Lewis Windle is the owner of www.freehr.app www.zenepal.com www.recognize365.com & www.recognize365.me
A software development company based in the UAE that he started in his late teens which is now generating over 6$ Million USD in revenue per year.
Lewis Windle has now been in business for over 7 years.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing him to share his wisdom with you. Questions and answers are below.
What was it that drove you to start a software
business? What inspired
you to become an entrepreneur and pursue your own ideals?
At 17, I was presented with an option to go to university and manage a student loan and ultimately be left in debt for the first years of my adult life. This wasn’t something I wanted to do.
I had family and friends who had taken this route and even into their late twenties or early thirties were still paying off their student debts and were spending long periods of time in their jobs trying to climb their career ladder.
Comparing starting salaries for the roles I was looking at in financial markets, vs what I could make on the internet with almost no overheads, convinced me there was an easier and faster way to succeed financially.
Human Resources was a product I got into by chance.
I can’t say that I dreamed about selling software as a child but I have a passion for ways to cut corners and saving time.
And every business needs a software management platform, with trends always changing it seemed like a great industry to get involved in.
It wasn’t till I started gaining customers that I realized many of the well-established vendors hadn’t made the transition to SaaS, and therefore spotted a gap in the market to start offering HRMS software at a much lower cost than the larger vendors in the market.
What are two foolish
mistakes you’ve made in
business that you see aspiring entrepreneurs making today?
1. Understanding your finances
Studying business and economics at A level at school I thought I had a firm grasp of how to manage my companies finances.
I didn’t realize how much there was to learn in book keeping, for example understanding a profit and loss sheet, working out net profits and charging and paying vat were completely new to me.
Of course, you can hire an accountant to submit your company’s financial paperwork and when you get to a certain size hire an in-house book keeper or financial controller.
Initially I couldn’t afford this and made some fairly costly mistakes by not managing my cash effectively.
However, reading books and learning online will ensure you learn how to avoid the mistakes I did when starting.
2. Spending for the sake of spending
As our business started to grow it was exciting. It was easy to
look at other larger businesses and see what they had and think I want the same.
Expensive offices or showrooms, expensive radio campaigns, large teams of people with the view that ‘its fine we are growing’.
Especially as a young and aspiring entrepreneur you feel the
need to prove to everyone the size of what you are creating. It feels good to have all these things but it’s important to keep your overheads low and your net profit high.
Overheads are there to be squeezed. I would recommend reviewing your overheads on a monthly basis and see where you can cut or reduce them rather than spending more to ‘get bigger’.
After all, you can have a huge turnover but if you aren’t make a positive net profit you are going to work for nothing. Anyone can sell at a loss!
What were the toughest things you had to deal with on your entrepreneurial journey?
The first few years are without a doubt the hardest part of your
journey as an entrepreneur.
A commonly known stat is 90% of startups fail within the first 12 months.
As a result, it’s difficult to get customers, suppliers or the bank to buy into your idea; people much prefer to deal with an established brand or business than a risky start up.
The bank in particular will seldom support startups until they have at least traded for a period of time so unless you have a VC or support from family or friends you will have to be patient and grow naturally and slowly.
Thankfully, as time goes on, if you are driven and determined with a ‘I will not give up’ mentality and once you have a set of accounts and so can prove yourself as a business owner, you will find the journey gets easier and easier.
I heard you let your
employees spend 20% of their time on self- improvement activities.
What’s your main
purpose behind that?
This is a relatively new idea for our business.
Up until last year, for six years I had worked six day weeks, 12-16 hour days and found myself working tirelessly. Which was at times great fun and the sense of achievement was extremely gratifying.
But I also got the point where after consistently working these hours for years I would get to Saturday evening ready for my day off and end up just resting before starting over.
I felt financially successful but I felt unfulfilled with my quality of life. The old saying ‘money can’t buy you happiness’.
I started to research ‘personal development’ which is the idea that financial success should only make up one part of your life. And on top of this you should have time daily for relationships with family and friends, your health and to grow your mindset and skills by reading or watching YouTube videos on the topic. Essentially, you work less but you vary what you prioritize to live a balanced life where you work on yourself as well as your job.
Jim Rohn, one of my favorite speakers on the subject said ‘learn to work harder on yourself than your job and you will be more successful and fulfilled than you can imagine’.
It worked so well for me that I now encourage everyone in my team to have 20% of their week doing the same.
It adds variety to everyone’s role and allows them to grow skills in something they are interested in and will benefit them and the business.
Having this kind of culture in the business creates a very positive at the moment.
There are a few different definitions of what it means to be an entrepreneur. How do you define it?
An entrepreneur is a creator. It’s someone who isn’t satisfied
with something and wants to change it either to create a better future for themselves or others. Someone who is passionate about seeing an idea through.
If there are two things that have contributed the most to your success, what are they and why?
1. Personal Development
There are so many people in the world who will be cynical and avoid change.
You have to appreciate that everyone has their own map of the world, their own ideas and what they value and believe in.
If you don’t open up to ideas you could miss out on massive opportunities.
For example, personal development is a topic 97% of people will never read a page of a book on in their entire life.
Yet I read an article about the benefits to entrepreneurs and to this day I now spend at least 4 hours a day on personal development.
My success and fulfilment has multiplied in 12 months beyond what I thought was possible.
2. Hiring Experienced people
For years, I recruited friends and family or recruited myself through the various online job sites.
The problem with this was they often didn’t have the skills or experience they needed.
Many can talk their way through an interview but its six months in when their skills or culture come into question that you realize you have made a mistake.
Using a recruitment agent is expensive but it allows you to fast track your recruitment process and gives you support from an experienced recruitment agent who can help ensure the people you choose to represent and work in your company are right.
Last question. What are the top tips you’d recommend me and my readers in regards to
1. Work harder on yourself through personal development
In business you are either moving forward or going backwards.
Make small steps of progress in personal development by reading and learning new skills whether that’s technical experience in your industry or learning how to be a stronger leader.
If you work on this daily, think what the changes will be over a year or your entire career.
2. Set goals, without goals you can’t be motivated
- Manage your time effectively
Outlook is great to manage how many hours you will spend on
work, how many on your health, relationships and personal development to give you a balance in life.
If you have a balanced life you will be happy and much more likely to be driven to succeed.
4. Get a mentor
Find someone who has the life you want and go up and ask them for advice.
Most successful people are passionate about business, especially entrepreneurs and will likely give you advice for free. I have two mentors who I see monthly, I have agreed a small fee to spend one day a month with them, we discuss my plans
and ideas and they help me avoid mistakes they made when they were on the same journey I am on.
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