Monday, 20 January 2020
ANDY STEER is co-founder and director of Vividly Simple, an IT services provider for small business. Born and bred in Surrey, he left school at 18 and after a number of jobs found his feet in sales and marketing. He and his partner Michelle, an accountant at an Oxford engineering firm, moved to this area in 2014 and now live in Shiplake with Michelle’s three daughters, two working locally and the youngest at Gillotts School. Andy, who has grown-up sons in Surrey, has a passion for food and cooking and he and Michelle enjoy visting Italy. From time to time, Andy helps out with the Henley Youth Festival and at Riverside Counselling.
Describe your business
We help small businesses to choose the right IT. Finding the right pieces for your IT jigsaw is difficult and when the pieces you have aren’t fitting together, everyone gets frustrated and someone will always spend too much time just trying to make things work.
How many people does it employ?
Two of us run the day-to-day business and we work closely with our team of six support technicians and a security analyst.
What did you do before you started this business?
I drove a courier van for a year before working for British Airways at Heathrow Airport for three years. Then I decided I should probably get a “real” job, so I underwent some psychometric testing which pointed strongly to a sales career. My first sales job was selling cleaning and maintenance products to the hotel and catering industry. My sales manager and I then decided to go into business together selling similar products. We were quite successful but after a few years I realised there was more money to be made in higher value products and I switched to selling Apple computers to businesses. Not long afterwards mobile phones became the next big thing and I joined Mercury 1-2-1, the mobile phone company that eventually became T-Mobile and then part of EE. I had obviously chosen to be in the right place at the right time as my career took off and I stayed for nine years, eventually running the company’s European Business Propositions division. I then spent another nine years as an independent consultant leading major technology bids in IT, telecoms and outsourcing.
When did you start your business?
In August 2016.
What was your objective?
For years I was frustrated by the unnecessary complexity surrounding anything IT or telecoms-related. I wanted to be able to cut through all the nonsense and provide services in the way I felt was right to small businesses who I knew would appreciate the difference.
Who or what influenced you?
My father built a successful quantity surveying and project management practice and has always been a big influence in my life.
What would you do differently if you could start again?
We spent too long (nine months) in planning and designing when we should have started bringing services to the market faster.
How is your business doing?
We’ve doubled our turnover this year over last year. We’re still fairly small but growing quickly and, most importantly for me, we have a very low rate of customer churn. We expect to be able to grow at 100 per cent a year for several years to come.
How do you market your business?
We mainly use social media to encourage people to visit our website. We are getting more and referrals and I do a fair amount of networking. I am a member of the Henley Business Partnership.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Being able to achieve the right balance between working life and family life.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Finding new clients and getting our proposition out. Ours is an intangible service which takes a little time to explain.
What's the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
To find and work with people I can trust and rely on and not try to do everything myself.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Think really carefully, talk to lots of people to understand what you are getting into and make sure you have your family’s support.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Nothing big but lots of small ones that I’ve learned from.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Being really committed, putting people at the forefront of everything you do and keeping a close eye on the numbers.
What’s the secret of your success?
Listening, trusting my instinct, driving forward with ideas and putting people first.
How organised are you?
Fairly. I’m never late and I don’t forget things.
How do you dress for work each day?
I left the suit and tie behind when I quit corporate life and now dress smart and casual, tailoring what I wear to whoever the customer is.
What can’t you be without every day?
Lots of cups of tea.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
I try to take a break and enjoy a little walk.
What do you read?
Lots of emails! BBC Good Food and Italia magazines on food and wine and the occasional business book. I find more time to listen to podcasts.
How are you planning for retirement?
Vividly Simple is my retirement vehicle and I want to gradually free myself up to be able to spend more time in Italy.
30 December 2019
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