I always wanted my own business and the opportunity came up when I was working at Cable & Wireless in the nineties. We asked a software company to come up with an application to accurately compare complex pricing schemes and they couldn’t understand it. Along with Iain, my business partner, we figured out a solution and sold it to many of the new telecoms companies that were being created at that time.
I’m not sure there’s a best lesson but there’s definitely no substitute for experience. Like most people I thought I knew it all when we started but you soon learn that real business and what you’re taught at university are very different things. I think an important lesson is to recognise that most people don’t necessarily see your products or services the same way that you do – what you see as an obvious financial benefit to a customer might seem like ‘just another expense’ to them.
The hardest lesson was the dot.com crash in 2000 – several of our largest customers went bust and the others immediately stopped spending money. We had to significantly downsize the company and almost start again. The lesson was not to be over-reliant on one group of customers.
Don’t do a business degree – do software development! We’re fortunate to have found a couple of developers who can also think of things from a business viewpoint which is a great combination. They’re very good at what they do but I would love to know how to do it myself. Although maybe it’s never too late to learn!
Both my daughters have now graduated from Uni so my wife and I now have the flexibility to go on holiday wherever and whenever we want – so I am now living the dream! I’d like to be working less hours and hopefully that’s not too far away…