Where in Scotland are you located?
Tell us about yourself?
Started my career working as a programmer on offshore survey vessels in the early 80’s. It was an exciting and slightly chaotic period as a lot of the health and safety legislation and precautions just weren’t around then, so after many big waves and precarious offshore transfers I developed a good set of sea legs and a pretty calm outlook !
I went founded Pisys in 1988 and quickly teamed up with my co-Director Ray Allen who I had worked with offshore for years. We initially focussed on developing software for the oil industry but have diversified into being a leading provider of HSE solutions for industries of all types world-wide.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Recurring revenue is the only goal worth pursuing – selling your time can be seductive but it is ultimately a very precarious existence.
I have also learned that nobody minds you asking very basic questions – we deal with some very technical and extremely bright people so we have to ask a lot of those.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
I wish I had focussed more on developing the sales and marketing role in the early days.
We also overstretched ourselves by entering the educational product market without really realising how difficult it would be – that was a near-death experience that I could have well have done without
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
I think the term balance is wrong – practically nothing we ever do is balanced.
Work is a huge part of my personal life and I make sure that I am giving the important things in my life the attention they need at the appropriate time – if that means answering an email while I am on holiday that’s fine
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Our experience of technology development for the most hostile of environments on the planet means we are in a unique position to assist companies who require effective solutions to improve safety and effectiveness
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
We focus on doing the right thing – this means that we are willing to absorb a lot of cost and time to make sure that our customers get the system they need.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
Sales have been pretty good over the last couple of years.
The move to more remote working has helped us since we focus on cloud based systems for permit to work and action tracking etc – these can be accessed from anywhere.
Sales cycles can be long – it’s more about the relationship and building credibility so I would advise taking a long term view and being ultra responsive and flexible
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
Investing in the wrong thing – products are hard and expensive to develop so picking the wrong one can be a disaster.
We spent a lot of time and money in the 90’s on an onlline schools reporting system which picked up a decent customer base but it was just too difficult to make a profit.
We had to cut costs a fair bit to survive but it did leave us well placed to develop further cloud-based solutions
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Scotland?
I think particularly the Scottish Offshore sector has a world-class reputation so we have a story which resonates around the world.
We also seem to be fairly well liked as a nation around the world.
And wherever you are in the country you are not far away from some of the most beautiful landscape on the planet, so there’s a great reason for staff to stay here.
What if any are weaknesses of operating your business within Scotland?
I think as a nation there’s a tendency for us not to celebrate success as much as we gloat over failure !
What influence does being part of the UK have on your business?
I think the UK is well respected on the whole – but we’re operating world-wide so we don’t really get much feedback either way
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?
We’re constantly looking for problems which could be addressed by a new product so we want to keep doing that !
How has Brexit impacted your business (if at all)?
Nothing obvious – we don’t really import or export anything and everything can be done remotely so we don’t really need to travel