MultiValue pays out !
SYNOPSIS: the story of how one man with some MultiValue knowledge strikes GOLD.
THE SCENE: A riverside pub, a man with a beer and his companion with a scotch with coke in hand. The sun is shining, the conversation and laughter flowing.
ELKIE: I know who you are, Rob England, as I’ve enjoyed helping you as a client since 1989 ! But how would you sum yourself up to someone else ?
ROB: I’m a developer by trade but ended up running the company instead. That said, I’m not a developer that gets a kick out of the code, I get a kick out of providing a useful solution to a customer and making their life easier and better. There are lots of developers too interested in “fantastic code” but if it doesn’t help an end user and an application, then it’s not fantastic at all. I’m not interested in great code to massage my ego.
ELKIE: You were very modest earlier, truth be told, you are a Serial Entrepreneur, Writer and Business Consultant. But how did your career start ?
ROB: I did an OND in Computer Studies at college, decided I’d rather earn some money than go to university, and got a job at a local company with whom I’d done a day a week work experience as part of my college course. They were implementing a Pick solution, and then 6 months later I was offered a job by their supplier, who also happened to be one of only two companies bringing Revelation into the UK.
ELKIE: So how and why and when did you start in business and at what age ?
ROB: I moved around a bit and tried to find my way I guess, but never really liked being an employee and being told what to do! I started a company called RDS when I was 23 as a universe distributor, but we were too early for the market and ran out of money, so I lost pretty much everything I had before I was 25.
ELKIE: I believe you’ve started 3 businesses. Tell me a little about them.
ROB: First there was RDS, and then, together with 3 other guys, I helped to form Advanced Medical Computer Systems in the early part of 1990. RDS had been helping write the application on a contract basis, so I moved to Nottingham and took over all the development of it, in ARev, and we installed our first system in August 1990. Five years later we had 600 GP surgeries using it around the country and had gone from 4 of us to over 30, when we had an offer for the business and sold it.
I thought the people that bought it made a good job of destroying it so I decided to do it all again, spent 18 months in my back bedroom writing a new application, this time in Open Insight, and launched Healthy Software at the end of 1998 to go after those old customers. It was much, much harder than I ever imagined and we had to get in new investment, diversify into other markets when the Government changed all the rules, and somehow we managed to survive and get through it all. We went from being 100% reliant on the NHS in 2006 to being a third NHS, a third private practice mainly around Harley Street and a third hospice systems by 2009, when I had a very simple phone call – “Hi Rob, I want to buy your business”.
ELKIE: Why did you choose MultiValue as a Development Environment ?
ROB: Software never stands still, it always evolves and I have always believed that you should ship all upgrades to all customers so you know what you’re supporting. That means you need an environment that’s flexible, easy to modify, where you can add new data items without having to run massive conversions or re-indexing routines and that gives you the freedom to progress without having to really worry about the implementation of the changes. A MultiValue environment gives you all that; I can’t imagine wanting to add a couple of extra fields and having to worry about fixed length records, conversion programmes and all that nonsense.
ELKIE: I believe you have recently had a book published – “A Pocket Guide to Small Business Success”. I enjoyed the book as you wrote it and I could so hear your down to earth, blunt and humourous personality coming through mixed with some great “take-aways”. Tell me, what motivated you to write the book ?
ROB: I’ve been doing some work with the University of Derby as an Entrepreneur to Business, acting as a Mentor and helping some of the young and growing business in the area and I found myself saying the same things over and over again. Most of them were making the same mistakes or needed a guiding hand to make them see things a little differently. Given I’m semi-retired now and had the time, I thought it would be quite satisfying to write it all down in a book.
ELKIE: Tell me about your book ?
ROB: As the title suggests, it’s a pocket guide to small business success. I didn’t want it to be too long, or another rah-rah American style business book. There are too many theoretical books or silicon valley “you can be a billionaire by Friday” business books and it’s not really like that in Derby! So it’s only 110 pages, you can read it in a morning, but it’s full of my own experiences, my own views and real-life examples that have actually happened to help and illustrate some of the points. It takes people through the entire journey of running a business, from having the idea and creating a plan, through to raising money, getting the right people, sales and marketing, running it, the ongoing strategy and selling it later on down the road. I write as I speak, so it’s very conversational and comes over as if we’re just having a chat; it’s not complicated, the simplest things are usually the best.
ELKIE: Who is your book targeted towards?
ROB: It’s really aimed at people who are thinking of starting a new business, people in the early stages of their business, or people who’ve been in business for a while but have gone a bit stale and need re-invigorating.
ELKIE: In your book, you mention Recruitment and you say: “I’ve always thought that recruiting is one of the hardest parts of running a business”. Hmmm and all these years, I thought I made that easy for you !
ROB: You did make the hardest job much more enjoyable and entertaining and yes you did find me some great people on the IT side but a business has to recruit across all sectors!! I do think it is one of the hardest things to get right; I’ve taken on people who’ve interviewed brilliantly and on paper been perfect, but they’ve ended up being rubbish, and I’ve taken on people I’ve not been sure of and taken a flyer on, and they’ve turned out to be great. The key thing is getting the right people in the right places.
ELKIE: Who or what were your influencers?
ROB: I’ve learned a lot over the last fifteen from a guy called John Holmes who I didn’t know from Adam, but he invested in my business when we were desperate and believed in me. He was a great mentor and has become one of my closest friends to such an extent he was my Best Man. He made his money in recruitment and I love the way he thinks. A beer or two with John can always lead to either interesting or highly amusing conversations.
ELKIE: What were you hoping to achieve from writing the book?
ROB: Initially it was simply self-satisfaction in terms of writing it and publishing it and if it could help some of the businesses involved in the university project, then great. It’s become a bit more than that and I’ve been quite flattered by some of the interest and the reviews of it on Amazon. People now talk about it as a sophisticated business card and I absolutely get that, but it wasn’t the initial motivation.
ELKIE: Do you think the book will help and inspire other people within the MV market?
ROB: I hope it will help and inspire anyone with a new or small business, not just in the MV market. That said, when you’re in a small niche like MultiValue, you have to try and think outside the box a bit more so if it can help give anyone an edge or an idea that helps them improve or open up a new revenue stream, then it really has served its purpose.
ELKIE: In your opinion, what future is there for people working in the MV market?
ROB: I think the next five years are all about data and security, and by that I don’t mean data security. If you think about the amounts of data being gathered nowadays and how people like Google and Facebook use them, then unlocking the vast amounts of data in these MultiValue databases that have been around for almost 50 years is vital. Suppliers can sell reporting solutions and information to their customers that the customer probably didn’t even know they had or needed, but can help them shape their businesses for the future. In my experience, lots of people have big databases but never really tap in to what’s inside them and actually use the data properly.
Also, we hear more and more about companies getting hacked, even the security companies get hacked. Almost all small businesses ignore it and don’t think it applies to them, but the internet of things will open things up even more and make people even more vulnerable. People aren’t really targeted, they’re phished without them knowing and I think there is a big growing market for securing business systems and securing data. It may not be directly relevant to MultiValue per se, but it’s something all customers will need to do something about and so presents a strong opportunity.
ELKIE: What do you feel has been your biggest success to date?
ROB: I think that dragging Healthy Software back from the brink of extinction and eventually selling it to an AIM listed plc has to be my biggest success. When the Government introduced the National Programme for IT for the NHS, everything changed pretty much overnight and we were a little fish in serious danger of being completely trampled on by the big boys and by the NHS itself. I think I matured a lot and became much more rounded during that 5 year period.
ELKIE: Sum up your book in 2 sentences …..
ROB: A no-bullshit, real world guide to the things you have to be aware of in starting or running a small business. It’s something that will make you and save you far more than the fiver it costs to buy, so you’ll get your money back many times over.
ELKIE: Are you retiring now?? J
ROB: No way! I am at a bit of a crossroads, and thoroughly enjoy the mentoring and non-exec roles that I now have. I’m turning the book into an on-line course to generate some passive income and then maybe I can retire! A pocket guide on selling your business is in the pipeline, and I’d still quite like to keep my hand in the OI side of things. Any short term contracts going!?
ELKIE: Rob, you've always made me smile. Yes, it’s at times like this that I know I LOVE my job. Spending time with Entrepreneurs, great Businessmen and helping them in a small recruitment way to reach their goals.
If you'd like to buy the book, it is available on Amazon with a paperback or Kindle edition. Click on the image below.
You can contact Rob England by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, visit his website www.robengland.co.uk