small business advice 2019 mike cockfield

Mike Cockfield founded Khaos Control in 2000 with a vision of a software product that would surpass all rivals for quality and value. Having assembled a valued team of fellow visionaries, Mike is now able to focus on the future progression of the Khaos family of products…but where did it all start?

Why did you start your business?

I think when starting a business, we need to address a need in the marketplace. For a service company, it goes a little further, in that you must be able to solve a perceived problem and/or add value to help your customers achieve their goals. The “why” of starting a business is probably the most important step. You are going to be “stuck” with your creation for a considerable amount of time, so nailing the reason for doing it is an important first step. Knowing that your business is something you are going to be passionate about it is probably just as important as the more practical reasons. If you can’t love it, you will end up hating it.

How did you manage your time when you first started?

The first couple of years were okay as it was just me alone in my bedroom coding a new software package. I had financial security from working in the contract world for almost a decade, so I didn’t have to worry too much – despite just starting a family. It got a lot trickier in years 2 to 5 as my family jumped from one dependant to 4 quite quickly; with the advent of twins closely followed by another addition. Looking after a new business with, what was now, 3 employees and having 4 very young children was a challenging time, to say the least.
However, it comes back to passion and belief. You can push through most hardships if you believe in what you’re doing and can see the benefit you are bringing to the wider world.

In terms of time management, I’ve always found that the adage, “if you want something doing, ask a busy person”, is true. Busy people have developed efficient ways of doing tasks, have practice to-do lists and are able to quickly switch between jobs, giving each their full focus in turn. My advice: practice being busy and stressed and come up with mechanisms for dealing with them, rather than trying to avoid them. Meditation and mindfulness can also help here as it makes it possible to know you are in a managed state of stress and allows you to manage your thoughts, which especially helps when you are dealing with other people that are not in the same headspace; just don’t forget to de-stress at the end of each day!

What were the biggest hurdles you faced?

My biggest business hurdles were that I had a need to understand everything! I had to do every job, from support, training, sales, marketing, development, accounts and of course management. I felt that if I didn’t understand how to do each job then I couldn’t direct people to do those jobs in the future. It was a big hurdle, but one that I still think paid dividends in the end. Thank goodness that I no longer have to do payroll by hand though!

If Khaos Control didn’t exist…what do you think you’d be doing?

Good question. The hypothetical world in which this question is based, would very much depend on whether I knew then what I know now! Without Khaos Control, which has been the focus of all of that passion and belief, I don’t think I would have done much with my life, if I’d not gone that path 19 years ago. Knowing what I know now, had Khaos Control not happened, then I would not have needed it to make my life meaningful and productive, but that’s almost a moot point, I guess. Life is a journey and we all have to enjoy the ride and I’m very thankful for Khaos Control and the way my purpose has been guided by it – I wouldn’t change it, because as Richard Branson would say, it represented an opportunity and my good fortune was to recognise it, seize it, develop it further and make it my own.

Best piece of advice for someone new to business?

Gain knowledge! This is especially true when we start out – we simply don’t know what we don’t know. YouTube was not what it is today, 19 years ago, but now it’s a world full of knowledge from the most passionate people in the world. Gaining knowledge from the internet will save you years and lots of money. It will prevent you from making mistakes that can easily be avoided. More knowledge inspires more ideas – ideas that you could not have come up with before, as you did not have the framework or concepts to imagine them.

If I could sneak in another piece of advice, which comes from my many years of observing my customers, it’s this: get a software system such as Khaos Control Cloud embedded into your business as early as possible so that it can bring structure to your growth. Too many businesses struggle for too long thinking they are saving money, when if fact they are wasting money on mistakes and hindering their growth. I could say this is not a sales pitch, but it obviously is! However, it does not invalidate the point – I firmly believe the right software frees the business up from the mundane so that it can concentrate on the creative and the future!