Did you always want to be your own boss?
Both my parents ran their own businesses and I’d spend my weekends tinkering away on their computers. Right from an early age, I wanted to be an entrepreneur too. At 15, I started my own business hosting websites in the cloud. By 16, I was selling domain names at school. I went on to study computer science and management at Aberdeen University but continued running my business on the side; I spent more time in my office than in the lecture halls. I did toy with the idea of dropping out of uni but my mum wouldn’t have been happy! I didn’t apply to any grad schemes; the minute I finished uni, I dedicated all my time to growing the business and launched Catalyst2 in 2000. Starting out with a single server, we now have our own bank of 300 servers and host tens of thousands of websites, with clients ranging from Virgin and Daylesford Organic to The Royal British Legion.
What’s the toughest part about running your own business?
I wish I’d had a better understanding of finances and accounts earlier on. I knew nothing about corporation tax, asset depreciation... when you set out, you’re just happy if you can pay the bills at the end of the month. The quicker you can get to grips with your finances, the faster you’ll grow. I’ve also learnt to delegate. In the early days, my co-founder Jacob [Colton] and I did everything ourselves. But you have to let go: trust your employees and give them the opportunity to make their own mistakes and develop.
How do you control cashflow?
We use the American Express® Gold Business Card, which helps us to keep a daily check on expenditure. We use the Card to buy everything from servers to software; deferred payment terms1 really helps with cashflow and we rack up Membership Reward® loyalty points3 which we can then spend on flights and hotels. We have offices in Elstree in Hertfordshire and Belfast so I’m constantly on a plane.
What keeps you awake at night?
When you’re starting up a business, you don’t have much to lose; you’re excited by the small steps. The minute you take on your first full-time employee, that changes. Suddenly you’re responsible for someone else – it’s their mortgage/family/livelihood that’s at stake. We now have 12 staff and that does weigh heavily on my shoulders. I’m always wondering: What next? Are we doing things right? Are we growing fast enough? There’s a lot of pressure but I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
How American Express can help small businesses
The American Express Gold Business Card is designed to help small business owners manage finances, improve cash flow and stay in control of everyday expenses. It offers up to 54 days deferred payment on purchases1, 24/7 assistance wherever you are in the world, and has no preset spending limit2. You can also earn one Membership Rewards® point3 for every full £1 spent on purchases. These points can be used to offset everyday business expenses, and be redeemed and spent on items like flights, gifts and office equipment. A welcome bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points is on offer if you are approved and spend £3,000 in the first three months of Cardmembership (and have not been enrolled in the Membership Rewards programme in the past six months)4. The first year of Cardmembership is complimentary (usually £125)5. Visit: americanexpress.co.uk/business
Terms and Conditions: If you’d prefer a Card with no annual fee, rewards or other features, an alternative option is available – the Basic Card. 1 The maximum amount of time for deferred payment on purchases is 54 calendar days and is obtained only if you spend on the first day of the new statement period and repay the balance in full on the due date. 2 No preset spending limit does not mean unlimited spending. Purchasing power can adjust with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors. We reserve the right to apply temporary spending limits in accordance with the Cardmember Agreement. 3 Membership Rewards points are earned on every full £1 spent and charged, per transaction. Membership Rewards points are not earned on interest, fees (including default fees), balance transfers, cash advances (included cash transactions treated as cash), loading of pre paid Cards, American Express Travellers Cheque purchases or foreign exchange transactions; and any amounts that are subsequently re-credited to your Card Account by way of refunds. Visit membershiprewards.co.uk/terms for full Membership Rewards terms and conditions. 4 Shortly after the end of the three months, 20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points will be awarded. All introductory offers are subject to change and can be withdrawn at any time. 5 Cardmembers who are enrolled or have been enrolled in the Membership Rewards programme in the last six months, are not eligible for the bonus. 6 A £125 annual Card fee will automatically be charged to your Account on or after the anniversary of your Account opening date. Applicants must be UK residents, aged 18 or over. Approval is subject to status and terms and conditions apply. American Express Services Europe Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.