James was recently interview in the Business Owners Magazine and you can read the full interview below...
What was your first job or role after education?
2005 - Mechanical Engineer at Precision Drilling in Tewkesbury UK. Junior engineer in a fast growing, high tech, dynamic team of engineers and designers.
Could you describe your career path for the reader?
Worked from Junior Engineer to Seasoned Engineer over 6 years up to Engineering Manager in 2012, responsible for a team of 18 engineers, CAD designers, electronics engineers, and technicians. Staged progression of increasing responsibility and complexity of role responsibilities. Became a Chartered Mechanical Engineer in 2013.
When did you realise you wanted to be your own boss?
From when I was at senior school! My dad started and ran his own very successful business so it was almost bred into me and I grew up seeing the good and bad side of being your own boss. Its not all plain sailing, but the benefits are worth the pain and aggravation if you are willing to put the hard work in.
What is your current role and what is your favourite part about it?
Director. My favourite part is literally being my own boss (with my two fellow partners and directors) and in control of my own destiny. It is a major rush every single day. If we do not make it work, nothing happens. If we do, we thrive. I am an ambitious person and don’t mind taking educated risks, so daily life as a business owner needs both of those attributes.
Are you optimistic, realistic or pessimistic about 2021?
Yes very optimistic. The signs from existing clients are exciting and we have between 3-5 more new clients in the pipeline. The way we have managed and done so well during Covid stands us in great stead for 2021. It demonstrates our commitment and our value to clients.
What is the most important task you carry out each day?
Team meeting. Half an hour every morning just to tie up loose ends and get a plan for the day. We have weekly and monthly objectives which govern everything, but with your own business, things pop up every day, every hour sometimes.
Not always directly linked to contracts for clients, but the business itself. I always say, the business itself is like another person. You have to speak to it every day!
What advice would you give to your 21 year old self about your career journey?
It’s a huge cliché but work hard and be ambitious. As a rule of thumb if you work hard and strive to be a success, you will be a success.
I have seen the most intelligent and sharp people stay stagnant and not really progress, and that’s fine for some people, but for me, it was always about being at the top of the curve as my own boss. Its not for everyone, but it was for me. If you have any inclination that being your own own boss might be for you, it probably is.
Have there been any positives about 2020 and lockdown for you?
Yes. It has given us time to work on our own technology. Rockatek is an engineering consultancy at heart, and we provide our services to clients, but the long-term business model has always been to design and sell our own products and technology.
A small slowdown in workload in 2020 allowed us the time to commit people to those projects and we have made some exciting progress with IP on the way. Exciting times.
What causes you the most stress at work?
Workload. We are at capacity. We have been at capacity for 90% of our time as a business. We constantly strive for more and sometimes I think we should take stock and be satisfied with what we have. Unfortunately, that’s not our mentality. We have a vision for the growth of Rockatek and I would say we are 25% of the way there.
If you could instantly change one area or thing about your business, what would it be?
Commit more time and resource to our own Rockatek product development. That is where the real long-term success of
Rockatek lies. It’s just very hard on a daily basis when you have such important and valuable commitments to clients to find that time, so it is very difficult and hard to manage.
Our growth plans for 2021 and 22 may afford us the time to improve that satiation.
If you had your time again would you still chose to be a business owner?
100%. No question. I would find it very hard and almost impossible to go back to being an employee now. The bureaucracy and slow pace would be a real problem for me. We are so efficient and dynamic and provide such value right at the coal face for our clients, it is extremely rewarding.
Being lost in such a large and slow-moving machine like a large corporation or multinational would go against everything I find so exciting and rewarding about being a director of Rockatek.
What do you do to unwind?
Go to the gym, before work. 5.15 to 07:00am 5 days a week. General strength and conditioning, boxing and spin. Sets me up for the day. Spend precious time with my family, amazing wife and two girls who keep me on my toes.
Socializing with close friends (not so much in 2020!) Love watching football, boxing and rugby.
If you could give a single piece of advice to a start up entrepreneur what would that be?
Invest the time in a serious business plan and model for years 1, 3 and 5. It creates so many questions you must answer early on. After that, be patient. It all take time to take off.
Get good people around you as you simply cannot do it on your own, and sometimes that means outsourcing aspects of the business where necessary. A key point here is having more than 1 person responsible. Ideally 2 or 3 equal directors is a great idea as it splits the workload, responsibility, and stress. My dad did everything and ran a successful business of 20 people all by himself. He was on site, in the office, with clients, generating new work, managing all the employees….he did everything and he was very very good at it, but long term it is not sustainable.