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On time, on cost, on specification

London-based digital marketing agency

Purestone are an award-winning digital agency serving B2B and B2C. They are now part of the Lewis Group.

Simon Butler, Co-Founder, talks about creativity, their mantra ‘On Time/On Cost/On Specification’, and how an idea borrowed from the record industry helped shape his agency.

“Synergist allows us to scale.

"It also helps us know what sort of projects we can take on. It tells us our current capacity as a business."

Purestone clients

Simon originally worked client-side in consumer marketing at BMG records. In a highly targeted culture he was given ‘flash numbers’ of essential data each day.

Remembering the power of this data, he wanted to make sure he would get such tools when they set up Purestone.


"We planned from the outset that ours should be a Growth business, not a Lifestyle business.

They initially developed a spreadsheet-based job tracking system. It worked OK but...

  • it didn’t give the granularity they needed
  • it couldn’t show which jobs were profitable
  • the data was after the event, so they couldn't act to fix things in time

They then installed a hosted time recording system but...

  • It didn’t connect to the financials
  • It was hard to match data from the different systems
  • It had other issues, such as lack of visibility on over-servicing

“...We felt sure that we'd been over-servicing a particular client, but with our system we couldn't prove it. It was obvious we needed to know profitability by client, by project and by project type, plus connect with our financials.”

How they chose their system

"We then asked our management accountant to evaluate possible agency management systems.

"She came up with an initial list of 6 which was quickly shortlisted to 3.

"We made site visits to 2 plus we made sure we could discuss the systems with the users direct."

"We focused instead on the 

  • processes
  • structures
  • reporting
  • efficiencies
  • accounts integration.

"We chose Synergist. And now over 2 years on it's clear it's the right system for us."

Purestone client work for asos

What Synergist does for Purestone

"Every day, every person in the agency interacts with Synergist one way or another:

  • Allocating work by the team calendars
  • Staff resourcing
  • Client services
  • Reviewing job processes and profitability
  • Management tracking: Client & project profitability
  • Completing timesheets

“The adoption of the system and the timesheet-entering by their people has been high.

"We now have two years of clean, valuable data to draw from. Recently we hired a highly-paid contractor to do work that our data said should take three quarters of a day. He was actually taking two days. With Synergist this stands out. We can act before it’s too late. We now see issues sooner and have the facts to back up the intuition.

"Accessing information, such as staff utilisation, is now done at the push of a button. It's powerful."

"Synergist lets us make informed decisions. We are given the facts. Not all facts are enjoyable, but you need them anyway. It's like using bathroom scales. You might not like the reading, but it's objective so it helps you make decisions.

"Synergist allows us to scale. It also helps us know what sort of projects we can take on. It tells us our current capacity as a business.

"It tells us that we need to turn some jobs down. And we have done that. It's based on knowledge. You know you're right in those circumstances."

Purestone client work for Lombard


"With Synergist we're just as creative as ever. We're still shortlisted for as many awards as we always were.

"About creativity: The public often think it's just about being original.

For Purestone, 'creativity' means 'Best Idea', which involves:

  • The right technical solution for the job
  • The best mind solution for the problem
  • How it looks
  • How it engages people

Purestone client work for Hypnos

Purestone's model of engagement

  • What the client wants to achieve
  • What stories they want to tell
  • What audiences are involved
  • The channels they need to use
  • What stories they can tell
  • Balance between information and stories
  • And the different roles of the audiences...

The CIO wants technical answers. The MD wants ROI and solidity. The IT Manager wants a support network and speedy response.

"We help clients tell their story. People say that Content is King, but we say that Context is. Without the right context, no amount of nice content is going to work.

“We have what we call Controlled Creativity. It’s creativity within a framework. Our team has the freedom to be creative, but to support that we have the metrics, the key performance indicators, for each project to work to budget, to specification and to brief.”

“We set out specifically to be a successful agency, which meant being profitable from day one.

"We wanted to avoid being the type of agency who burned brightly then rapidly went out of business.”

"So you obviously need creativity but you also need good process today. And that's why Synergist wins out. Synergist totally understands your processes.

"Clients are becoming more demanding in terms of information they expect. We use Synergist to help manage that change.

"As for Purestone today, we've never been so busy. As a digital agency we always tell our clients that their website is the backbone to their business. Well, Synergist is the backbone to our business.

"The support we've had from Synergist has been very good. I have recommended Synergist to two or three other agencies who asked advice. I just do it; no-one asked me to. We enjoy using the system so why not share it?"

Purestone client work for TaylorMade

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