Wednesday, 21 April 2021
JIM SNEDDON is the founder of AssuredData, a Henley company that advises on cyber security and data protection, and AssuredEntry, a locksmith and home security service. He founded the Henley Boating Company three years ago. Born in Hackney, he moved to Henley with his family when he was seven and has lived in the area ever since. He and his wife Christie, who runs a dog walking service, live in Wargrave with their two dogs. Jim loves spending time on the Thames.
Describe your business
It’s primarily information security and data protection, advising organisations in a straightforward manner. More of my focus now is on the Henley Boating Company, especially looking ahead to summer. Together with the Hart Street Tavern, we won the tender to use Red Lion Lawn. We’ll be doing food and refreshments there and I’ll be running boat trips, too. I also have a licence to use another piece of land from where I’ll run charter trips and self-hire boats. I have five boats, one of which is a restored 1968 former police boat which I bought three years ago as I’ve always wanted one.
What did you do before you started this business?
I left Gillotts School at 16 and worked as a porter and then a chef at the Red Lion Hotel. Then I worked on the regatta course for several seasons. It was a brilliant job for an 18-year-old getting a sun tan and fit. After several labouring jobs, I decided to retrain in IT. I got my Microsoft qualifications and spent the next 20 years working in IT security and data protection. Then a colleague and I decided to go into business ourselves as resellers of security technologies. About five years ago, we decided we wanted to go in different directions so I set up AssuredData. It was at the time when the data protection law was coming into force and I saw the opportunity. With the uncertainty of Brexit, I diversified and set up AssuredEntry, a locksmith business that embraces access control, physical security and CCTV etc.
What was your objective?
I saw the opportunity to work for myself and be the master of my own destiny. The boating business was born out of my love of the river. Henley is only what it is because of the river. We have such a fantastic stretch with so much history.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
I’ve learned from a lot of people I’ve worked with. John Fenn taught me a great deal about the river.
What would you do differently if you could start again?
Nothing really, I’ve learned as I’ve gone along.
What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on your business?
It has been devastating, especially on the data protection side but the locksmith side has been okay. I’m not complaining because there are other people in a far worse situation. I’m using it as an opportunity to learn new things by doing some online courses and looking forward to the summer.
How do you market your business?
I’ve built up a pretty good reputation, so word of mouth brings in most of my consulting business. The locksmith side is largely dependent on social media. I have a decent website for the boating business.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
The lifestyle. I am able to manage my own time and do the things I want, including work in the community.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Staying organised and keeping on top of paperwork.
How important are online sales?
Very. I’ve been setting up an online booking system for boat hire. It makes things much easier for customers.
Do you set any goals for your business?
Yes. To keep afloat (excuse the pun).
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Not to be concerned about things I cannot influence.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Do research to be sure it’s viable and sustainable. If it is, go for it, give it your all and don’t listen to negativity.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Starting in business with somebody I didn’t really know.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Self-belief, honesty and a sense of humour.
What’s the secret of your success?
Doing something I enjoy that interests and teaches me.
How organised are you?
Could do better.
How do you dress for work?
Appropriately for whatever I’m doing.
What can’t you do/be without every day?
The river. I’m near it almost every day.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
On the move wherever I’m working.
Do you continue to study?
Yes, I study diagrams of locks or floating pontoons or watch videos on how to build things.
What do you read?
I enjoy books by Malcolm Gladwell and am currently reading David and Goliath.
How are you planning for retirement?
I don’t plan on retiring from the river as long as I’m physically capable.
08 February 2021
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