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.
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