Graduating from The University of Hull in 1995, Richard Robinson took his knowledge of engineering science, and the skills he learned, to start his own business, before becoming joint Managing Director of holiday villa specialist, Sun-hat Villas & Resorts. We caught up with him to find out how his studies helped grow a company to more than £10+ million turnover, and get his tips on launching a business.
Negotiating the obstacles
When I first applied for a computer science course at the university, I didn’t meet the entry requirements because my A-Level grades were not enough to earn a place. I was never really an exam person and was far more suited to coursework and pulling together as a team to deliver a project, but I was determined to not let this defeat me.
After a quick search, I came across the clearing scheme and applied for a BSc Engineering Science, with foundation year.
Never accept defeat
When things don’t go as planned you should never panic and give up – most of the time there is always a way to fix or work around the issue. The door isn’t always closed but sometimes you just have to approach it from a different angle.
When I applied for the Clearing scheme I was matched up to a new course the university was running – engineering science. While not the computer science I had originally applied for, I knew it was something I would make a real go of. I never considered Clearing as a failure – in fact it was the complete opposite for me and helped me find a better career direction. In my opinion, Clearing should be seen as a new opportunity, rather than a failure on your part. If you do end up needing to enter a university via Clearing, take a deep breath and pause for a moment to consider the scope of your potential.
Work hard and reap the rewards
My time at university taught me that your rewards are directly proportional to the effort you put in during your studies. I knew that I was lacking in my exams, so when it came to my practical coursework, I worked even harder to make up for it. In my final year, my professor recognised the work I was putting into my final project, and offered some helpful advice. Ultimately, I was rewarded with best project in the year, thanks to these efforts.
Start your own business
After an early role following graduation, I ended up working for a company as a network computer engineer, on a project that ended up not going live. At this point I felt like all the knowledge I gained from my studies was going to waste, so I contacted an old employer and took up a position as a freelance network support engineer. With this role under the banner of my own business, I had a salary that covered the bills and the opportunity to seek out new clients and get my name out there.
Building a business doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of careful planning and thought. What is your unique selling point (USP)? How will you standout? Who are you targeting? And many more questions. Before starting out, ask yourself whether you have the skills to completely build the business alone, or will you need to hire before the workload gets too much? Remember, never feel afraid to seek out advice – the more you grow, the harder it will become.
In the early days, try to proportion the risk to the size and scope of the market – start small but think big. You also need to think about how the business will impact your life, as it can be a lot of responsibility to take on.
How to be a success
To do well, consider all angles of the business, including the customers. Today, in the travel industry, we always ensure each booking is special because, even though it may be our thousandth that year, it might be the customer’s only holiday. With this in mind, we take extra care with every booking, to make sure everything is just the way they want it.
Set tangible but ambitious goals; securing a major investment, having the largest product portfolio in your industry, or selling the business within five years.
Whatever the goals, always consider the external factors that could impact the business – from geopolitical to economic, to legal or technological. If you plan properly, you’ll survive the rough times and make significant progress during the good times.
Finally, have a commitment to lifelong learning – never stop reading and actively keep up-to-date with your industry, following any changes and innovations.