Getting to know you: Chris Searson, Chair of Smart Cookie

What do you currently do?
I’m Chairman of Smart Cookie. We find creative solutions and break through ways for brands to engage their customers. This includes producing breath-taking CGI imagery, touchscreens and state of the art video. We are the UK’s top specialist 3D production company.

What is your inspiration in business?
I’m passionate about two things; finding break through ways of engaging customers and helping businesses succeed. I saw the opportunities provided by the internet earlier than most and making the best use of digital media became a real passion of mine. I was one of the first people to understand the advantages of compressing the online order process in the early 2000s and improved the conversion rate on Interflora’s website from 12% to 47%.

Who do you admire?
Anyone who is brave enough and energetic enough to set up their own business. And the boss at my first agency, Tim Warsop. Tim and I went onto work together many times, often as clients of the other and we now work together at Smart Cookie where Tim is Finance Director. During our time at Smart Cookie the company have delivered a leap in turnover from just over £1m to an anticipated £3.2m this year.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
Not since I was a child, and even then it was the best lesson I ever had in business. I started my career in commerce at aged just eight when I sold sweets from my front garden, without any success. I quickly realised that I had the wrong product for the wrong audience learning a valuable lesson about consumer demographics, so came up with the idea of bringing pencils to school to sell to my classmates (who kept forgetting theirs and getting told off by the teacher). I did a roaring trade.

What defines your way of doing business?
For me it is all about people. Smart Cookie are regarded so highly across the World because we manage to attract the most talented people to work for us who then produce outstanding work that really excites our clients.

As a manager I look at the attitudes of people, rather than their skills set and work with the same people in many different companies.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Contrary to popular belief (fuelled by TV shows like Dragons Den and The Apprentice) having a great idea is the easy bit. The challenge is making a successful profitable business out of that idea. It often needs a different set of skills and it always means close attention to what many entrepreneurs see as ‘the boring bit’. If you don’t have those skills bring someone in who does, otherwise even the best idea can lose you a lot of money.