Every week, we ask key questions of small businesses. Here we are talking to Neil Christie, owner of Aberdeen Converged Communication Solutions.
How and why did you start a business?
I have always been in technology, right from school, with networking and the Internet at the heart of my interests. It goes back to the days when you needed a modem, tethered the phone line to connect, and waited up to 6 p.m. for the call costs to go down.
I suspect that a lot of people come to a point, as an employee, where they think “I would like to try to do this for myself” or “I could do it better”.
Of course, they can quickly learn that there is a lot more to business than they realize and come out with greater respect for those they despise. I certainly did.
How did you get where you are today?
Incremental and controlled growth has been our principle. Converged started with two people – myself focusing on technology and someone else doing sales and business.
We later hired our first employee to seize an opportunity, which changed and threatened our viability. We had to adapt to stay afloat, and so it continues year after year.
I sometimes think the first few years were the easiest – simpler and less involved – but I still love working everyday.
Who helped you?
I had great support from family, relatives and colleagues. We regard a lot of our customers as friends, so we want them to be successful. I am also a member of Federation of Small Businesses for the peace of mind offered by legal and employment protections. He has been invaluable from day one.
What was your biggest mistake?
I might need to wait to really say it, but I’m afraid it has gone too far into work, rather than family and play. It’s easy to convince yourself that you have to build for the future, but I am aware of the risk of letting life pass by focusing only on work.
Part of the reluctance to hand things over to others is a strong desire to maintain our work and our reputation. It also comes from past occasions where I have been disappointed or misled.
What is your greatest achievement?
Converged was built first on my technical reputation, then on the growing reputation of those who I thought had something to contribute to the team. We aim to be a trusted advisor to our clients, guiding them to the most appropriate technologies for their business, large or small, and never selling them anything for the fun of it.
We won’t sell something just because it’s new and flashy. Instead, we’ll test it, make sure it’s reliable, and really useful before we release it to our customers.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
Much effort is required to respond to government and mandatory information requests. I appreciate that collecting valid information helps shape policy and thinking, but I wonder if it is still relevant or fairly easily collected.
Sometimes when it comes to tax or VAT etc. it seems difficult to come up with a definitive answer to something. You read what you can and find other opinions online, but at the end of the day you have to follow your intuition as to the right way to handle a given situation.
Asking for official advice is often time consuming and doesn’t always leave you feeling like the answer you’ve been given is guaranteed to be right, and it isn’t always certain that the fact that you’ve tried to find out. will resist you. better if you are wrong.
What do you still hope to accomplish?
I am still heavily involved in the day-to-day technical delivery of our services, often right in the middle of it and not sitting alone in a management office focused on the longer term goal.
It would be nice to allow myself to have confidence that the team has covered it all, so that I can enjoy watching them succeed and grow and give myself more time where my interests are at that time.
What are you doing to relax?
I’ve always loved music, driving, podcasts, and concerts – something that I missed a lot during lockdowns. We’re also a fun team at Converged, so the evenings are usually a lot of fun.
What do you currently read, listen to or paste on television?
I love the detective writing of Rebus and Stuart MacBride. Plus, watching old episodes of Columbo, On the Exercise Bike, and Line of Duty was a must. Binge-watching a series that truly captivates you is great, but can’t wait for a special night of the week for the next episode.
I find Twitter compelling, for a laugh, but also for staying on top of news, technology and new cyber threats.
What are you wasting your money on?
Technology, gadgets and junk food. Look for great deals online, but ask “do I really need it, even if it’s on sale”.
How would your friends describe you?
Like someone whose first drink always disappears very quickly, and who enjoys socializing with them and is happy to lend a hand.
What would your enemies say about you?
I was told that a competitor described Converged as “too helpful”, but I couldn’t figure this one out.
What do you drive and do you dream of driving?
I drive an electric vehicle now and I feel there is no turning back. Top speeds have always been ridiculously high, considering speed limits and road safety, but good acceleration makes driving fun and, when used correctly, safe overtaking is a cinch. .
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