If you wanted a template for how to build a successful business from scratch, you could do no better than follow Dr. John Crute‘s example. John runs The Technology Academy, one of many businesses based in Hampshire Workspace’s Southgate Chambers in Winchester.
To begin with, John had an expertise he could exploit – he was a design engineer with plenty of experience and connections within his industry. Then he identified a niche market in his area of expertise – advanced technology training courses and events in the rapidly changing field of wireless communications and electronics. He saw a gap within that market: ‘I realised that I knew various experts within industry and academia who would relish the opportunity to share their experience and expertise through teaching short courses.’ He also partnered with leading test equipment manufacturer Rohde & Schwarz UK: ‘We use their test equipment to make our courses more practical and relevant and, in exchange, Rohde & Schwarz UK are able to reach a wider audience for their products.’
The Technology Academy also partners with the experts who deliver the courses. ‘Our experts are carefully chosen because they are experienced practitioners with good academic credentials,’ he says. ‘I find experience and knowledge generates respect from course attendees. Gaining experience is all about making mistakes and learning. Our instructors have ‘been there and done it’ and so are able to add real value during class discussions. They are very good at bringing theory and practice together.’
Explaining how his business works, John says, ‘I’m the Programme Director- personally I don’t do any teaching. My main role is to identify the areas of technology that interest our customers and then find the correct individuals to teach these. My biggest challenge is finding the right people to work with. To continuously improve courses and ensure they are relevant to our customer needs, we take feedback from attendees very seriously. This is used constantly revise course content and delivery style.’
John began The Technology Academy in 2007, delivering a mixture of off-the-shelf and customised courses for companies as well as public courses to which companies send delegates. Now courses and events organised by The Technology Academy take place not only in Britain but throughout Europe and beyond.
The company continues to grow. ‘The plan is to expand by developing our existing customer relationships, particularly our large multi-national customers with development sites across the World,’ explains John. ‘We are looking to partner with other companies in separate but related technology niches. We are also currently developing a series of online e-learning modules and courses to complement our classroom-based offering.’
John sees partnerships as the key to future growth. ‘You need to establish credibility in what you do. That’s not done through advertising. It’s done through building relationships. Partnering opens doors.’
John’s belief in collaboration extends to some of the other small businesses he has come into contact with at Hampshire Workspace. He has worked on projects with marketers and designers based here. What else does he like about being in Southgate Chambers? ‘It’s a visually impressive building that always lift my spirits,’ he says. ‘The services are useful – in fact some of the clients don’t realise how helpful the staff can be. The simple flexible contract is good because, when you’re a fast growing business, it’s critically important to control costs and maintain flexibility with no long-term cost commitments.’
John’s best advice to someone wanting to build a successful company? ‘Meeting people is the most valuable thing you can do in business.’
This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy The Lewis Experience based at Hampshire Workspace, and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.