How and why did you start in business?
I have always been into technology, right from school, with networking and the Internet always at the heart of my interest. Going right back to the days when you required a modem, tying up the phone line to get online, and you waited until 6pm so the call costs went down. I suspect many people get to a point in their career as an employee where they think, ‘I’d like to try doing this for myself’, or ‘I could do this better’. Of course, they might quickly then learn there is a lot more to business than they thought and come out with greater respect for those they were dismissive of. I certainly did.
How did you get to where you are today?
Incremental and controlled growth has been our principle. Converged started with two people – myself focussing on the technology, and someone else to do the sales and business side of things. Then we took on our first employee to pursue an opportunity. That opportunity changed, which threatened our viability. We had to adapt to stay afloat. And so, it continues, year-on-year. I sometimes think the earliest years were the easiest; simpler, less at stake, but I still relish work every day.
Who helped you?
Great support from family, parents, colleagues, and we see many of our customers as friends, therefore we’re keen to see them succeed, and hopefully vice versa. I’m also a member of the Federation of Small Businesses for peace of mind afforded by legal and employment protections. It has been invaluable since day one.
What has been your biggest mistake?
I might need to wait to truly tell, but I fear it will have been to err too far into work rather than family and leisure. It is easy to persuade yourself that you need to build for the future, but I’m conscious of the risk of letting life pass me by, whilst focussing solely on work. Being reluctant to easily entrust others with things is partly due to a strong desire to ensure our work and reputation is maintained. It also comes from past occasions where I’ve been let down or misled.
What was your greatest achievement?
Converged was built first on my technical reputation, and then on the expanding reputations of those I felt had something to contribute as part of the team. We aim to be a ‘trusted advisor’ to our customers, guiding them towards the most appropriate technologies for their business, large or small, and never selling them something for the sake of it. We always use the ‘eat our own dog food’ or ‘drink our own champagne’ metaphor. We won’t sell something just because it is new and flashy. Instead, we’ll test it, ensure it can be relied upon, and is truly useful, before offering it to our customers.
If you were in power in Government, what would you change?
A lot of effort is required to respond to government and mandatory requests for information. I appreciate gathering valid information helps shape policy and thinking, but question if the information is relevant or easily enough gathered. Sometimes, when it comes to taxation or VAT etc. it seems hard to find a definitive answer to something. You read what you can, you find other people’s opinions online, but at the end of the day you need to go with your hunch as to what is the right way to handle a given situation. Asking for official guidance is often time consuming and doesn’t always leave you with the feeling that the answer you’ve been given is guaranteed to be right, and it is not always assured that the fact you’ve tried to find out will stand you in better stead if you get it wrong.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I’m still heavily involved in the day-to-day, technical delivery of our services, often out in the midst of it, not sat alone in a management office focussed on the longer-term goal. It would be good to have faith that the team have it fully covered, so I can enjoy watching them succeed and grow, and give me more time on wherever my interests fall at that moment.
What do you do to relax?
I’ve always enjoyed music, driving, podcasts, and concerts – something I’ve missed a lot during lockdowns. We’re also a sociable team at Converged, so nights out are usually good fun.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
I enjoy Rebus and Stuart MacBride’s detective writing. That goes along with watching old episodes of Columbo, whilst on the exercise bike, and Line of Duty was a must-watch. Binge watching a series that really grabs you is great, but so is looking forward to a special night of the week for the next episode. I find Twitter an irresistible draw, for laughs, but also to stay abreast of news, technology and new cyber threats.
What do you waste your money on?
Technology, gadgets, and junk food. Looking for bargains online, but asking ‘do I really need this, even though it is on sale’.
How would your friends describe you?
As someone whose first drink always disappears really quickly. Someone who enjoys socialising with them and who is happy to lend a hand.
What would your enemies say about you?
A tough one. I was told a competitor once described Converged as ‘too helpful’, but I couldn’t fathom that one out.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I drive an EV now and feel there is no going back. Top speeds have always been ludicrously high given speed limit and road safety, but good acceleration makes for an enjoyable drive, and when used properly, makes safe overtaking a breeze.
What's the best thing about working for yourself?
Not having the frustration of knowing there is something you’d like to do in business, but you aren’t allowed to. That is tempered by knowing you have the authority to truly mess it up, and if you ask someone’s opinion their answer might be steered by what they think you as the boss wants to hear.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Absolutely go for it, as presumably you’ve found something you are passionate about, and that means you’ll readily put in the hours and effort, enjoy it and hopefully get great satisfaction from doing so. Remember there is no harm in changing direction or stopping and adapting. Reading the biographies of business leaders and successful companies shows you things change, and you must go with that and not resist, until you are left behind.
The peace of mind afforded by the legal and employment protection has been invaluable since day one. The FSB magazine offers an interesting insight into what actions the FSB is pursuing for members and information about other members/offers and the like.