Getting To Know You: Louise Richley, MD, Beyond Digital Solutions

What do you currently do?
I’m MD of Beyond Digital Solutions Ltd. We provide digital communication solutions for companies wishing to communicate in a dynamic and innovative way with their audience. This could be providing digital signage at the point of sale in an automotive dealership, or providing ways for companies to communicate corporate messages and KPI’s to their employees.

We are digital communication integrators and work with a range of well known hardware and software providers to source the right solution to meet the customer need. Our solution is ‘end to end’ from initial consultancy to in house creative design and ongoing service level support.

We work with customers in many sectors from blue chip companies to SME’s. We currently have systems in Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Yell, GSK, Bourne Leisure and Hilton Hotels.

What is your inspiration in business?
Creating something that solves problems for customers, implementing the right solution and then seeing it work. I get my biggest buzz from offering fantastic customer service and then gaining repeat business because we have delivered so effectively. It also gives you so much confidence when you deliver the next pitch to a customer.

I also love employing the right people who learn new skills and grow with the company. I love employing new people, adding new skills to our customer offering and strengthening the company overall.

On a more personal note, I’ve also had a burning desire from my first memories of wanting to be independent. I’ve never wanted to have to rely on anyone. Although money is obviously important in this, that’s never been my primary aim. Building a successful, sustainable company where I can lead the way and learn from experience inspires me greatly.

Who do you admire?
Karren Brady – I’ve just read her autobiography and it’s really made me think. She has worked incredibly hard through the years and achieved so much through determination, calculated risk taking and effective strategies. She talks intelligently and insightfully on a range of issues, particularly in relation to changing the culture of a company from the ground up and sharing the vision with everyone.

Margaret Thatcher – yes, I know, controversial! But she was strong, decisive and a real leader. I’m not one for pushing the feminist line, but it’s important that women are seen in strong positions because they inspire other woman to have confidence to fill board rooms and positions of power. Margaret was a real trail blazer and I admire her courage, strength of mind and conviction.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
Where to start!! I’m very hands on and tend to micro-manage until I really trust people. I’m an absolute perfectionist so I always want to over-deliver for our customers. This is great on the one hand as I know what the team are doing and I can get involved in most situations and make the right call. The problem is that this makes it very difficult to be strategic and take a step back. I also have to work very long hours and weekends. The old phrase is right that I should spend time working on the business as well as working in it and with hindsight, I would schedule in some dedicated time off site with the right people to concentrate on strategy and where we are heading.

Other than that, yes, the list is endless!! Most of all, I would not have recruited people when my instinct told me it was wrong. I’ve been under pressure, convinced myself it would be ok and it never is!

What defines your way of doing business?
Straight forward, no corners cut and great customer service. I have had teams working overnight and weekends to meet deadlines and I won’t stop until it’s perfect. It’s really hard to get customers, particularly in a recession, so when you do, you need to impress them and secure repeat business.

I’m also a straight talker, you know exactly where you are with me and I think my passion translates throughout the whole business to focus on our customers.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
1. Sell sell sell!! It’s a cliché but you can keep busy for months setting up the bank account, designing websites and setting up processes, but it’s useless if you don’t demonstrate sales quickly. Get out there, sell your product and then worry about the rest – you can always raise money and increase resources with an order book in place.

2. Trust your gut instinct on everything – you can easily be talked out of it but every time I have, I regret it. Have confidence in yourself.

3. If you don’t know the answer, find out! You don’t look stupid if you don’t know the latest jargon or what the implications of signing a contract are when you are on the spot. Always make sure you know exactly what you are committing to.

4. Don’t recruit the wrong people out of pressure to fill a position – the right team is essential and you have to rely on others if your business is to grow. Recruitment is probably one of the hardest things to do but when it goes wrong, it’s a huge waste of time and can be difficult and expensive to rectify.