Stephen Smith has been involved in virtual 3d modelling since 1999; now, Pixel Image can let you see your new house before a single brick is laid…
What is it the company does?
We are technology partners to the property industry. We create interactive selector systems, 360-degree self-navigation, virtual reality, CG imagery and animations to help developers and house builders communicate their developments to buyers in a more visually engaging way, before being built.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I lead a team of 38 with my co-founding Director and wife Cat. The focus of my role is overseeing the company’s corporate strategy, new product development and creative direction.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I first began working in the Architectural Department of Miller Homes Edinburgh head office before setting up Pixel Image with my wife Cat in 1996 after seeing a gap in the market to create high quality 3D computer generated images for selling and marketing property off-plan.
In 1999 I was approached by US firm REL Cars and asked to create a 3D virtual car showroom which led to the appointment as Artistic Director with the newly formed The Internet Car Company Ltd. (TICC) later that year. I was responsible for handling the design, content, functionality and development of the website. Pixel Image developed the site and technology behind it as well as processed all the content.
2001 saw the setup of Pixel Image (India) Pvt Ltd as a wholly owned subsidiary and back office production and processing unit to support sales in the UK, Middle East and US markets. When the property market went into decline in 2008, we focused our new business push on Middle East and Asia regions, where we completed several projects as we rode out the economic crisis, which hit the property industry.
In 2007, began masterminding the development of technology to allow buyers to select and view property details on a website in a new and informative way. This technology was to win ‘Best property website’ in the UK Daily Mail property awards and ‘Best Property Website in the World’ by CNBC in the US the same year. This was the start of what is now the ‘Home Selector’, part of our recently developed Pixel Sales Platform.
Since 2015, Pixel has been firmly focused back on the UK market where it has ambitious plans for expansion and continues to work with many of the biggest UK names in property and house building.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Someone who understands their ‘Why’, as Simon Sinek would say. Understand what they believe in and why they are driven to change their world. To take that belief and share the passion so that others who it resonates with can follow. Someone who doesn’t give up easily and knows leadership is a long road and takes time, patience and determination but most of all a deep empathy who whom they ultimately serve.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Educating the market in the changes technology is bringing to an industry that has seen very little change, and one which has so much to benefit from embracing a more dynamic approach to the homebuyer journey.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
By trying to keep family time and business time separate. Not to check emails as soon as I wake up, no digital at meal times and ensure I make time for family activities like school plays. At the weekends, I like to create things with my hands which is refreshingly different from the technological world I spend my working week in.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to make things and was fascinated by mechanical toys especially those involved in the construction industry. When I was a little older I wanted to be like my father who ran his own furniture manufacturing business. Designs on a drawing board that later became real pieces of furniture, magic to my eyes.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Surfing social media channels on smart-phones during office hours. It is a very difficult subject to address and some tech companies take a strict approach of banning phones at the desks during work hours altogether. We don’t do that, but I do let staff know other companies do. That generally deals with the issue.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We believe we can change the way property is sold and for the benefit of everybody involved. I would like to think that in five years we will have set a new standard in property communication and empowered buyers to get the perfect home and enable developers to offer what the market demands.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never stop learning. Not only to develop your core skills but expand your scope and study a wide variety of topics. Lead from the heart, in what you believe. Have confidence that all the other great leaders out there are just ordinary people too. What made them great was the belief in their own ability. If you believe in yourself and what you do, others will too and they will follow as long you do.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Figure out what your big picture is. Don’t be afraid to think big and stay focused on that idea. Don’t get bogged down in the coalface of your work and identify what the small stuff is early, so you know what not to sweat about. Learn what success looks like to you and don’t expect it to be a straight path to get there. Lastly, don’t make it only about the money.