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Flashback to 2001: Catching up with Paul McGillivray

Mon, 24 December 2012

In 2001 Paul and Jeannie McGillivray won the Shropshire Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award with their business, Remote Recordings Ltd, and won the award for Most Innovative Business at the Midlands final.
We caught up with Paul to find out more about their journey...

What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
Terror and achievement! My company started in 1999, and we entered the LiveWIRE awards soon afterwards, so it was quite a big deal for us (my wife and I – both directors of the company) at the time. We were still finding our feet as a company, and I had never given a presentation of any kind before! I did the whole PowerPoint thing, and although the panel liked my ideas and enthusiasm, we understandably didn’t get through to the next stages.

However, as we were such a young company, Mike Shields, who was overseeing the Shropshire rounds of the awards, encouraged us to enter again the following year, as we would still be eligible. We did this, and with an additional year’s experience and confidence under our belt, including quite a few presentations to new clients, we won the Shropshire round, and were awarded ‘Most Innovate Business’ in the Midlands round. The confidence that this gave me and my wife as directors, and us as a company, was excellent – and being able to boast ‘Most Innovative Business in the Midlands’ during pitches for new work was a great boost in getting new work.

Mike Shields became a real champion and mentor for us for many years afterwards; something we really cherished as a growing company.

How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
The company has grown in so many ways over the 12 years – although not very much in size, by choice – my wife and I are joined by two full time members of staff, two part-time, and several freelancers that work with us on a project-by-project basis. We converted a barn into beautiful open plan offices 5 years ago, and although when we started we were building websites for small local businesses, our client list now includes international corporations such as Volkswagen Group and Sony, with clients all over the world.
As we’ve grown, we’ve also moved from small websites to large online software developments and online applications, from business workflow and internal management applications, to subscription-based software and licensed installations. We have also recently started building software for ourselves; building online tools for public use, increasing our customer base dramatically.
Remote Recordings Ltd
Paul and Jeannie McGillivray receiving their award for Most Innovative Business at the Midlands Region Final

How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
We’ve had to adapt in so many ways – from doing everything ourselves at the start, to delegating work to others. It was a big step for me to avoid trying to micro-manage every detail; learning to step back a little and trust my staff to get on with their job was a big deal, and when I managed it, life got a whole lot easier.

The rollercoaster ride of finances have also played a big part – we were forced at the start to up our game from small websites to larger applications, purely for financial reasons – that involved learning a huge amount in a short space of time, just to stay afloat. In retrospect, being forced to do that was the best thing that could have happened to us – we have our own niche in the market now, and aren’t competing with the masses of small website companies any more.

When the recession hit home, we had to move our target audience from startup businesses to publically funded projects; then when the Conservatives got elected, they cut droves of publicly funded projects – several projects that we had been pitching for were suddenly cancelled, and we had to react quickly to stay afloat – we switched our focus again; this time to larger companies, and over the last couple of years, we’ve moved from 80% websites and 20% online applications, to 80% online applications and 20% websites; this has helped us carve our niche still further, and has meant that we’re dealing with fewer, larger projects, which makes management much easier.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
I’m not sure I could point to one – business is about overcoming a multitude of obstacles on a daily basis. I’d say that the biggest were learning how to deal with demanding clients, and how to manage large projects efficiently. Learning how to identify and remove business bottlenecks was a massive help, as was managing customer’s expectations with efficient project management.

What are your top tips for a young entrepreneur about to set up in business?
1. Make sure that what you’re about to start comes from a deep passion; you’re about to spend a huge amount of time and energy on this business, and if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s going to be very, very difficult to commit to it fully, which will mean that it’ll feel like even harder work, and you won’t enjoy it.

2. Make sure you get the ‘right people on the bus’ when you start to take on employees. If everyone in the business isn’t pulling in the same direction, it’ll make your work twice as hard. In my experience, it’s better to have too much work on than staff who don’t share your vision.

3. Keep looking at your business from an efficiency level – what’s slowing you down or holding you back the most? Work on easing that bottleneck, and then look again – repeat, often!

4. Don’t underestimate the power of excellent design, from the very start. Invest in an excellent, strategic brand, and make sure that it’s consistently used at every point of contact with your customers and suppliers. How customers see you affects how they perceive your company. A badly-designed logo or cheap-looking website makes your customers assume that your company or product is badly put together too – great design makes a huge difference to public perception about a company. Like the CEO of Eastern Airlines famously said, when commenting on his insistence on clean trays on his airplanes: “If you can’t take care of the traytables, why should the customer think you can take care of the engines?”

5. Imagine where you’d ideally like your company to be in 5 years, and start behaving like you’re there already. I don’t mean that you should start spending money you don’t have… I mean what’s your target audience, product range, brand/website look and feel, and so on. Once you can see how that will be in 5 years, start doing it right away – you’ll find that you’ll actually be in that place much more quickly; it’s a really powerful tool, and we find it very, very effective for making decisions.

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