I am Co-Founder and Managing Director of Enable Software and Director and Co-Founder of Enable Infomatrix. My main activities are overseeing Sales, Finance, and Requirements Analysis activities at Enable Software. I have a passion for sales – it is hard to beat the feeling you get when receiving a significant order! I am fortunate that I have a very capable Operations Director who oversees the delivery and support aspects of our business.
This leaves me to work with clients and meet lots of interesting new people, which I really enjoy. Outside of work I’m a keen helicopter pilot. I enjoy travelling, sampling nice food and wine.
What is your inspiration in business?
It has changed a lot over the years. When I was starting out, as is the case for directors of most start-ups, I was doing every role – sales, delivery, support, finance – you name it! I loved it – it was hugely satisfying to personally see an opportunity through from start to finish. I was also hugely attracted to “being my own boss”. I would say I have always been very money motivated – when I started my goal was to become financially independent by the time my school friends were leaving University, and I achieved that.
I have achieved many of my material goals in business over the last 10 years and now my focus is on improving the way we work, bolstering the quality of our work, and making sure we deliver maximum possible value to our clients. I am obviously no longer as involved in the minutia as I used to be because we have grown so much, but I still get a lot of satisfaction out of being an integral part to so many of our client businesses, and seeing how much more efficiently they can operate with our involvement.
Who do you admire?
When I was younger I used to admire specific people to an almost obsessive extent! I would follow a particular individual and put them on a pedestal, and then be disappointed when they did not meet my high expectations.
I’ve now realised that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and it is by understanding and assessing these attributes that you can learn from others. I now enjoy getting input from a range of people – they can all teach me something.
Denys Shortt, my business partner, CEO and Chairman, has been a key mentor – he is a serial entrepreneur and has been hugely successful. I also admire my father and have taken a lot of advice from him over the years. He is a respected accountant and has been a staunch supporter in everything that I have done.
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
We’ve been very successful working “close to customer” – we are more than just a service provider, we try to understand what a company needs and tailor make a solution for them based on this knowledge. We’ve been less successful at trying to develop fixed “products” and then selling them in volume. I’ve put a lot of time over the years into trying to get products set-up and resellers in place, and this has basically been a waste of time. I have to say that there isn’t much I would have done differently. We learn most when things go wrong – far more than when they go right,
What defines your way of doing business?
I would like to think that I am very fair and relaxed, with my mind always focused on creating a sustainable business. I put my energy into positive things. If something goes wrong I would rather move on to something that I can get right rather than dwell too much on the negatives.
I trust my staff and give them the space to do what they do best. I know that they will make mistakes, and I give them a lot of responsibility to sort things out without relying too much on me. I pay a lot of attention to how people work and reward those who do well.
I value relationships – I would rather a loyal supplier than one that can simply offer the lowest price. It is essential that all of my (and Enable’s) activities are generating value – if not I knock them on the head.
Efficiency is important to me – it makes me cringe when I see meeting rooms full of people waffling on about nothing! I’d like to think we are “lean and mean” and there’s very little slack in the way that we operate.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
You need a very clear message that can be communicated to anyone in 60 seconds. The market is flooded with companies that don’t have a clear proposition. The more focused you can be the better, for example offering a specific type of product or service, in a specific industry sector, to achieve specific benefits. However, it’s also risky to put all your eggs in one basket, so having a portfolio of perhaps three focused propositions is the way to go. Then, if one of them collapses, you’ve got the other two to prop you up whilst it recovers.
No matter what anyone says, selling is a truly precious talent. Frankly, I think you can “buy in” operational and financial skills – they are readily available. But being able to get in front of prospects and convert them into clients is a rare skill. Denys and I joke, although it’s actually quite serious, that in 10 years of Enable we’ve yet to really find someone that can open new doors apart from ourselves! This is not to say that the ability to deal with clients isn’t important – clients are so expensive to acquire in the first place that it’s madness not to work your hardest to retain them. Otherwise your business is like trying to fill up a bath while the plug isn’t in!