In the run up to the North Worcestershire Business Awards, in which our very own David Lynes has been nominated for the ‘Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year’ award, we have managed to grab a coffee and a chat with him to reflect on 15 years in business.
From selling eggs to unexpected challenges – we cover it all. There’s advice for those thinking of taking the jump into creating their own business, and a reflection on what its like to scale that business up.
What was the driving force behind becoming an entrepreneur?
I didn’t really have a desire to become an entrepreneur and I wouldn’t necessarily label myself as one. It all comes back to the desire to try to make a difference. Whether that’s in the care or cleaning sector, if we can build some tech that makes someone’s life a bit easier, then I’ve done my job right. That’s my sense of achievement. It’s not necessarily financial, but it’s knowing our solutions make a positive difference to the people we work with.
Did you have any role models who were entrepreneurs growing up?
I didn’t. It’s all how it’s landed for me. I had a modest upbringing, there wasn’t a silver spoon in my mouth, and no real financial support from my parents as they weren’t exactly well off. At times it was difficult for them. But I remember my dad telling me that I needed to work hard at whatever I do, and it stuck – I’ve always had that passion and desire. The element of good quality and working hard is something I have passed onto my children.
Did you do anything in your youth which was entrepreneurial?
Not in my younger days, I was a bit of a scrapper at school. I didn’t have easy or pleasant school days, the reports were usually ‘must try harder’ – it wasn’t until later on in high school that I really realised I had to focus and get on with it. I came out with decent grades for the last three years of it though.
I did look into other ways to get money as I grew up through my teenage years, if there was anything I wanted I would have to go out and work for it. I did a few things, such as 3 paper rounds in a morning, selling eggs – including buying my own chickens and feed. I then went around and sold the eggs on the streets.
If I wanted it, I had to go out and earn. I’ve always focused on the goal.
What habits have made you successful?
Going with my gut, being completely honest with everyone – if it’s not working, talk about it.
What mistakes did you make along the way?
I think I have an ongoing challenge about how my role changes, about how I pass on responsibility to key people in the business and give them that responsibility and freedom to go and deliver without me stepping in and being involved.
What would you change if you were to repeat this adventure?
Bring in honest people and good people from the start. Those who will give you feedback whether it’s good or bad as that really helps to direct you. It’s easier to believe you’re doing the right thing when you’re on your own.
Do you miss the 9-5 job?
There are moments where I think I do, that it would be easier, that I could go and do jobs which don’t really require any thinking or caring as it can become overwhelming at times… But I’d get bored. I get bored really quickly. There are lots of jobs that you could go in at 9am and perform your job function, don’t have to care, don’t have to think and leave at 5pm, but those I find are usually mundane – I have done some of those jobs, but I got very easily bored.
I’m finding the role I perform now has a lot more to it. It’s not 24-7/365, there are down times. I make sure I have the balance of home life, sitting down and having dinner together. Family time is very important for me.
But the sense of achievement of delivering something good for our clients is the driving force behind my choice. I enjoy coming into work and I think it’s fair to say everyone else enjoys coming into work. Even on a Monday morning where it’s raining and cold, I still have a genuine want to be in the office.
What is the hardest part of being your own boss?
It’s stepping away at times and remembering to allocate others to the task at hand. My role historically has always been very hands on, not saying my role isn’t hands on now, it’s just in different areas. The challenge for me is to let go and give people responsibility as well as allow them to stretch their legs and thrive in the roles that we have given them.
I still occasionally open a couple of developer tools in my downtime and have a play [laughs] I can’t help myself at times.
My role now is different, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting. It’s still exciting, it’s just different.
Are there any surprises since becoming your own boss which other entrepreneurs should be aware of?
Being classed as an entrepreneur is a surprise in itself. Anyone who knows me knows I am not necessarily looking for the limelight or the applause. I’m not surprised about the business, I always believed we could get to this stage and further. As you get to a certain stage you then believe you can start working towards the next level.
I think that the impact our software has on the people who use it has also been a surprise, particularly in the care industry. There’s times where there is an issue or a problem where you realise how much people rely on the things that we have created, or we do. That’s great, that’s an excellent surprise.
Any advice for those thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?
Find the sector you connect with, and which shares what you believe in. I have stumbled across that in the sectors we work with, that Unique IQ shares the same ethos and values, especially within home care, and it has been working really well for us.
Find something that you’re passionate about and you enjoy, then it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle.
What were the factors that led you to start working within the remote workforce sector?
I wanted to start a business that would actually offer better value for money whilst still tailoring solutions to whatever that challenge might be. Unique IQ started by building online solutions – systems, portals, interfaces and websites that were essentially offering the best value. That led us to working with remote workforces.
Did you expect Unique IQ to be in the position it is now upon initial start-up?
Yes. I just didn’t know when.
How have your goals changed since starting Unique IQ? Have they changed much within the last 18 months since receiving investment?
My goals have remained the same, and I think they always will – which is to bring the best solution to those who need it. The investment has helped accelerate them, rather than change them.
Unique IQ recently won the Business of the Year at the Birmingham Awards. Within the last 12 months has there been a specific moment that has stood out for you which contributed towards this?
Getting the right people in. The investment has helped to do this by allowing us to bring these people in at a quicker rate than before.
There has been a number of other factors too that helped us on the way to winning Business of the Year, but having the right people in the right roles has really helped push us in the right direction.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Remaining as the Managing Director of Unique IQ, with more experience, more team members and hopefully a bigger and more successful business.
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