Andrew Butt, managing director and co-founder of Enable, the bespoke business software provider
In a nutshell, what does Enable do?
We develop and manage bespoke software for clients who need something more innovative and more particular to their needs than the usual off-the-shelf solution.
Where did the idea come from?
Enable was originally born out of frustration. In 1994, entrepreneur Denys Shortt OBE started DCS Europe with the vision of becoming the largest distributor for health, beauty and household products in the UK. He grew this from nothing to £40m by 2000 by which time manufacturers wanted online access to real-time sales information. I met Denys in early 2000, when I was 16, when he was frustrated by the service he had received from software developers. I was already running my own small scale web development business, which caught his attention, and within a couple of months Denys made me an offer to create a business together.
When did you start up?
How’s it going so far?
Excellent I’m delighted to say. We continue to see year-on-year growth and this year we have moved into new £1 million offices in Stratford-upon-Avon as well as launching a new spin-off business called DealTrack that enables businesses to enjoy better, more efficient and more transparent and controlled trading relationships. We’ve also just attained Microsoft’s Silver Application Development Competency that demonstrates the high quality of our programmers as well as our commitment to developing them.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Winning new clients is always challenging - it can take many months or even years between meeting a prospect and starting our first project with that client. Software development is also a very unregulated industry and it seems as though anybody can set themselves up as a software development business. With lots of very small-scale companies and offshore options, there's always someone that is claiming to do what we do for less cost. Sometimes companies need to have a bad experience with one of these providers before they give us a project. Once we win a client we keep them for a very long time, with many of the clients we signed up 10 years ago still on our books today.
What’s the best decision you’ve made to-date?
We've recently purchased a new modern building, which has received excellent feedback from staff, clients and partners. It is an ideal time to buy commercial property with many developers very keen to sell at present. Previously, we had been based within the DCS distribution centre for many years, which had been great and had many advantages. However, having our own identity with a high-tech office building has helped to change clients' perception of us for the better. Also, I am a big fan of buying as in a few years when the mortgage is paid off we'll actually own something!
Where will the business be in 12 months’ time?
We've grown quickly and the profile of our typical projects is shifting from one-off projects to ongoing outsourced development contracts. We continue to be exclusively focussed on the analysis, development, hosting and support of custom business applications using Microsoft technologies to meet the specific needs of our clients. There are not many companies of our size with this focus. In 12 months from now the plan is to continue to build on what we're doing now and remain in double-digit revenue growth.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Decide what you're going to do, make sure it’s something you are passionate about and focus on that exclusively. It takes enormous effort to create any success, and it's very easy to spread yourself too thinly. With today's constant, high-speed connectivity, mobility and cloud computing, the line between work and play is blurrier than ever. I don't believe that entrepreneurs ever switch off so be sure to find something that you love doing.