What do you currently do?
I am the founder and CEO of Wazoku, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) start-up that helps businesses uncover great ideas, gather feedback and make them become reality. We’ve brought the traditional company suggestion box into the 21st century, taking it online and socialising the capture, sharing and evaluating of ideas, ensuring they all are given a voice and the best chance of adding value to the business.
Innovation in business has never been as valued as it is now and for SMEs particularly, ‘me too’ businesses rarely achieve the cut-through required to become truly successful. Uncertainty around the economy and much bigger businesses with more resources mean that SMEs have to really up their game to get noticed and stay ahead of the competition.
To do this, SMEs need to be innovative in how they operate and come up with the ideas to give them that competitive edge. But SMEs grow quickly, ideas proliferate, they tend to be written down all over the place, there is no central store and no collaborative solution that captures and collates them. Having seen idea management succeed in the US we felt there was a captive market for an SME-specific, idea software here in the UK and so it has proved.
What is your inspiration in business?
I am a firm believer in great people and the impact that they can have, given the right tools and culture on the companies that they work in. I believe that great managers are able to surround themselves with great people and trust them to work together in the best interests of the company.
As a former strategy consultant it was always great to see your work come to fruition and drive benefit for the companies you were working with, through software we are able to magnify this effect and help businesses around the world engage their employees to collectively drive innovation and business improvement. It is really exciting!
Who do you admire?
There are a number of leaders who I would look to for ideas and inspiration at one time or another, but I don’t tend to place my eggs all in one basket on this one. I like do-ers and people of action, there are a great number of really amazing entrepreneurs out there and the more you can just meet with them, share experiences and help each other, the better for everyone.
We are getting better in the UK at having a more supportive ecosystem for young and aspiring entrepreneurs and can be very proud of some of the global businesses we have built in recent years on these shores.
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Not in my approach to business but I would have started my own business earlier than I did. The experience I gained in roles at PwC and Huddle was invaluable and instilled in me a real entrepreneurial drive – at PwC I was a consultant with a remit to find innovative UK businesses.
But the freedom and sense of achievement you get from running your own business is incomparable to working for someone else and whilst it is incredibly hard work at times, I can honestly say that I love every second.
What defines your way of doing business?
From the off I made it my business to surround myself with the very best people I could find. If the right people weren’t available then I would make do until they were, rather than appoint someone who wouldn’t add to what I am trying to achieve at Wazoku.
I noticed very early on in my career at PwC that some of the most incredible startups can be derailed by a weak link in the staff and addressed that by making sure there are no weak links at Wazoku!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Be as big, as bold and as ambitious as you possibly can. The world wants dynamic, big picture ideas that are going to change the world, so a business that is a slightly different version of something else is unlikely to take off. Be prepared to work like you’ve never worked before and to