We chat to Andrew Peddie, CEO of, cloud computing company, FHL Cloud Solutions. He tells us about being an advocate of apprenticeships and how running a business is constantly a learning experience.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
I’m Andrew Peddie and I run FHL Cloud Solutions. FHL is a team of people that specialises in helping businesses use cloud computing technology for organisational and competitive advantage.
What time does your day usually start and end?
00:00 – I’ve never really thought about our work as having a definitive start or end. What we do is so engaging, you wake up and go to sleep thinking about it and making plans.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
It’s immensely rewarding to experience the growing confidence and expertise of our team. When a client attributes strong elements of success in their business to the efforts and expertise of our team, it feels tremendous. Likewise, when we achieve industry accolades – for instance FHL has recently been named NetSuite’s EMEA partner of the year for the sixth time – it makes me so proud of the team.
My least favourite part of the job is getting over the jet lag from West Coast USA trips.
What inspired you to start your business? (And what made you want to be your own boss?).
I left school at 16 to work in an industrial laboratory for a local company which sponsored my studies for five years on day release before I attended university at 21. I then chose a career as a chartered engineer and I think it’s the engineer in me that drives me to view things practically – it either works or it doesn’t! Ten years ago, a lot of the business software that I was seeing just didn’t work in the way that I thought it should. I remember thinking “there’s got to be a better way of doing this………..” so I set up FHL.
As my own boss, I’m enjoying giving young people the opportunities that I was given all those years ago. FHL is people-focused and as part of this we run successful apprenticeship and graduate recruitment schemes. We’re also open to recruiting outside the industry if the person shows aptitude. In fact, FHL’s general manager spent 21 years in the Royal Navy as a submariner.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
While working for a global US technology firm, I used to travel a great deal. Getting up to date information across time zones was always a challenge. We got involved in sharing information via the internet at a time when I needed a screwdriver and wires just to get 28k dial-up in a hotel. It was clumsy but I thought back then that the internet would change the way companies did business.
How did you fund your business?
I used my savings and credit card and even borrowed from a friend (everything is now paid back!).
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
Getting those first customers was massively difficult. In 2007, there was very little buy-in to internet business systems in the UK.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
It’s hard to get proper guidance, mentoring or advice. There’s little or no funding available for start-ups, the banks are not much help and no one really prepares you for the sheer amount of responsibilities that you inherit as a business owner.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them/learn from them?
Lots of mistakes. I think it’s normal to make mistakes when you’re pushing yourself and are outside your comfort zone. We use the “nameless, rankless debrief” methodology taught in the Afterburner’s Flawless Execution model. There’s no blame, only facts to be learned from. It can be brutal.
What previous experiences have helped you in starting your business?
Nothing prepared me for this! I sometimes think that not knowing what I was letting myself in for was a blessing in disguise. I would say though, that 30 years in industry, travelling the world and meeting all kinds of different people helps enormously in understanding how to relate on a personal level in varying circumstances. Business is, after all, about people.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Have a clear plan, don’t spend a penny that you don’t absolutely have to and be very selective about whose advice you listen to.
Would you do anything differently if you could start again from scratch?
Yes, I would do everything differently. Ten years of not only building FHL but helping more than 100 other businesses to build and grow their organisations has provided tremendous incite on how to plan, fund, initiate, grow and structure a business and in particular how to make sound technology choices to support that.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
Not good enough! When I started the business, I accepted that it would be all consuming. After 10 years, it should be possible to adjust but what we do is so engaging, it may take some time.