Celebrating 10 years in business
On the 3rd February 2003, borwell Ltd was incorporated as a new UK Limited company. It all started with a short-term contract with the DSTL team in Malvern. The DERA government organisation had split into QinetiQ, a new private sector business, and DSTL, a new MoD agency. I knew from the outset that to succeed in the long-term, I would need to recruit, train, develop and sustain a small team of software engineers. Short-term contracts often renew, but then again, they often do not. Therefore, I planned ahead at how I could grow the work into a team project, not just dependent on me. The customer was great, and acknowledged that I needed to also network and work with other businesses in Worcestershire, and we are thriving years on from that point.
In 2007 I employed Aled, a software engineer and a web designer too. Six months later we had enough work to justify moving into a small office. After Andrea and I looked at several pokey offices in Worcester, we decided on the Malvern Hills Science Park. Room to grow, easy to move unit, plenty of parking, and neighbouring businesses similar to ours.
During January 2008, we employed another software engineer, and Andrea started working two mornings per week, helping with Admin, Marketing, and Finance functions.
The summer came, and in June we interviewed Tim, and he turned down a Masters degree to work for me. What had I done! This was a pretty serious moment for me, as I realised I had some responsibility towards Tim’s future path in life. A new server arrived the following week and the week after Andrea and I departed for four weeks in Australia. A friend suggested that we would either come back to an empty car park or a thriving busy office. Only time would tell. I’m pleased to say that we came back and sent invoices out, and the team had coped really well without us being there.
This gave me even more confidence, and soon we were taking on more defence work and more private sector projects too.
Spring 2009 was quite warm, and the new server was pumping out a lot of heat and noise. I gave the team a decision to make. Option one was to move to a larger office in the Science Park, and no payrise. Option two was to stay put, with a pay increase, and a noisy server. No brainer. The team elected for a larger office. The Science Park were really helpful, and we moved office over a three day period. None of our customers or suppliers could tell, as the phones and internet were seamlessly transferred from one building to another. My 3G card came in handy, bridging the Internet access downtime, and the office number was redirected to my mobile during the reprogramming of the internal exchange.
So now we were in 900 square feet of space, previously having had 350. Quite some increase, and already we were buying new furniture and working out how to make the best use of the space available. The best room was the server room, and the noisy server (as well as quite a lot of new kit) was soon in there, where the door could be shut and the noise sectioned off.
Another project we were working on was starting to grow, the years went on, so in late 2009 we recruited Tom and in spring 2010 we recruited Chris. Tom, Chris and Tim had all been to Birmingham University together, and formed a brilliant team.
Product wise, we had developed a floor plan application called miniPLAN. This was launched and over half of the sales were export. Not bad considering it was written in english only, with an english only website, for UK building surveyors. Soon we had a reseller in Germany and Slovakia, with websites in German, Slovakian and an Australian presence too.
The business was growing steadily, not too much growth, just enough to allow us to re-plan, expand and consolidate again after. It was a great feeling, and I was really starting to grow into my new MD role. In 2010 as the years rolled on, I made the point of no longer coding on projects. This was really tough, but the new staff were really capable and working brilliantly with Adam and Aled, who had now been with the business for over three years.
At the end of 2010 we interviewed for an IT Apprentice. We received over 40 applicants (the most we’d ever received), and narrowed down to 10, interviewed 4, and couldn’t decide between two really strong contenders. So I recruited them both! Andrea thought I was nuts. Well, this proved it. I’m pleased to say that today they are both still with us, have learned some great skills and are an asset to the business. Patrick helps with the Defence team, and is our expert tech-shopper. He kits us out with all the latest technology, and loves searching for the best deals. Bradley is now a web expert, and looks after our website(s), all of our customer sites, our social media and setting up this blog is his work too! I just log in and enter the copy. He’s done the hard part really.
2011 brought us Vicky, our magic Office Manager. She really settled in quickly, which allowed Andrea and I to focus on more Strategic Marketing, attend more Networking events, and allowed me to move into a Project Management only role. Also recruited was Sam, a really keen intern from the University of Worcester, and Simon Green, a capable graduate also from the University of Worcester. Local talent for a local business, and as a result opened the door to a mutually-benefical relationship with the University.
During the early autumn we had the opportunity to meet James Brokenshire (Home Office Minister for Security), often dubbed the ‘cyber minister’. As a result of the ministerial visit, early on in 2012 we jointly invested with 3SDL and setup the UKCyberLab, Malvern’s ‘dirty lab’ project. This allowed us to test and configure other business’ IT equipment correctly and securely. Francis Maude (Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General) officially opened the lab, with Baroness Neville-Jones (Minister of State for Security and Counter Terrorism). All very exciting, and very strange driving to work listening to yourself pre-recorded on BBC Radio 4! Great publicity, and Malvern and Worcestershire’s profile was raised rapidly as being the ‘go-to county’ for Computer Security expertise – now dubbed ‘cyber valley’.
More recently in 2012 we recruited Tony into the Defence team, Stuart as our Cyber Warrior. He also doubles as the company lawyer. He loves correcting our grammar and use of English language. In fact I bet he edits this blog to correct and improve it! Tony joined on a Monday and was working on a customer project the next day. He is experienced, and wanted to get stuck in on Monday. I did explain we had to do his induction first!
We received Ed’s CV on a Tuesday, met with a customer on Wednesday, who had more task for us, interviewed him on Thursday and he started work the next Monday (isn’t that a song by Craig David?). Talk about the art of timing. Mind you, he did go to Cambridge Uni, so now we are even more proud as we have our first oxbridge graduate. He’s really nice and settled in really quickly.
And so to 2013. Already we have recruited Tom, who enjoys sailing and software. There must be a connection, but I can’t see it! He’s looking forward to getting started on a real project, but first he has some internal software ‘challenges’ to solve. We like setting these. All part of settling new people in and developing their skills ready to work on a live project.
The future? Matt May (MD 3SDL) and I were contemplating this today. I don’t think we’d even dare to guess what life, technology and society would be like in 10 years. Incrementalism doesn’t work. Too many disruptive technologies and societal changes. What next? Well I think a cup of tea. A hot drink is always welcomed by the team. Mind you, a round is a bit of a project, but worth the effort.
All the best to our customers, suppliers, non-execs, supporters, people with whom we network and socialise. Thanks for all of your support and encouragement. Good luck in 2013 and future years to you too, and get planning your 10th party too!”