David James, CEO of Hudman Solutions

In the latest TD interview, we catch up with David James, CEO of Hudman Solutions. Based in Cardiff, the company develops software solutions for manufacturing and engineering companies.

TD: Who are you, and what does your company do?

DJ: I’m an investor, occasional nerd, and current managing director of Hudman – a software company that specialises in cloud based ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software for manufacturing and engineering firms. I made an angel investment in the company in 2014 and joined as MD shortly after.

TD: Why was it set up, and are its aims?

DJ: The company was formed in 2005 by Paul Driscoll, a chartered management accountant with 25 years’ experience in the manufacturing sector. He was approached by a small manufacturer who desperately needed a software system to manage their stock, operations & accounts but they couldn’t afford the huge upfront costs normally associated with ERP software.

They were using Sage for their accounts, as well as a mixture of spreadsheets and manual processes but they were missing deadlines and their cash flow was suffering from inaccurate stock levels and poor production planning.

Paul enlisted the help of Ben Stephens (our technical director) and Hudman was born. Within 12 months, they had a cloud-based stock control & accounts system in place, which they began to offer to other clients. Since then the system has been developed into the full ERP system we have today

TD: How do you benefit customers?

DJ: The type of software we offer is normally only available to firms that are able to spend tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds up front. Our software is available for a monthly fee, and we also work alongside companies on a long term basis offering support and ongoing customisation.

We’re quite passionate about what we do, and we strongly believe that SMEs have been treated very badly by traditional business software providers, who have charged extortionate sums of money for poorly implemented software and terrible service.

Our aim is to bring great service back into the business software industry and to do away with the “cut and run” approach that many big players in the industry seem to enjoy.

TD: What things have you achieved since launching?

DJ: We’ve built up a great portfolio of UK clients across a wide range of industries. We have everything from boat manufacturers to construction firms, as well as a range of clients in the service sector e.g. book publishing and IT engineers.

We’ve achieved some significant milestones in our development, such as the introduction of “editions” which are suited to a range of industries within manufacturing and the service sector. Hudman was also awarded a Technology Innovation Award from the Chamber of Commerce in 2012 for our software and service.

TD: Personally, what’s been your biggest success and biggest obstacle?

DJ: I’m not one for sob stories, but my mum, sister, brother and I were homeless 20 years ago, and I started working at 15. It’s been an incredible uphill slog to get to where I am today, but I’m never satisfied and always push for more. Hopefully I’ll be able to look back in 30 years’ time and talk about success.

TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech sector?

DJ: I think the Welsh tech sector has a huge amount of potential, but we have suffered from a lack of skills and retention of talent. We have to focus on the best ways to retain graduates from Welsh universities, rather than losing them to London and Bristol.

This isn’t easy when salaries are lower in Wales, but one advantage that we do have over London is that the quality of life is so much better here. Fintech offers huge potential to the Welsh tech sector, and there are already a number of great fintech start-ups.

TD: Where will your company be in 5 years?

DJ: We are focused purely on growth for the next 5 years, and we are targeting the UK manufacturing sector as our primary market. We have already been approached by an overseas partner who is very keen to launch our products abroad, but we feel we have to continue to develop our UK business before we can consider expansion into other territories. We also plan to triple our workforce by 2019.

So the short answer is that we’ll have more clients, more staff and we will have developed our products even further in the next 5 years.  As you can see, we try not to get too carried away.

TD: What advice would you give to budding tech businesses?

DJ: Find your niche, offer realistic equity percentages to bring the right help on board and just keep ploughing on and on. Feel comfortable with making lots of mistakes. Never stop innovating. Take 5 minutes every day to ask yourself “why us” i.e. why people should choose you.

Look at partnerships and how partners can drive your growth. Tell people what you do, every day. Explore funding options, investors like Finance Wales love to back great ideas. Lead by example. Don’t let success change your work ethic and remember that just because you have a business card with “CEO” under your name, it doesn’t mean you’re the next Alan Sugar – only hard work and a bit of luck will do that for you!