We catch up with Howard Simms, Apadmi Ventures CEO - one of the UK's leading software development companies. He talks us through his purpose for mentoring, mentoring style and his personal inspirations.
Tell me about yourself
I’m Mancunian born and bred, although I did go to Leeds University to study maths. After spending some time travelling, I came back to Manchester just as mobile technology was just starting to take off. I had a few career ideas and it really was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
Since then we set up Apadmi, which is now one of the UK’s leading software development companies. We work with organisations such as the NHS and the BBC, as well as a range of business including Lexus and Skyscanner.
We’ve also spun out technology companies in several different areas, including market research, retail and loyalty schemes within football. One of these being RealityMine, a software solution that uses big data to help brands better understand consumer behaviour.
In addition to this, I’m part of the advisory board which oversees the activity of the Hub and the entrepreneurs we’re working with. It’s a great way to keep in touch with the local business community in Greater Manchester. Hopefully my contribution can help see Manchester grow in some way.
Why do you mentor?
Of course, it’s good to try and help other people. I think businesses can gain so much from working with other entrepreneurs who have experience of running a company, and talking about the good decisions and inevitably the mistakes they have made along the way. This isn’t the sort of stuff they teach at school, although perhaps it should be.
It’s also good to give something back. There is a real sense of gratification working with people who value what you’ve got to say, especially when you can then see they’ve taken this advice on board and it’s made a difference to the company’s growth and performance.
How do you describe your mentoring style?
I try to be very facilitative. I see it as a bit like coaching – you don’t want to give people all the answers. It’s much better for the mentees to think about things and find the solutions for themselves.
You’ve got to be a good listener but also able to ask the right questions at the right time and encourage people to volunteer what they think they should do.
The bigger the challenge the better for me, because I have to raise my game to help the mentee. The Hub sends me wherever they feel my experience can help a company, anywhere in Greater Manchester. Obviously I’m in technology but the last company I mentored were working in ecology and landscaping. But I think mixing things up like that can lead to the best results.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see business owners make and how could they be avoided?
It’s often a classic case of people trying to run before they can walk and not having planned a strategy for growth. I see a lot of people going into things with an attitude of: “it will be fine,” whereas I would take the approach of: “Yes it will be fine, because I’ve planned it.”
If you go into something with an achievable plan then you’ve got a far greater chance of being successful.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by brilliant people; I take something away from most people I meet. Alongside that I’m inspired by my parents, wife, kids and friends.
What advice do you give to growing business owners?
People often get too attached to an idea. You’ve got to be objective, not emotional. You’ve got to see the value in something, and think about who would want it and who would buy it, and not be blinkered by the fact you think it’s wonderful.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
I take inspiration from all kinds of things.
“If I had 9 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first 6 sharpening my axe” – Abraham Lincoln
“Don’t trust anyone that doesn’t like The Beatles”….
What advice would you give to new mentors or someone considering becoming a mentor?
If you’ve got a bit of time, you’ve made good business decisions and you feel you can pass some of this experience on to others, then it’s a very worthwhile thing to do.
Discover more about the Business Growth Hub Mentoring scheme on our dedicated mentoring page. Here, you can apply to become a mentor or register to be matched with the mentor that's right for you.