Birmingham Entrepreneur & Business Consultant
Trusting a Business Consultant to come into your business and help it grow can be a scary process. How do you know the consultant can deliver and what is the true story behind them? Well here's my Business Journey.............
My story (War and Peace) to becoming a successful business man, Entrepreneur and business consultant...
At a young age, I was always full of energy and enthusiasm, seeing the positive in situations and making the most of life.
This was often found to be distracting at school. I was nick named as "Brain Box Bevis". I was able to achieve very good results in school without trying and appeared to be distracting others. I did not have to focus to achieve success absorbing what was going on around me without seeming to be paying attention. Always switched on, I could adapt to anything. I was fearless and very competitive, having to the best at everything I was involved in.
Since becoming a father and educating myself with the modern terms that exist (today doctors and specialists name everything), it was very likely that I would have been diagnosed to have been on some spectrum or maybe have ADHD of some form which would make concentration and focus difficult.
I have always been interested in IT since being very young and actually built my first computer at the age of 14 in 1990, without being taught, after purchasing components from a local computer fair. This proved to be a great success and started the business mindset that was to follow and it was the first time in my life that I realised I was showing signs of being an Entrepreneur.
My computer building was very successful with friends and family members all using my services for IT related issues and I was building computers for them which proved to be cheaper, more reliable and much faster than computers provided in the shops.
In my last year at school, I was assisting the running of the Information Technology areas at school, installing and configuring the computer infrastructure used across the school due to the I.T. department having staff issues due to medical reasons. This started honing my skill set and pushing my learning ability above and beyond what was expected at this age with responsibility and trust.
On leaving school I began a technical engineering apprenticeship at Rover Group in Longbridge. This was the first year or testing if people were able to develop mechanical and electrical skills. The apprenticeship was pushing the boundaries because the end result, after four years, was to be able to do the job of two people.
I found myself studying to be a Technical Mechanical Engineer and Electrician in the day and on the evening building computers and hacking computer systems looking at security loop holes and vulnerabilities feeding my passion for IT.
The growth of my computer sales was growing by the week. Every computer that I sold ended up with the purchase of 2 to 3 more computers as the information was being spread to friends of friends and family members passing on the positive experiences of purchasing from myself. By now I was building computers for many people who I had no idea how they had even got my number.
This experience was vital for my Entrepreneur skill set that was being developed in sales and customer service, providing me with experience and dealing with all different types of people. One day I would be in a council house installing a budget computer, the next I was in a large manor house installing a high-end business machine and then in a business office installing networked computers and printers. Every day I found new information and learnt more about people realising that communication was the key to trust and success. I was developing a way to speak to my clients on a level different to what they were used to, breaking down the technical jargon into something that made sense to them.
As the sales were growing I needed to source components cheaper and to cut out the middle man. This was the first real time that I needed to become a true Entrepreneur in Birmingham. I used my personally developed business skills to identify and source the suppliers of the majority of traders at the computer fairs and began to buy directly from the suppliers. I was known at the computer fairs by all of the leading traders and I was soon able to sell products to the smaller traders at the computer fairs that were not able to purchase components as cheap as was able to provide them.
My technical engineering skills had also been developed and I had successfully completed and passed a 4-year technical engineering apprenticeship and now I was a fully qualified Technical Engineer and Electrician. I started my first maintenance role at Rover which involved keeping the production line running, fixing breakdowns (mechanical or electrical) and preventing breakdowns with preventative maintenance. This was a strange job for me and it did not really fit my makeup as I wanted to work hard and learn more, but the mindset at Rover was to do as little as possible (this will offend some people, but it was my personal view from experiences I was dealing with daily).
I had worked on an array of machines across the Rover plant at Longbridge, Land Rover and Gaydon for around 6 years in total covering the 4-year apprenticeship and my 2 years time served as a maintenance engineer.
At this point in 1994 BMW bought Rover and this was a great turning point for me personally. I was chosen to go to Munich to learn the German Engineering way and learn more about the culture and processes. I found myself flying out from Elmdon Airport in Birmingham to Germany daily/weekly visiting many different manufacturing facilities in Germany and Austria.
My knowledge and skill set was pushed further and I needed to learn a second language. I also needed to understand how to deal with people from a completely different culture and mindset. The German methods were all about processes and I started to understand how to achieve great things as a Technical Engineer thinking differently to the way the UK had trained me.
I was soon moved to be a key project member for a new engine factory which was to manufacture small, low emission, highly efficient four cylinder engines in the UK which was named BMW Plant Hams Hall. This was a great opportunity and the new manufacturing facility was to be state of the art with the Engines that were built supplying a number of vehicle manufacturing plants both in the UK and abroad to power BMW and MINI vehicles sold across the world.
Production first commenced in 2001 following an initial investment by BMW to build the plant of £400 million.
My role was to help successfully learn and setup the new production facility for the Cylinder Block line with colleagues and we achieved this goal working with various 3rd party companies including main German Engineering companies Hüller Hille and Grob.
The transfer machines were successfully planned, manufactured, built, tested and brought over the UK and installed. We then commissioned and started producing four cylinder engine blocks. In 2001 the engine factory produced 70,000 engines which was a fantastic achievement for all involved.
The skills, lessons and knowledge I gained from this were huge with so many key points and time scales which had to be met. I also took it on myself to identify time savings thus reducing cycle time further and this was noted as some of the best improvements being made at the time which was a contributing factor to achieving the 70,000 engines.
I found myself coding Allen Bradley Terminals to change the timing of systems, whilst maintaining safety and reliability therefore unlocking the potential of the machines.
The successful completion of the manufacturing facility at Hams Hall meant my role was to change and I was now involved in improvements for quality, machine cycle time and reliability. I was setting up preventative maintenance plans and educating maintenance engineers about the machines. In 2002 we had pushed the facility and produced 154,000 engines which was getting the UK get noticed within the German headquarters. We continued our hard work and in 2007 the facility was producing 367,073 engines.
I was used as a technical resource to keep the machines running when breakdowns occurred and this was a key point in my life for realising my ability to cope with stressful situations in a calm manner. It was vital to keep a cool head and remain calm in order to make judgements quickly that had to be right. When the machinery was broken for something major this meant production stopped and this stoppage costs thousands per minute in lost production and the maintenance guys would call for my help. I had to assess the situation and work out a solution to A) get the machinery producing product quickly and B) prevent this from happening again.
I was soon noticed within BMW as being a key person able to deal with situations and communicate to the plant director when things went wrong and gained the trust of high-level management. When 3rd party companies were needed to assist with repairs of machines this often went wrong and time scales slipped and the companies would misinform us about the reality of what they could achieve. I was then tasked to fix this problem and was managing all the contractors overseeing all external service providers, creating the maintenance contracts to ensure the machinery was fixed quickly and to our standards.
I built amazing relationships with the suppliers and they trusted my knowledge and judgement. They operated in an open and trusted manner with me which helped speed up the corrections needed and I still speak to some of these companies today as they they are now clients of my company.
The problems were fixed and processes were put in place which included simple solutions, often that had been missed. For example, allowing the contractors on-site with passes preventing security blocking access and having me as a point of contact should anything go wrong. I was also tasked with saving money for the cost centre that was involved in the maintenance contracts and I was able to reduce spend and increase the quality of the service being provided.
I became a 24-hour main point of contact for breakdowns (not paid to be on-call) and this was something that got me personally known by all in the factory. BMW operated a personal development bonus system and I was achieving the highest bonus's across the entire factory due to my success and efforts.
In the background, I was still developing and growing my skills as an IT specialist and building a successful business in the background away from BMW and Engineering. I was growing daily my IT skill set, pushing my personal learning more and more as my customers requested an array of extra services. I was soon installing Networking Infrastructure, Backup Infrastructure, CCTV installations and Door Entry Systems. The array of knowledge I now had I felt to be unique and the life skills that had been developed meant that my sponge brain was absorbing data from everywhere and I found myself involved with so many different areas of technology and business.
My own business had grown to become known by the major computer component suppliers within the West Midlands and had accounts with IT equipment suppliers and CCTV companies in Birmingham and London. The drive to find quality components at the best prices and never to buy cheap equipment meant that every customer was a happy customer and, with this, more new customers kept coming and bringing more new clients. This was a successful example of the effects of quality on long-term success which was something that I felt BMW had certainly got right and my own business was following this ethos.
A pinnacle point in the development of my business was the need for a website. I took this as a new skill to learn and purchased books and Dreamweaver to start my web development skills. I was quickly building websites for fun and had scrapped Dreamweaver, writing the HTML code in notepad. I was soon asked to build websites for local shops that knew me (who I had already sold computer systems and CCTV systems too) and these websites developed my design skills.
The more websites that I completed the more knowledge I had about peoples business's as I needed to understand the content requirements and identify the customers needs. I found myself being like a sponge for every piece of information, I was energised by this information and became able to use situations I was aware of from other clients or BMW and make suggestions to improve things in each business I was working with. I was now becoming a business consultant for change and improvements and my knowledge was second to none.
The more websites I built the more I moved forward with my skills and I was soon building Flash websites which started my websites coming to life and it was at this point I realised that this was the business model I wanted to follow. I loved the internet and it excited me with the vast power that no one could really understand and so I stopped building computers slowly and started to focus fully on internet services.
Things in the internet world moved fast and I soon dropped Flash sites and I was styling websites using CSS Style sheets and making websites less busy which made them work much better. There became a focus on conversions and my skill set from being a technical sales person, technical installer and builder were soon becoming a marketing development manager and conversion expert. The more companies I worked with the more I grew my knowledge and this was driving my success forwards empowering me on a daily basis.
In my experience and journey of becoming an IT specialist, I often took devices apart and improved them and at the time I had SKY TV which was moving from SKY + to becoming SKY HD in 2006 and the first Thomson SKY HD Box that arrived had a 300GB hardrive installed allowed 160GB of recorded TV keeping the remainder for SKY to use. HD TV took much larger storage than standard definition and this meant that the hardrive would fill quickly (1 week / 2 weeks) and the unit was, in my view, useless. I contacted SKY about this and they said that this was the largest SKY Box available so I took it apart and removed the hardrive. I looked at how the boot sector functioned and examined the partition setup, then purchased a 500GB drive from a old supplier and modified this to work in the SKY HD Box. This worked great so I then purchased an Hitachi’s Deskstar 1TB drive whic,h at the time was costly, and then got this working also (This was in 2007 and it wasn't until 2011 that SKY introduced the 1TB units).
I now found myself modifying SKY BOXES for friends and family members and the word got out. SKY contacted me to ask how I was doing this and if this was reliable as they had hit issues in testing. I technically understood hardrives and had been working with them for over seven years so offered support which resulted in them ordering a SKY HD box from me.
At the same time, Endemol in London contacted me about modifying their recording studios and I found myself in Shepherds Bush, London removing hardrives and with my laptop modifying the systems. The SKY Boxes were used to record all the news across the world and these were then used for the programs that they produced, without this recorded news channel information they were unable to deliver the programs. My system modifications worked and Endemol was now a client loving what I was achieving for them. I modified further studios and if it wasn't for my connections in the PC trade I would not have been able to source the hardrives quickly and cost effectively.
It was at this point I needed to register Chameleon Web Services as a Private Limited Company. I chose the Chameleon name as I had learned that to survive in business you need to keep changing and your background environment doesn't stay the same. Your business model needs to be sharp and always moving forward to keep ahead of the competitors. For this reason, I thought the Chameleon name was perfect, they use change for protection and for growth as a predator. This set the business name and Chameleon was now on the way to becoming one of the fastest growing internet companies in the West Midlands.
At the same point in time, I was still at BMW and growing my technical knowledge, attending training course after training course, becoming more and more involved in problem-solving, process improvements, designing systems and work flows, project managing multi million pound projects. I moved around as my skills grew and I was recognised as a someone special. I moved from being a Technical Engineer, Asset Reliability, Maintenance Contract Manager into IT within BMW.
I worked in the SAP team supporting business change and then into Server Systems Infrastructure management until I finally moved into Anti-virus which involved taking all Anti-virus operations away from a 3rd party provider and bringing this in-house.
This was a great accomplishment for me personally as I had to single handily visit the supplier in Germany and grow their trust to learn everything in-order to come back with the information to enable us to do everything in-house as part of a cost cutting exercise.
My years of developing people skills in the UK and Germany meant that I was quickly able to understand how I was going to achieve this goal. My sponge like brain absorbed and absorbed data and within a week I understood the infrastructure and requirements to be able to deliver this as a service.
I returned to BMW and successfully brought over all operations for the Global BMW Anti-virus infrastructure at the time saving £480,000 and improved the process with this making everything work better.
Everything I was achieving for BMW was moving things forwards, saving them money and improving processes and, at the same time, I was receiving the best training courses available with money not being an object at BMW.
The development of my skills meant that I had been involved at an early age in so many areas of a Blue Chip company working with everyone from production operators to the CEO.
I had been creating reports and delivering presentations to Plant Directors across the Globe, meeting suppliers and managing the contracts and SLA's, all this knowledge was being absorbed and was growing my understanding of what is required to achieve the best from people and processes.
Still, in the background, my own business was growing rapidly and I was coming to a break point and left BMW which, at the time, people thought I was mad. I walked away from a heavy salary with a new car every 8 months and a final salary pension to focus all my attention on Chameleon.
Chameleon now became the priority and as a father, husband and employer my business journey became make or break for me. I was in charge fully of my own destiny and it had to work or it was only me that would have failed and as a result, I would lose my house and the respect of my wife.
Chameleon was getting stronger by the day and I was approached as a consultant to help grow a hosting company in Cheltenham. My role was to grow the client base and fix process issues which meant devising a marketing strategy and assisting with customer process flow and system design. This role also involved being involved as a support to project manage the build of a new data centre. I was negotiating with the CEO of Fujitsu a dark fibre connection following the M5 which in the UK is rare and we built a data centre. This grew my knowledge further of I.T. systems in areas I had no previous knowledge.
This role also involved being a key factor to project manage the build of a new data centre. I was negotiating with the CEO of Fujitsu a dark fibre connection deal following the M5 which in the UK is rare and we built a data centre. This grew my knowledge further of I.T. systems in areas I had no previous knowledge and everything was coming together perfectly.
The hosting company was growing quickly week on week and the build process was also growing and this was becoming a very successful business venture for all involved and my time came to a close as I had delivered my role.
This consulting role at a hosting company was key to Chameleon and soon I had carefully selected a U.K. based data centre from my knowledge of hosting and Chameleon was now offering hosted solutions and purchasing dedicated servers for Chameleon clients.
Today we host major websites including multi-national companies, football clubs, hotel chains and more...
With every new client came a new website and even more education into business sectors. Meetings and conversations with clients about their business meant that I was now offering advice and support to business owners and was soon able to understand the majority of business sectors. My knowledge growing every day which was feeding my energy to grow and my sponge like brain was retaining information and achieving the best for everyone I was working with.
I was now dealing with CEO's of larger companies and having meetings selling my business services and I found that the ideas I was bringing to the table were being implemented with success. I was receiving very positive feedback and my business knowledge meant that I was trusted by key people in large companies and as a result Chameleon was now growing very strong and becoming a brand name itself.
Chameleon's large range of customers often came with horror stories of the previously bad web companies and Search Engine Optimisation companies. I found myself repairing and finishing other companies work and I was not getting a very good impression of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies at all. So to help the companies I was working for and also to get Chameleon top of Google for the search terms I wanted and needed to obtain new skills. I was now eating and sleeping SEO and soon was able to see why so many web development companies fail in when I comes to SEO.
Chameleon was also growing fast to the point I needed to employ key members of staff and then more and more staff which started a new learning journey on its own. My goal was to find staff that were able to be like me and this was simply impossible and I soon realised I needed to train people in the way I wanted things done to take things from good to great. I believe this is the key to Chameleon's success.
We have always done the job right and understand what the job is before offering suggestions and then making a plan to improve and grow clients. Whatever we do is for the long term or with a plan for a long term solution.
My SEO understanding was now using all my skills, test sites were in place and monitoring of Google's changes to gather a real understanding of what Google wants and needs to find on and off a website in order to position a website number one in the search results.
To help the companies we were working with and also to get Chameleon top of Google for the search terms I needed to understand SEO fully. The result was not only achieving keywords ranking in Google search results, but the domination of search terms in Google and this was at a point that the internet was really starting to become vital for business success. I was now eating and sleeping online marketing and SEO, able to see why so many web development companies fail at SEO not seeing what is actually needed for success.
After research, I decided for Chameleon I needed to achieve top search positions for specific keywords and soon achieved number 1 for all of them. I had to beat the local SEO companies with my new SEO skills proving we can successfully run an SEO service. I was soon buying domain names and building SEO sites, running testing over 6 month periods and creating tracking tools. I had discovered/developed my own SEO techniques and now was reading SEO articles with my knowledge and seeing that many SEO companies actually had no idea what worked and what didn't. A lot of companies followed what they had read and trusted everything online. I had discovered ground breaking SEO techniques and was now getting my clients top three positions within Google search results which was frustrating the SEO competitors as were taking more than one position in the top 5 positions more often than not.
From my on going research we were dominating Google, Bing and Yahoo. Large SEO companies were contacting me asking me for information and digging around even offering me jobs. We had SEO companies sending in people to our office to learn from us under the radar which soon became clear as I employed more staff and found out that this was going on from people who had previously worked for the competition.
SEO Companies were asking to rent space on Chameleons SEO sites to sell to their clients to take advantage of the techniques and success that Chameleon was achieving, which we said NO.
The search engine marketing industry was a very different place when I founded Chameleon Web Services. I can remember being in meetings with clients talking about pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimisation and pushing to sell these services when companies would only spend £100 a month and now some companies spend £100 a day on Adwords.
In 2017 companies are spending so much money on SEO and AdWords without even thinking about costs due to the return on investment. SEO projects are a vital part of an online business setup cost. This shows that SEO has grown into what could be classed as one of the most important and demanding web services being offered and I had positioned Chameleon as one of the top companies in the UK delivering these services.
Being a step ahead has been a crucial element in the success of Chameleon to date, and a focus on research and development means Chameleon is growing faster by the day and my research never stops.
I began understanding SEO when search engine optimisation was something many people had not heard of or really understood properly, but I was able to grow and develop my tool box which now has pushed SEO to its full potential and there are now lots of SEO companies around which should make it more difficult to achieve online success. We have been in the top five positions for all the major keywords through all the Google changes (Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird) when our competitors have been forced to change domain names due to damaging them from cheating with Black Hat SEO techniques.
Google penalties have caused so many issues for companies across the globe who rely on the internet as an income generation. Guess who is top of "Google Penalty Advice" :-
Back in 2003 I was looking at the market, and I could see how search engine marketing was changing its focus and this growth with so many bad marketing companies out there helped push Chameleon into the best business decision I made to date which was to offer in-house SEO services. Investing time into SEO and understanding how to grow to be ahead of the competition is now the driving force for Chameleon.
Things had really grown and Chameleon was becoming a brand people knew. We have single occupancy of a fantastic building rather than a small shared office or operating from a bedroom which makes us as web company again special.
Our head office is located in Halesowen, Birmingham on the very busy Dudley Road.
We are also advertised in popular public places and have exposure on main stream TV channels.
My goals in business have always been high. I wanted to grow the client base, working within budgets and time scales always doing more than the competition and making us stand out. Chameleon has been a driving force in the internet industry, being the first to develop so many new areas and now what was a small business helping other small businesses to grow has matured into one of the most successful Birmingham / London Internet Marketing companies today.
We have helped develop and improve new services working with companies like Google directly and even winning a Global Google Award for the best use of Google Maps API.
We have been involved in some of the most amazing projects that have shaped the internet and also been involved in developing services that are used daily.
We have won Global Awards for many areas of the business and become the trusted I.T. partner for large companies managing global solutions.
As part of taking Chameleon further forwards, we became official members of Global Sign for SSL certificates and Nominet for domain name services.
On my journey, I developed a fantastic working relationship with the company that operates many of the fair grounds across the UK including Hyde Park in London and the amazing Ice Skate Birmingham and Big Wheel. Chameleon is an integral part of this Christmas experience and we provide everything from Web Design, SEO – Search Engine Optimisation, Marketing, Social Media, Tickets, Online Payments, Phone System, Photos, IT Support and more. We also help support the Birmingham City Council with the Frankfurt Christmas Market also known as the Birmingham German Market which attracts millions of people to visit Birmingham over the festive period.
Client success is key for any Business Development Consultant!
The clients success is key for any Business Development Consultant and the positive feedback that is received with the fantastic information that I hear week on week is what drives me personally further and keeps me pushing for more!
I have been involved in growing companies from start up's to multi million pound companies in a few years and my favourite example is a one man band who came out of the army and trained to learn a new skill. He needed a website and came to Chameleon. I explained what would work and what he needed to achieve success, explaining he needed a portfolio and to offer a few jobs initially at cost price to learn how to deal with customers and get the photographs we needed. Everything he did in month one was captured and we expanded his website quickly helping the client find his feet as he made mistakes dealing with clients. We completed the website which made him look bigger than he was with unique photographs of his work cleverly edited and the online marketing campaign grew stronger. This one man band in 12 months turns over over £1,000,000 and now had more photos of his work and understood how to deal with clients. We helped grow the proposals to invoicing and his company looked amazing. 2017 is the second year in business, and in May he won a £16,000,000 contract with a major Bluechip company. He has paid Chameleon £3,500 to build a website and develop his business on and offline.
This one man band in 12 months turns over over £1,000,000 and now had more photos of his work and understood how to deal with clients. We helped grow the client proposals to invoicing and his company looked amazing. In May 2017, the second year in business, he wins a £16,000,000 contract with a major Bluechip company. This amazing success comes from all his hard work and our knowledge and skills creating the website. My business advice and guidance is the key to the development of this new company.
In 2017 Chameleon has become one of the leading providers for Web Design, SEO, AdWords Management, I.T. Support, Domain Name Management and Hosting in Birmingham, London and across the UK.
My Business Journey is unique!
If you have read my journey (sorry it's War and Peace) then you should know that my path to success in business has been from the actual delivery of results and the experiences that I have gained to date (I am now 41 years old).
If you want to find out what can be achieved at your business, simply get in touch!