum. Employees were given the opportunity to have an open discussion about perceptions of race and equality following the increased prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement. The forums will now be held regularly and will form a key part of the network wide approach to diversity and inclusion.

Updates from Jim

We had regular updates from our founder and chair person, Jim. Helping to keep us all motivated, Jim produced videos from home where he talked about mental health and the importance of staying connected. These were shared to employees using our fantastic internal communications and wellbeing tool, the TalkOut app.

Ian Thomas, Practice Development Officer for the Martin James Foundation who took part in some of the initiatives said “Person cantered leadership helps people feel part of something they want to nurture and shelter, it is fundamental to our working community, in common-unity.”

Talking about the awards, group people director, Mark Shrimpton, said: “I’m really proud that the Martin James Network leaders have been recognised for their response to Coronavirus.

“Whether it was physical or mental wellbeing support, discussions on world topics, or simply just having fun, there was such a wide range of activities for employees to get involved with.

“A huge thanks to everyone who responded so positively and got involved – it really shows the care and support within the network.

“Covid may have kept us apart, but our managers made sure we stayed connected.”