As part of our ongoing series of interviews Business News Wales had the chance to speak to David James, Managing Director of Hudman Solutions.
In today’s modern business environment, it’s important to be flexible. Hudman Central ERP® is an award winning Enterprise Resource Planning system, capable of evolving over time and adapting to changes faster, more effectively and without the need for reinvestment into off-the-shelf software systems.
- Tell us about your business?
Hudman is a software developer, specialising in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Our software is used in a wide range of industries, but primarily in manufacturing, engineering and construction. The company started in 2005 when our Commercial Director, Paul Driscoll, identified a gap in the market for cost-effective accounts & business management software for SMEs.
The company spent 7 years developing the system, alongside dozens of UK businesses before I joined in 2014, initially as an angel investor and then as Managing Director.
- What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
As you’d expect, following such a long period of development, we’re currently focused purely on sales and marketing. We’ve spent the last two years building up a good portfolio of clients and we’ve also just secured six-figure venture capital funding from Finance Wales. We added to our development team earlier in the year and we’re currently growing our sales team.
At the moment we’re ahead of the curve as we offer a truly unique system that gives SMEs the same level of functionality that you’d normally need to pay tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds upfront for.
Trying to balance the pace of growth is a challenge and we’re mindful of growing too quickly, as we want to ensure we can still continue to offer the same level of support and consultancy that has served us so well to date.
- What do you wish you had known when you started out in business?
I’ve always had a curious mind. Even as a child, I’d be taking things apart to see how they worked (and usually not putting them back together again). I tend to have idea, after idea, after idea. The most important thing I’ve had to learn is to focus on one thing at a time; it sounds simple, but I find it such a difficult task at times. Mind mapping is a huge help to me and my desk is full of bits of paper with scribbles, diagrams, flow charts and notes to myself. I guess that using so much paper is pretty ironic as the MD of a software company!
- Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
Yes, plenty. I had an unconventional introduction to running my own business after leaving a senior marketing job in Gibraltar to start a company that exported iron ore to China! Within 12 months of starting, the company had turned over £10m and had shipped 300,000 tonnes of iron ore around the world.
Running a business of that scale was completely alien to me and I wish I’d taken the time to find the right advice, or a business mentor, who could have helped me to sleep a little easier – particularly in the later stages. Matters were even more complicated as the business had a finite timescale and exiting the business became a very complex task.
- What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
The cliché of course is “hard work”, but in my opinion, business is all about one thing – risk. There is risk in every part of business, not just the obvious financial risks, but other hidden risks such as the risk of innovating or the impact on your career and your family and friends. The secret is feeling comfortable with risk and learning to embrace and capitalise on the opportunities it can bring. Hard work can help you to reduce the fear of risk – when you’ve analysed a situation from a hundred different angles, and it still looks promising, is it even a risk anymore?
- What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?
Don’t worry whether somebody else has the same idea as you, worry that they’re doing it better than you. Ask yourself why somebody would choose you over anybody else and if you’re not excited by the answer then you won’t succeed.
But assuming you do get excited by the answer, running a business can be the most rewarding experience of your life, both financially and mentally. Even though you’ll sometimes feel like you want to drop everything and walk away, you need to focus on the long term goals. Ask yourself “why am I doing this” and as long as you continue to have an answer, dust yourself off and carry on.
- What are your top three tips for success?
Hire people who are better than you. Embrace criticism and learn from it. Enjoy what you do – it’ll keep you going when you’re working 70 hours a week.
- What’s your thoughts on the recent EU referendum results?
There has been a lot of mud thrown from both sides of the debate, but one fact still remains – Britain has been an innovator and global success story for hundreds of years. We have great infrastructure, a diverse and skilled workforce and our economy has survived much worse.
- What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
We have a lot to offer and I think we’re too quick to focus on our weaknesses. We can offer people a superb work-life balance and from South Wales you can be in Central London in just over 90 minutes. Property prices are lower, the scenery is fantastic, our infrastructure is improving and wages are currently more attractive to employers than most of the UK.
Skills are still an issue however, and I feel that we’re not doing enough to try and keep our graduates in Wales. I think there needs to be more communication between businesses and academia and financial incentives should be put in place to entice graduates into “in-demand” sectors. The number of student places for certain subjects should be proportional to the number of jobs that are actually available in the market.
- What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
Personally, I think that too much focus has been placed on inward investment resulting in a number of high profile funding disasters over the past 30 years. Some of the enterprise funding projects, I feel, have been spent in completely the wrong areas.
Scotland for example, is far better at nurturing and supporting entrepreneurship and we need to try and work out how to “promote from within”. It’s often said that we Welsh are too quick to put ourselves down and we often lack ambition, but I see a different picture, I see a nation of people who can, and have, achieved great things…..but they’re often moving to other parts of the UK to achieve them.