Sciencesoft founder on growing a business
Dr Lindsay Wood, co-founder and research/development director of Sciencesoft, answers the Incubator questions
How and why was the business formed?
My brother William and I are physics graduates from Strathclyde University and, after several years working outside Scotland, we both decided we’d like to pursue careers in our hometown of Glasgow. After looking at the limited job options for our skill sets we decided that the best way forward was to establish our own business specialising in state of the art 2D and 3D visualization software for the global oil and gas industry.
What do you do?
I am the research and development director and my role is to work with our highly skilled team of software engineers to identify, design and develop new software products that enable our clients in the petroleum and gas industry to simplify the way they work when analysing their oil and gas production.
Where did the funding come from and which organisations have supported the business?
Private individual sources from the outset. We’ve also had valuable support from Scottish Enterprise.
Who are the key people in the business?
Each of the 19-strong workforce has a key role to play. I work closely with my brother William who is sales and marketing director and spearheads our expansion strategy and my wife Dr Angela Wood who is Sciencesoft’s business development director. We’ve just appointed a new software development manager Richard Warnock who has a wealth of experience.
Alison Skimming is our office administration manager who keeps everything moving, which is essential with the international nature of our clients.
What is unique about what the company does? What has been the single biggest investment?
The high quality and specialist nature of the software we produce and our on-going customer support. We work hard at ensuring our client relationships are founded on the very best levels of service and care.
Without question our single biggest investment is our graduate workforce which is highly skilled. Most have PhDs and we’ve always worked with universities to source the highest calibre of candidate.
Has there been a key moment or turning point?
The release of our product S3GRAF in 2000, which rapidly became our flagship product, to the worldwide oil and gas industry. S3GRAF established us as a significant player and many of the world’s leading oil and gas companies adopted our products as standard.
What is the business plan and how does the company intend to grow?
Our business plan is focused on international sales growth and the introduction of new products. We’re on course to achieve annual sales this year of £3m with a profit of £1m. By 2014 we aim to increase sales to £10m.
We will achieve this by increasing our product portfolio in conjunction with doubling the size of our sales and R&D groups.
Do you have any non-executive directors, mentors or key advisors? Who are they?
We have two non-executive directors, Paul Neeson and Steve Tarr. Paul has been a major help in keeping us focused on our business journey. Steve is an HR expert and has helped us implement career structures that allow all members of staff to develop, both personally and professionally, along with this business.
Who are your key customers/what are your key markets?
We supply software products to 120 companies throughout the world. These customers are involved in the gas and oil production business and include several of the major household names in the industry.
Our sales team is constantly identifying potential new markets and will travel thousands of miles each year to develop new opportunities.
Does the company have international sales or does it intend to grow internationally?
Our export sales account for 90 per cent of our turnover.
What has been the best achievement so far?
The creation of a dynamic and creative workforce supporting our sales growth which, since 2002, have increased annually by 25 per cent. We were also very pleased to have our global business activities recognised earlier this year when we received The Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade.
What has been the biggest hurdle which has been overcome?
The international nature of our target market meant that we had to convince major oil and gas companies that we could support all of their operations irrespective of location. This could only be done by getting on a plane and travelling to where the software was needed.
How do you interact with the wider business community (networking etc)?
We attend major exhibitions and conferences focusing on the oil and gas industry and work with a network of overseas agents to liaise with potential new business links.
We’ve recently re-launched our website in an effort to reach out to a wider business community and our team uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
What will the next 12 months hold?
We have plans to increase our workforce by 100 per cent and to double the size of our business premises. We’ve already outgrown our existing headquarters so are looking for a bigger space.
Where do you want the business to be in 10 years time?
We are constantly setting the business new targets to work towards and by 2014 we want to have sales of £10m. If we can continue with that sales growth then we’ll have established Sciencesoft as a major world player in our market.
Sciencesoft currently supplies one world‐leading product line, but it aims to develop an additional four exciting new product lines in the next five years. So with the additional five years to share these with our markets we reckon we’re on course for world domination!
If you were given £1 million to invest in the company how would you use it?
Half would be allocated to develop new products in addition to those we already have on the drawing board and the rest would be used to increase our sales team both here in the UK and internationally.
What's the best part of running a business?
Seeing our employees develop – and especially identifying potential in some of the students who come to work as interns. We’ve employed two full time team members from our summer intern programme.
We work with universities all over the world and operate a software access system where undergraduates can use our software free of charge. Getting feedback from them and seeing the results of their own research is always very welcome.