Each week we catch up with a different entrepreneur to discover what makes them tick, their top tips and more. This week we spend five minutes with Alastair Campbell, founder of companycheck.co.uk
Hi Alastair! What do you do and what is companycheck.co.uk?
I’m Alastair Campbell, dad to two girls, skydiver and founder of companycheck.co.uk. Company Check is driving down the price and accessibility of credit data. We want anyone to be able to check on companies and directors before and during completing any business they do with them. This should help reduce the risks of fraud or failure to pay.
What inspired you to start your business?
I had to be my own boss, otherwise I’d be sacked. Only recently has disruptive, creative ‘management’ become a real ‘thing’. In the 90s the only way to experiment, try new things and be able to work flexibly was to run your own business. The current start-up climate is awesome and I’d love to be 20 years younger!
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?
Easy! The best part is seeing really clever young developers build something new and the real satisfaction from what they do. We allow people to experiment – we started testing AWS Lambda when it was in beta and by the time it became a genuine product we were already using it in production. I couldn’t do the development role because of my short attention span, but I absolutely love the engineering aspect. My least favorite? Driving to anywhere. It feels like time wasted.
How did you originally fund your business?
We started the website as a standalone business with a £2,000 cash injection from myself. We only spent what we could earn. Now we turnover more than £1m per annum on very good margins.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
The biggest challenge we have had was unpicking all the technical debt we had from going on too long doing MVP (Minimum Viable Product) testing. We would add a new feature to test it, find it had amazing take up from visitors, and then leave it running. Do too many of these over three years and that’s a lot of re-architecting to do. Mind you it’s worth it – check out our new beta.companycheck.co.uk website to see how big the changes we are making are!
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
These never change! Overly complicated taxation structures, finding the best people, and banks which are geared up for technology 1990s style.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and what did you learn from them?
Plenty! I wrote about this on my blog, but the key one was not being tough enough to make really tricky decisions about staff. You should find the best and keep them. You should try to help the others but average people will cost you a fortune in time and money.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Do it! If it’s the first time ask for help from those of us who have done it. Most people are happy to help others succeed. I still ask now and have met some amazing people.
Finally, what do you do to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work?
Running, skiing and jumping out of planes. You can’t think about work if you’re heading earthwards at 180mph!
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