Today is our 13th Birthday at EC-MSP. For some reason this year has me thinking about how we got here and what lessons we have learnt along the way. Perhaps some of these lessons may help someone starting out on their journey.
A mini Bio from my time in the UK (Yes I am a returning immigrant!):
I arrived in London in 1996 with £300 in my pocket and no idea what I was going to do with my life.
The first few roles included the BBC as a spread sheet operator, I did not know what a spreadsheet was when applying for this role, lucking on the way to the interview I passed a training college that trained excel and word and I managed to get the nice lady there to give me some pointers, on the promise that I would be back for her £75 two day course if I got the job, which I did.
I then moved on to being a credit controller, my Mother was a leader in this field in South Africa so I got her to send a one pager on how it is done. This was a good way to make some money but not for me in the long run.
At around this time my younger brother Ian had been dabbling in the new field of IT. He advised that this was in fact rather easy and advised that I change careers. Always one to take on a challenge I accepted. He sent over his CV (Fax in those days) and I changed his name to mine and sent it out to a range of recruitment companies. I managed to get the first position I applied for and then spent the next two months irritating the hell out of Ian with questions on how to fix things. Many of our clients at that stage must have wondered why I spent more time in the toilet (calling Ian) than on their computers!
That I guess is an earlier chapter and I will think about putting that down at some stage. That was all good training to start my own company.
I will be looking back over the lifespan of our company and trying to distil the lessons I have learnt over the years. If this is well received and helpful to you let me know with your comments on LinkedIn and I will continue.
Lesson 1 – sometimes you just have to believe.
13 years ago I was earning in the region of £150k a year and I had a 10% option in a successful computer company in the City. It was obviously time to give it all up and start out on my own. I often wonder about the sense of this move. Looking back now it was a now or never moment.
I recall the day I handed in my resignation very clearly. I got into the small lift going up to the bosses office with a lump in my throat and determination in my mind. At any point it would have been easy to change my course and get on with the projects in hand.
In some respects I had planned the move over the previous three to four month and dreamed of this for the years before. Looking back now I would probably not have left if I had known how scary those first two years were to be. I had a couple of personal rules that I did not want to break. While position at my previous employ ended in a pretty bad way I resolved not to steal any clients, it is important to me to not overstep my own lines in the sand, makes for a much better night’s sleep I find. This was one of them, I would make it on my own initiative. As I was the main sales and engineer person for most of the clients this would have been a very easy option. I also wanted to build the company without any significant investment from the outside. Dealing with a number of venture capitalists over the years and with offers from some interesting backers I had a number of options. Hindsight says this was probably the correct move for me at the time, given to do over I would take the investment all day long if I could have it on my terms.
The feeling once I had done the deed and resigned was like no other. Master of my own destiny, captain of my own ship, the only one to blame if things went wrong…. Today I won’t have changed that day for anything, in many respects its closing doors that is required to open others. The removal of that big safety net is the only way to get out the door!
So that was my first and most important learning, it is one that every entrepreneur has to face at some point. It is much easier to start out on your own when you have nothing at all, leaving a successful career is leaps and bounds harder!
So what to do now? Firstly I needed an office. No money for an office so the box room in my north London residence would have to do. Spending as little as possible I built some desks out of ply board and got some desks in. We had a range of small computers and this became my network.
Now I better get back to the grindstone and make some money. Next time I will go over the starting point I had to understanding marketing. What a long and interesting road that has been!