Peter Mills (Left) and Adam Roney (Right)
Peter Mills and Adam Roney of tech firm Calls9 catch up with us to talk all things software development and management...
What does your role involve?
As a business owner I split my role two ways. With one hat I am joint MD responsible for business development and our commercial strategy, making sure that the business is continually growing. With the other, I am co-founder of a technology company which I see as more of a custodian role.
We founded Calls9 with principles of sustainability and a vision for how technology should be built and used. It is important that I am able to manage the day to day activities of the business but equally can take a step back and think ‘is this right for the company?’.
What is it the company does?
Simply put, we build software products that make a difference. Early on we discovered that businesses, whether it’s an SME or a large global corporation, face a number of challenges when trying to launch digital products. Be it apps or websites, it typically costs a lot in time and money to make them happen, and once launched teams find them hard to manage. In response to that, we launched Calls9 Nucleus, a platform that helps businesses launch apps and websites quickly and easily.
As that took off, a natural extension for us was to look at how people worked together and so we built Calls9 Knowledge Plus (an internal communications app) that allows teams to access company information and communicate on the go.
Three years later we now have companies all over the world using these products and it is growing every day.
Where did you start your career?
I started my career the minute I opened those business books at school. Every decision I made thereafter ultimately impacted my journey.
Not everyones journey is clear cut. Some take a longer path in getting set up and I would say that I was one of those people. I sought out experience in small start up business at university as well as some corporate experience with IBM as an industrial trainee.
I moved on to Eversheds Sutherland , a global law firm and thats where my love for technology grew and also where I met my business partner Adam.
We worked together closely on the firms global innovation competition where we designed and created a market leading client experience. Which ultimately was the catalyst for setting up our own business.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far:
Industrial trainee - 2005
Trainee solicitor - 2009 -2011
Co-Founder 2011 onwards
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Being in business you often see people who lack authenticity and fail to trust the people around them.
We are surrounded by TV shows, such as The Apprentice and Dragons Den, which, whilst being entertaining are at the same time terrible for inspiring great leadership. Being a great leader is about being authentic to yourself and those around you.
Don’t micromanage – empower and trust your team members and have honest conversations when things don’t go to plan.
If you spend time trying to be a version of Steve Jobs after watching a curated 1 hour interview, it’s game over. Just be authentic and everything else will follow.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Speaking openly, it was getting people to buy into using Calls9 when we first started out. We would go to so many meetings and people would ask us what we had done and who we had done it for. Of course as a start up it’s the age old chicken and egg, ‘who had we worked for?’ So we just kept at it, taking the rejection until we met the right people who gave us that break because they liked what we had to offer.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Stress can be a hugely destructive force but it is something that you can manage. You have to accept that there will be things beyond your control but there are factors that you can influence and manage.
So for me, I began to think about things more positively, planning my time so I could be more effective in my business and crucially not always carrying the load alone.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It might be trite but from an early age I knew that one day I would start my own business. There used to be a small library across the road from my school and every Thursday I would go in and the librarian would help me find business books on people like Ray Kroc, Henry Ford or the Cadbury family. An absolute favourite was “Losing my Virginity” by Richard Branson which I must have read about ten times from the age of 13.
Any pet hates in the workplace?
They say we spend an average of a third of our lives at work - that is a significant amount of time to either enjoy what you do or be miserable! So making sure that at Calls9 the positive days outweigh the negative ones is really important to me.
It is important to maintain mutual respect and collaboration in the work place. If I see that fraying or coming apart on a particular project I will encourage everyone to remember what we are about as a company and to come together as a team.
Where do you see the company in five years time?
We see the world at the start of the digital revolution. Change does not come over night, of course there are huge technology companies that have grown fast but you can count those on one hand. The majority of businesses take a lot of hard work and time to get them to where they need to be.
There are thousands of businesses that are still using expensive and hard to use software products. Thats if they are using them at all and still not using paper. Can we say that Calls9 Knowledge Plus is a credible alternative to Microsoft Sharepoint? Absolutely, because that is what our customers are saying.
In the next five years we would like to see ourselves globally recognised technology business building software products that make peoples lives easier and in turn makes work a better place to be. Whatever follows that - profits, revenue, scale who knows but if we are recognised in for building great products that change the way people work then I would say everything else will fall into place.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Running a business can be a lonely place if you don’t build a support network around you early on. Both Adam and I identified a handful of mentors who to this day still play an important role in our continued success.
Seek out people who may have been on the same journey as you embarking on but don't try and sell to them and don't burden them with a phone call every week. I have a business mentor who I see twice year, It is a sounding board and incredibly helpful. If you can find that support network it can be invaluable to you on your journey.