Interview: The Superior Software Years and the Future
Richard Hanson was interviewed
by Crispin Boylan (E4W) during Easter 1998.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Will you begin by telling me how you
first got involved with computers and software?
>From my youth I've been interested in mathematics and computers, and I decided
to take a B.Sc. degree in Mathematics at the University of Leeds. Home
computers were just starting to become available at that time; they were
relatively expensive and very limited by today's standards. I gradually became
more interested in computers, and switched degree course in my first-year at
university to a B.Sc. in Computational Science.
The university courses provided a wide knowledge of programming techniques and
methods. That knowledge later proved to be very useful to me in many ways when
I was running Superior Software.
While I was at university I bought my first home computer, an Acorn Atom, which
was the forerunner to Acorn's BBC Microcomputer. I wrote some games and other
software for the Acorn Atom using Basic and a 6502 assembler, and 17 of my
games and utilities were published by a Leeds-based software publisher called
Program Power, which subsequently became known as Micro Power. Later I bought
one of the first BBC Micros and wrote some games and utility software for that
When did you form Superior Software, and what made you decide to get into the
I formed Superior Software in the summer of 1982 after completing my degree,
and my first business partner was another graduate, John Dyson, who worked for
the BBC in Leeds. I decided to set up in business because the software that I'd
written for Micro Power had been commercially successful, and I felt confident
that I would be able to manage the other aspects involved in running the
How did you go about setting up Superior Software and getting games for the new
company? What was the initial reaction when Superior Software emerged into the
BBC Micro marketplace?
Superior Software's first four games were published in the autumn of 1982; I
wrote three of those games, and John Dyson wrote the other one. We set up
Superior Software with just 100 - John and I each put 50 into a company bank
account; and we placed a small black-and-white advertisement in one of the
early home computer magazines - I think our first advertisement appeared in a
magazine called Computing Today. All of our initial software was sold on
cassette because very few BBC Micro owners had disk drives in those days. Apart
from the cost of our computers, which we would have bought anyway, 100 was the
most money that we would lose from the Superior Software venture if it had not
Anyway we received a very good response to our first advertisement, and the
software sales which it generated covered the cost of the advertisement several
times over. We started to place larger advertisements in a few magazines, and
invited other programmers to send their software to us for evaluation and
possible marketing by us.
Who thought of the name Superior Software?
That was my idea. Some key considerations for brandnames are memorability,
snappiness and alliteration: Superior Software gave us a golden identity, and
something to live up to. I've sometimes said that I might have chosen another
name, but all in all I'm happy with that choice.
What was the first major success that Superior Software had? What were your
feelings when it happened?
Our first big success came in the autumn of 1983, when we received some large
distributor orders for about 10 of our games. I was very pleased and relieved
by this success; a great deal of hard work had gone into building the company
up to reach this stage.
By that time John Dyson had left the company because he enjoyed his work for
the BBC and didn't want to join Superior Software on a full-time basis. Steve
Botterill, a friend from schooldays, joined me before John Dyson left.
In the early days, who were your main competitors? How did you get on with your
Our main competitors in the early days were Acornsoft and Micro Power, and both
of those companies produced some technically accomplished games. Another
software publisher that came on the scene with some very good games was a
company called Software Invasion. Those four companies pushed against the
technical capabilities of the BBC Micro, and each company would regularly bring
out new landmark games.
I didn't see very much of the Acornsoft management at that time, but I
occasionally met the Micro Power and Software Invasion management, and
everything was quite convivial. Although the four companies were in
competition, we didn't abuse the professional relationships.
In particular, I've always got on well with Bob Simpson, the Managing Director
of Micro Power, and we've shared a mutual respect for one another. Bob was one
of the first people in the UK to appreciate that home computer software was
going to become a very big profitable industry. As I mentioned earlier in the
interview, I had written some game and utilities for the Acorn Atom which Micro
Power marketed while I was at university. I then wrote a further six games and
utilities for the BBC Micro when it first appeared and I offered those to Micro
Power for marketing. Shortly afterwards, I decided that I would set up my own
business. When I told Bob Simpson about this, he asked me whether Micro Power
could still publish the six titles that I had submitted to him. There had been
no agreements signed for them at that stage, and the those six titles would
have been a tremendous start for Superior Software, but I told Bob that he
could publish them. So our first conversation as competitors was gentlemanly,
and that's how our relationship continued. A few years later Bob said to me: "I
take my hat off to you," after Superior Software had surpassed Micro Power on
the software publishing front. It was a very kind compliment.
When was it that you first realised how much of a popularity Superior Software
had with BBC Micro owners, and how was that popularity reflected in Superior
Software's overall chart performances?
Well, from the beginning I'm pleased to say that we've received many
complimentary letters from customers and it soon became clear that people
appreciated our software. All the same it was good to see that confirmed by the
software charts. Gallup produced a weekly software chart, and one memorable
week in January 1987 Superior Software's games were placed at positions 1, 2, 3
and 9 in the BBC Micro software chart; the top slot was filled by Repton 3,
which held the number 1 position for 12 weeks, finally being overtaken by
At the start of May 1987, Superior Software's titles occupied all of the top 5
positions in the chart:
BBC Micro Software Top 10
2nd May 1987
1 Grand Prix Construction Set - Superior Software
2 Ravenskull - Superior Software
3 Stryker's Run - Superior Software
4 Superior Collection Volume 2 - Superior Software
5 Superior Collection Volume 1 - Superior Software
6 Cholo - Firebird
7 Micro Power MagicMicro Power
8 Repton 3 - Superior Software
9 Mini Office 2 - Database
10 Winter Olympics - Tynesoft
So it was evident that Superior Software games were very popular with BBC Micro
owners, and we were very grateful for their continued support.
Why do you think that Superior Software has been so successful and has lasted
so long? Do you think it is due to the way in which it has been run, the games
it has produced, or some over reason?
I think there are several reasons:
Primarily it has been teamwork. Apart from me, there are literally hundreds of
other people who have contributed to Superior Software's success in some way.
The quality of our software, including attention to detail in the software, has
always been of great importance. We had to reject many submitted games and
utilities that didn't reach a high enough standard, and our software has always
been carefully checked prior to release. A bug would rarely creep through the
net, and comparatively our overall record is very good.
Customer service has also been a key feature for Superior Software. For
example, I knew from my own experience that when I ordered an item by
mail-order I didn't want to have to wait three or four weeks before I received
the item. So we have always prided ourselves on despatching orders promptly,
and usually we have been able to despatch our software on the same day that it
was ordered by a customer.
Respect for our customers is also important. When I first started in this
business, I remember visiting another software company where the Managing
Director forthrightly told me that they had advertised some software for a
newly-released computer, and those advertisements had appeared in the computer
magazines before the software company had even received the new computer let
alone written any software for it. It was a kind of scam against their
customers; I'm not implying that they didn't publish the advertised game - they
did, but months after their advertisements had first appeared in the computer
magazines. We have never used those kind of practices. Of course they may bring
short-term financial gains, but they also tend to generate long-term customer
Integrity and honesty are major factors, particularly where financial
transactions are involved. We've always paid invoices promptly, and Superior
Software has never had an overdraft at any stage during its existence. We've
particularly prided ourselves on our fair dealings with our computer
programmers; we had programmers dotted all around the country with most of our
programmers working from home, so it was very important to them that they were
dealing with a company they could trust.
I asked a few of our programmers whether they would give me some feedback that
I could put in a new programmer recruitment advertisement in 1987. We included
some programmers' comments in that advertisement, including this one from Chris
Roberts, one of our programmers who later went on to manage his own software
company in the USA: "I used to work for another software house, and I never got
to speak to any of the directors nor anyone with any major influence within the
company. At Superior Software, I deal directly with the Managing Director.
Perhaps more importantly, just six weeks after the release of Stryker's Run I
received my first royalty cheque which amounted to more than 5000, whereas
obtaining my royalties due from the other company was like getting blood out of
a stone; it took several months of nagging and chasing before they paid me the
money they owed me."
That was a familiar story which I'd heard from many other programmers; my first
business partner John Dyson had been ripped off by that same software company.
Right from the start, we resolved to pay royalties promptly and treat everyone
with fairness and integrity.
In answering my previous question, you said that teamwork has been a prime
factor in the company's success. Will you tell me about some of the people who
have been on the Superior Software team?
Yes, I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who has played a part in
Superior Software's success:
First and foremost, my parents have been major influences in many respects. My
father, who sadly died last year, was always very encouraging and showed by
example the benefits that honesty and integrity generate; that applies to life
generally of course, not just to business. My mother has helped in many
practical ways, including testing some of the early games, and has demonstrated
again by example the importance of good financial management. They were very
pleased and supportive when I steered Superior Software within five years from
nothing to a business approaching a 1 million turnover.
John Dyson wrote three of our early games, and his parents allowed their home
to be used as Superior Software's first business venue and trading address.
Steve Botterill played a major role in two spells of employment with Superior
Software. One aspect is that he showed good skill at implementation; to put it
in a nutshell, Steve got things done.
Chris Payne worked with me as a Marketing Manager, and his knowledge of
marketing - he has a degree in the subject - assisted Superior Software to grow
rapidly from a small company to a much larger one. In terms of the company's
financial progress, his knowledge was an enormous contribution.
Mike Ellis was responsible for the artwork and design elements in Superior
Software's packaging and advertising. In working with him over many years, one
particular attribute has been his great reliability - even when he was working
to some very tight deadlines that I gave him.
One of my brothers, Steven Hanson, has run Superior Software during its later
years, and he has kept up the company's traditions of software reliability and
good customer relations. Partly due to cutting the overheads, Superior Software
has survived longer than the vast majority of companies in this field. Steven
was very supportive to me in the early years while I was building up the
Considering computer programmers, games developers, company staff and other
workers, there are so many that have played a part in Superior Software's
success. Again I'd like to thank all of them, and I'll mention some of the key
Peter Scott was a prolific and very skilful programmer, writing games such as
Superior Soccer, and our conversions of Sim City and Ballistix. Another
prolific author, Peter Johnson, wrote Overdrive, Space Pilot, Deathstar and six
other games. Tim Tyler wrote Repton and Repton 2, and designed some of the
levels for Repton 3. David Braben, Ian Bell, Kevin Edwards, David Hoskins,
Peter Irvin, Jeremy Smith, Jonathan Griffiths, Martin Edmondson, Richard Kay,
Matthew Atkinson, Tony Oakden, David Lawrence, David Acton, Ian Holmes, William
Reeve, Chris Roberts, Gary Partis, Nick Pelling, Graham Stanley, John Wallace,
Adrian Stephens, James Woodhouse, Mark Botterill and Rob Northern have all put
in substantial work on the development of Superior Software's titles.
Two names which may not be well known to our customers are Chris Hart and Dave
Carlos, both of whom have been important to Superior Software's success. Chris
Hart ensured that our software worked across the entire range of BBC Micro and
Acorn Electron computers; that was sometimes a very complex task, but Chris
handled it with tremendous skill and alacrity. Dave Carlos has contributed in
many ways in areas as diverse as software copy protection and product
In 1986 Superior Software obtained the rights to republish some of Acornsoft
games. What was the main thinking behind that: were you looking for another
name to consolidate Superior Software's market position, or were you motivated
by lucrative Acornsoft games, such as Elite? With hindsight do you wish you had
published Elite originally?
Acorn Computers approached Superior Software and some other software companies
in 1986 because Acorn largely wanted to concentrate its activities on hardware
rather than software. The Acornsoft label and software were worth obtaining for
two main reasons: (a) Acornsoft and Acorn Computers were implicitly associated
with the BBC Micro as manufacturers of the computer, and (b) Acornsoft had
produced some very good software such as Elite, Revs, and some of their early
The Acornsoft contract could easily have gone to one of our competitors, and I
felt it was very important that we gained this contract, so I designed a
detailed and sophisticated business plan which we presented to Acorn. They
decided to award the contract to us - however there was a potential difficulty:
originally Acorn wanted us to republish most of their extensive range of games
software. I thought that this would be detrimental to both parties because
although Acornsoft had published some top-selling games, they had also
published some fairly esoteric minority-market software as well. We talked this
over, and eventually it was agreed that Superior Software would republish
Acornsoft's most popular games.
Regarding David Braben and Ian Bell, the co-authors of Elite: I would have been
delighted to have published Elite when it first appeared in 1984. However, at
that stage Superior Software had not risen to great prominence, so
understandably David and Ian did not originally offer the game to us. I was
pleased to republish Elite under the joint Superior Software / Acornsoft label
in 1986, and we achieved good sales figures for the game in its re-released
form. David and Ian created a top quality game, and have deservedly earned a
considerable amount of money from Elite, which has been published by several
companies in many computer and console formats.
How many games and other software titles have Superior Software published in
We've published over 100 games and utilities of our own, and we've republished
about 40 of the best games originally published by other companies.
What have been Superior Software's top-selling titles?
The Repton range of games has been the biggest selling series for us. There
were seven BBC Micro titles in the Repton series, and the cumulative sales are
over 125,000 units.
After the initial success of Repton, our customers were repeatedly asking us
for more so we kept producing Repton sequels. I still receive enquiries from
people asking whether there will be any more Repton games. I know you want to
discuss some of my future plans later in the interview, so I'll come back to
I think Repton is the kind of game that appeals to many people who would not
usually play computer games; it's a brain teaser rather than being one of those
games that just require dexterity and quick reactions.
Away from games, our software-based speech synthesiser called SPEECH! was a big
success, and a rewarding technical accomplishment for us. It also gave us our
first major television exposure, when SPEECH! received a glowing review by Fred
Harris on BBC TV's Saturday Superstore programme. It's always very gratifying
to receive that kind of unbiased praise for our software.
There were about 50 other titles which achieved good sales figures, including
Elite, Overdrive, Tempest, Citadel, Karate Combat, Thrust, Galaforce,
Ravenskull, Stryker's Run, Crazee Rider, The Last Ninja, Predator, Ballistix,
Sim City, Revs, Quest, Spycat, Exile, Superior Soccer, Ricochet, and
You mentioned The Last Ninja. That game was originally published by Activision
for other computers, and it was one of several games which Superior Software
published for the BBC Micro after the original version had been published by
another company. Was that your idea, or did another company approach Superior
Software with that idea? What was the thinking behind those business
It was my idea. It was becoming increasing difficult for other companies to
publish BBC Micro games because the companies needed to have considerable
knowledge of the compatibility issues surrounding the BBC Micro. There were
four major versions of BBC Micro available - the BBC B, the BBC B+, the BBC
Master, and the BBC Master Compact - together with the related Acorn Electron
mputer. Not only that, but Acorn had produced several different versions of
the BBC Micro operating system and two versions of BBC Basic, which was often
used as a shell for some of the games. So it was often a complicated task to
ensure that a new BBC Micro game would function correctly across that whole
range of computers and operating systems.
I looked at some of the successful games that had been published for other
computers, and we started to contact those publishers to ask if they would like
us to create BBC Micro and Acorn Electron versions of their games. We offered
to pay them royalties or an outright payment, and not surprisingly most of the
companies we approached were agreeable as it provided them with extra income
and entailed very little extra work for them. It was a good symbiotic
relationship in commercial terms because they received payments from us, while
we obtained rights to some well known games that had already achieved
prominence due to the marketing of the other versions of the games.
In my opinion Exile is the best BBC Micro game ever published. How did you make
it so good?
Thank you. Exile is certainly a brilliant piece of programming work, and the
game's two programmers, Peter Irvin and Jeremy Smith, must take most of the
credit for that. Separately they had previously written Starship Command and
Thrust respectively; as very experienced programmers they seemed to be able to
take the BBC Micro right to the edge of its capabilities.
Many of the games, including Exile, had prize competitions for players who
completed challenges in the games. Whose idea was it to have prize competitions
associated with some of Superior Software's games, and were those prizes always
That was one of Chris Payne's promotional ideas. Some of the prizes were quite
substantial; for example, a 500 sports moped was the first prize in our Crazee
Rider game; and I'm sure the prize competition was a very worthwhile
promotional feature for our major games. Yes, we always awarded the prizes that
we described, and we were careful to deter cheating by using mechanisms such as
encoding messages within the games.
What is your favourite Superior Software game, excluding those games that had
originally been published by other companies?
It is definitely one of the Repton games, although it's hard to say which one I
prefer; if I have to choose just one, I'll go for Repton 3.
Do you still own and play any of the old Superior Software games?
I think I have all of our published games, plus a few that didn't make it to
publication. An unusual game called Jeremy Goes Jumping is probably the one
that was closest to publication, but it didn't quite make the grade. A few
people have seen a basic demonstration version of a Peter Johnson game called
VTOL; in fact, VTOL only exists in demonstration form because the game itself
was abandoned before completion. I occasionally play some of the old games,
particularly when friends ask to see the games.
There are plenty of humourous touches in some of the Superior Software games.
Which game do you think is the most amusing game among those you have seen from
Superior Software and other companies?
That's not so easy to answer. Many of the Superior Software games have comical
elements, such as the monkeys in Exile, and some of the scenarios in Spycat.
Of course a game doesn't need to be complex to be absorbing and fun-to-play.
For example, Micro Power published a little game called Sheepdog for the Nascom
computer, which was one of the earliest home computers in the UK. Bob Simpson
showed me the game and invited me to produce an Acorn Atom version of the game,
and I agreed. The Acorn Atom version had to be simple too because: (a) for
speed of conversion I was writing the game in Basic, and (b) the Acorn Atom was
quite limited in its capabilities - its output was fundamentally
black-and-white and sounds were restricted to a single simple tone generator.
Although Sheepdog was quite basic, nevertheless it was a humourous and
sometimes challenging game.
The same applies to Repton in comparison with some of the recent
graphically-advanced software that is available for the games consoles.
Computers and games consoles have certainly leapt forward in terms of the
graphical capabilities, but that factor alone doesn't lead to the games being
more fun to play. Speaking again of Repton, that's a game that frequently
creates a lot of laughter; some of the alternative ideas which we devised for
the Repton sequels, such as Repton Thru Time, are often greeted with
incredulity when the player meets them for the first time.
I don't know which is the most amusing game I've seen; there are so many games
that can make people laugh at times. Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers and
Psygnosis's Lemmings are definitely contenders.
Do you long for the Superior Software days of old, or just want to forget them?
Those days were often enjoyable, and sometimes very challenging as well. I'm
happy with the software we published: some of our games continue to be played
today, and I think Elite and Repton will still be enjoyed in 100 years' time.
While I'm sure I'll never forget some of the significant moments, I'm now
looking forward to new challenges.
As a computer, how do you rate the BBC Micro compared to the PC of today - I
don't mean in terms of power, but as a development medium? How much of a
following do you think the BBC Micro still has?
One of the virtues of the BBC Micro is that it is relatively easy for novices
to use for creating some software of their own. The manual supplied with the
BBC Micro explains initial steps in programming, and it's clearly written.
Immediately a beginner can type in a few lines of Basic and write a real
program - a simple program perhaps, but nevertheless a start.
The PC has gradually improved over the years, and Windows 95 was a major and
much-needed step forward in my view. In terms of software development, I think
the choice depends on the particular software which is being developed. Clearly
the BBC Micro now has some limitations compared to modern PCs, but it remains a
very useful learning base.
There are still a substantial number of people who, at least occasionally, use
their BBC Micros for games or programming. Some people have suggested that the
appeal of the early home computers will be sustained and possibly increase,
partly for nostalgic reasons. That may well be so; there seems to be a great
deal of nostalgia around, and the "progress" of recent years has surely had its
drawbacks as well as its benefits.
How do you think the software games industry has changed since Superior
Clearly the graphics, sound and processing capabilities of the computers and
consoles have increased by leaps and bounds, although the games themselves are
not necessarily more enjoyable or challenging purely because of that. There are
definitely some very good new games around, but many games seem to be re-worked
versions of old ideas. Considerably more money is often spent on the
development and marketing of new games nowadays.
The graphics in recent games are visually more realistic and lifelike, and that
factor brings with it greater responsibilities for the games producers and
publishers. For example, it's now possible to depict seemingly very lifelike
human torture scenes and massacres in computer and console games. The
responsibilities of games producers are similar to the kind of responsibilities
that film producers have, but perhaps games producers face more complex
decisions because games involve greater interaction. Usually the viewers of a
film cannot affect the storyline and scenes of the film they are watching; but
computer game players are able to interact with the programs, so a computer
game can approach reality in a way that a film cannot. Computer game players
may sometimes get close to feeling those real emotions they would experience if
they were actually killing another human being.
It's all a question of balance of course. I remember a few years ago an MP
proposed that the Tom & Jerry cartoons were unfit for children to see because
of some of the violent scenes in the cartoons. Well, I think the vast majority
of people, including children, can fairly readily appreciate the difference
between real violence and cartoon violence, so I don't tend to agree with that
MP's view. However, some modern computer graphics are photo-realistic and often
depict humans rather than imaginary cartoon-style characters. It's been said
that dramatic films simply mirror society, but there have been some extreme
films that have shown entirely fictional gross acts of torture created by the
scriptwriter's mind, and dramatic licence used in films sometimes effectively
distorts by focusing on the specific without regard for the whole. Major film
producers have the power to insidiously affect society as well as just
mirroring society; that power, and the responsibility which it engenders, is
increasingly being put in the hands of games producers now.
Would you describe your major strength and major weakness as a businessman?
That's the kind of question that is often used in job interviews nowadays.
Well, I'll do my best to give you a straightforward reply:
I have a good analytical and financial business brain; I'm a very good
financial manager. The logical, analytical reasoning required to construct
complex computer programs frequently comes in useful to enable me to quickly
analyse day-to-day business situations and make good financial decisions.
My major weakness is that I have sometimes been too soft with people on
occasions when it would have been preferable to have exerted my authority
Could you give me an example to illustrate those two aspects?
Well, an example comes to mind regarding Acorn Electron disk software, but it
would be churlish to go into detail because it involves a colleague who worked
with me at the time.
What aspect has given you the greatest satisfaction while running Superior
The gratifying comments that we've received from customers about our software
and our service. The customers are always the final judges; and the
complimentary letters, phone calls and e-mail messages that we've received from
them over the years have been very rewarding.
What forthcoming projects and ideas do you have? Will there be anything with a
Superior Software badge on it, or is your other company, Utopia Software, the
way forward for you? Can we expect to see a reunion Superior Software game for
the BBC Micro's 20th anniversary in 2001?
In some respects a 20th anniversary game for the BBC Micro sounds appealing,
but the remaining BBC Micro software market is now very small. There may be
some possibilities in the area of BBC Micro emulation on the PC, although I
haven't yet seen a high quality, reliable, and easy-to-use emulator. If a
suitable emulator becomes available, that could represent a new way forward for
BBC Micro software.
The good news for people who love Repton is that a PC conversion of Repton 3 is
in progress. At this stage I'm not sure when the conversion will be finished,
but I expect that all of the 144 levels from Repton 3 and the three sequels
will be made available. It's envisaged that the PC version of Repton 3 will
carry the Superior Software brandname, and I hope to be able to publish some
new levels, which would be our first new Repton 3 levels for 10 years. I should
stress that all of this is provisional, and depends upon the progress made by
the developer. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who might like to
be involved in designing some of the new Repton 3 levels, or programmers who
might be interested in converting other BBC Micro games into PC versions. To
contact me, my e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have plenty of ideas for other PC software products; first it will be
important to gauge the response that Repton 3 generates in its PC form. My
plans for Superior Software and Utopia Software mainly revolve around the PC
and the Internet now, although of course I will always have a soft spot for the
Finally, what would you say to budding entrepreneurs who are thinking of
setting up their own businesses?
There are some comments I can make based upon my own experiences:
1.Before you get involved in business, speak to some people who already have
their own businesses, and ask them to tell you openly about the drawbacks as
well as the benefits. It seems that many prospective businessmen and
businesswomen often tend to see the rewards without fully realising the hard
work and dedication that most businesses require. By all means consider getting
into business, but go in with your eyes open and seek out a full panoramic
2.Integrity and honesty in business are paramount considerations. It's
certainly possible to make money by cheating, manipulating and misleading
people; but can money made in that way really be enjoyed by the rogue
entrepreneur? Look at two well-known businessmen, Robert Maxwell and Richard
Branson: two men who created considerable wealth in different ways. Robert
Maxwell, who had a business empire, died in 1991 - after deceiving and fiddling
money from pension funds. Did Robert Maxwell look happy and contented with his
life in the later years?
In contrast, consider Richard Branson with his enthusiasm and zest for life. He
is widely acknowledged as being a trustworthy and honest person, and his
rewarding legal cases against British Airways and GTECH demonstrate his
committed views against deceit and bribery.
One of the 20th century's leading business tycoons, Lee Iacocca, said: "I have
found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell
people what you're trying to accomplish and what you're willing to sacrifice to
accomplish it." When I mention integrity and honesty, I'm sometimes asked
whether I have always been honest and fair in business. Well, my record of
integrity is comparatively high - ask anyone who has worked with me - but I
have definitely fallen short at times. Never has that been beneficial to me in
the long run; it may have resulted in a very short-term transitory gain, but
always a long-term loss.
3.Look at your potential business from the viewpoint of what you are going to
give - the products or services you will provide - in preference to what you
are intending to receive from the business. You are far less likely to succeed
if you approach business with a money-grabbing, insincere attitude. I think it
was the American business coach, Napoleon Hill, who said: "If you don't look
after your customers, someone else will."
4.Preferably base your business around what you enjoy doing. After all, if your
business proves to be successful, you may be spending many years in your chosen
business field so it's important to be happy in your work. If you don't really
enjoy creating the products or services you're providing, it will often show
through to your customers in terms of lack of quality in the products or
services, and they will tend to avoid your business in the long run.
5.Be cautious about getting involved in business with family or friends. First
and foremost, working together in business can sometimes be highly detrimental
to those personal relationships.
The business environment is often quite different to the social environment:
critical decisions, sometimes very harsh ones, frequently have to be made in
business; and business management is seldom easy. Understandably a member of
the family or a friend may have more difficulty in accepting your managerial
decisions than another employee would. Provided there is a totally clear and
precise understanding of the working relationship, it may succeed - assuming of
course that everyone involved keeps to that understanding. However, people and
circumstances change, so that understanding can rarely remain static.
6.Put agreements down in writing. For major agreements I think it's important
to have a solicitor at least oversee the agreement, but many agreements do not
necessarily need the involvement of a solicitor; just a very simple written
statement signed by everyone involved can be a great help. Two people involved
in a verbal conversation will later tend to have different recollections of
their conversation - sometimes their recollections will be widely different -
and this differentiation effect increases as time passes.
Writing down agreements has three other benefits: (a) it serves to clarify what
is being agreed because we have to decide how to express the concept clearly in
writing; (b) the process of writing down the concept will sometimes spark off
new business ideas or possibilities; (c) a written agreement helps to
discourage fraud, although it's thankfully relatively uncommon. If fraud occurs
despite having the written agreement, the agreement makes it more likely that
the case can be proven and due compensation received.
7.Have great respect for risk. Business is frequently about risk-taking since
we can rarely be sure of the outcome that will result from a particular
business decision. Good business management involves controlled risk-taking:
assess the options, estimate the gain from each option, and evaluate the risks
associated with each option before making a major decision.
It's often best to start small and build your business on your profits. I know
of several businesses where the proprietors put considerable money into their
businesses, sometimes even borrowing money by re-mortgaging their houses, only
to see their businesses quickly fail. A business venture is an exciting
prospect for many new entrepreneurs, and their vision sometimes becomes
distorted by a kind of false optimism or rose-coloured glasses. There's
certainly no point in being pessimistic about a new enterprise, but look at
everything rationally and realistically - do some serious "what if?" thinking.
For example, many shopkeepers see their profits decline when a new large
supermarket or chain store opens nearby. If you are considering setting up your
own shop, it's naive to ignore those possibilities - that might seem obvious,
but some people do that.
Research carefully before you commit any money to a new business, and take
limited risks at each stage of expansion.
Thank you for answering my questions.
You're very welcome. I hope that reading about some of my experiences will be
useful to other people.
Copyright Richard Hanson, Crispin Boylan 1998.