In Spring 2019 Jonathan Sherwin, Managing Director of Bathcomms, sat down with Anita Jaynes of The Business Exchange to talk about the history of Bathcomms, from beginning in 1997 to the present day, and what’s next.

Tell us about the business history – how did Bathcomms begin?

Bath Communication Systems – Bathcomms – was started in 1997 by my father Steve Sherwin after a career as a submariner in the Royal Navy. Upon leaving the Navy, Dad studied for a master’s degree in London and the business came about initially through commercial work that came from that programme.

Did you show an interest in the business growing up?

My first connection with Bathcomms was as a young teenager in the late 90s. This thing called the Internet was growing quickly, and my friends wanted access. The trouble was, the PCs their families were using didn’t come with modems. So, I would go off to Bristol to purchase 56k modems wholesale, and then install them in friends’ PCs at a moderate mark-up!

It wasn’t long before I started playing around with building simple websites, and when I took a Gap Year in 2003, I spent the year working as a web designer for Bathcomms, which by then had specialised in building and maintaining websites and content management systems.

Bathcomms' History - Jonathan Sherwin and his father Stephen Sherwin at a family wedding
Jonathan Sherwin and Steve Sherwin

What did you do before taking over Bathcomms?

After my Gap Year I moved overseas for 5 years. During this time, I stayed in touch with friends and family back home through a mixture of email and video messages (we used to post CDs across the world with pre- recorded video messages!). I started to blog, and when my girlfriend’s college on the East Coast of the US was connected to this new network called Facebook, I saw a fresh model of digital communications emerge.

When I moved back to England in 2009 I worked for a small national charity as Head of Communications. I added social media engagement, email marketing, and blogging (before I had my head around ‘content marketing’) – to their comms strategy, all of which began to do really well. When I left the organisation for further study, I was approached by others to advise on and implement these strategies, and my career as a digital marketing consultant began.

When did you join the company?

I re-joined Bathcomms at a challenging time. My father passed away from cancer on the first of May 2017. He was unwell for a few months prior, but unfortunately was only diagnosed in hospital the day before he died. By then Bathcomms had become a specialist eCommerce business. Much of the development work of the company at that time was remote, so in the days leading up to that day, when Dad was unwell, I took on some of his project management workload to give him a chance to take a break. Everyone was completely shocked by what then happened, and I – newly appointed as MD – suddenly had a much bigger decision to make about the business. Three months on, after a crash-course in business management, I made the decision to keep and grow the business and began to plot its future journey.

Our clients were so supportive throughout this time. We had a strong web development skillset within the business which we have maintained and further extended. Alongside that I have brought my skillset to the business and beginning with our existing client base we have rolled out new digital communications services, including email and content marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services, and digital strategy analysis.

Who are your clients?

We work with a wide variety of clients, mostly in the UK – many within a couple of hours’ drive from our Bath office. From local charities to national brands, we help businesses succeed online. Many of our eCommerce clients are in retail and have traditional distribution channels. They are looking to grow their online direct sales channel and we help with the tech and the marketing for that.

Bathcomms has developed its eCommerce technical skillset over many years. What we do now is so far advanced from what I did all those years ago in Gap Year! There was a Honda ad that used to run that said, “everything that we do, goes into everything we do.” I like that. Now, our comms informs our tech, and our tech informs our comms. That’s what makes our offering strong.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

I took my first proper break (email off) in two years just recently. It’s been a challenging journey to get here, but my time away confirmed that our systems are running well, and our clients are happy. So, in the long (hopefully warm) summer nights to come, I’m looking forward to breathing a little deeper and dreaming a little larger about what’s to come.

This was first published in the Spring 2019 edition of the The Business Exchange.