First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ashley Marron: Like everyone else, we are learning to adapt to the impact of the pandemic and trying to follow all the relevant guidelines. With our oldest daughter working as a Doctor in the A&E department of Wishaw Hospital, we have been very aware since the start of the pandemic of the devastating impact of the virus on people’s lives, so we remain sensible but cautious in what we do.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MindGenius.
Ashley Marron: After graduating with a background in Engineering, I spent several years designing parts for use in bank cheque encoder machines for Unisys. However, I became much more interested in making parts than designing and spent several years running some of the large manufacturing businesses in Scotland, which were always vibrant, non-stop, challenging but very rewarding roles. Subsequently, I then moved into a Software Development business and became part of the management team at Gael to help develop and market its own software compliance products. The MindGenius business where I work today was successfully spun out of Gael in 2008. Following the sale of that Gael business, I rejoined the management team at MindGenius to try and help the business maximize the potential of its flagship project management products.
How does MindGenius innovate?
Ashley Marron: We firstly develop software solutions that we feel help us run our business. The team is small but, over the years, has a way of interacting and working that continues to innovate and develop improvements to our products. Nobody is precious about simply promoting their ideas, and we tend to build on top of and expand contributions of all to develop the design. Being a visual team, we use a lot of mindmaps to flesh out the concepts and ideas we have.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ashley Marron: As a Software Development company, the move to remote working was relatively seamless, but we have been challenged to replicate our normal working environment. We are a relatively small team but very much one who are constantly bouncing ideas and suggestions off each other, and as much as we try Zoom calls don’t really do that. We have had to, on occasion, book very large meeting venues to have safe, socially distanced gatherings to focus our collective thoughts and more recreate the vibe that works for us.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ashley Marron: We have always been a business that puts employees first and tend to make decisions for the long term benefit of the business. With regards to 2020, we didn’t really have difficult decisions to make as we could quickly move to remote working, and with our roadmap for development well established, we simply focused on achieving our plans and got stuck in. The key reinforcement from the year is to emphasize how important have an agreed and communicated long-term strategy, which can realign everyone to ensure when needed, we are doing the right things aligned to long term goals.
We consider ourselves extremely fortunate that all staff has managed to continue to work over the Covid-19 period. As the products we develop help teams manage their tasks and deliver projects, they are particularly suited to remote working, and we have continued to see growth in sales in the Covid-19 period.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Ashley Marron: Despite being a Scouser, I have a temperament that is calm, so stress and anxiety are not a particular issue for me. As a business, we spend a lot of time agreeing and planning for the long term. Though there may be bumps along the way, as long as we can reset and ensure the business is heading in the agreed direction, then we can usually as a group remain relatively calm. I probably got more anxious in 2020 waiting for Liverpool to reclaim the Premiership trophy after 30 years, although alcohol had a role in calming me down to cope with that.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ashley Marron: A recent survey showed there are at least 288 competitors that claim to operate in our market, so there is little value in becoming overly concerned with any single competitor. When we released our first product some 20 years ago, there were probably 8 competitors at that time, so we have noticed the competitors growing significantly. We have always been driven to use our products to help overcome our business solutions, assuming that it should provide value for others if it has value for us. As the world has moved to the Online 24/7 need for information, we have developed and diversified our product offering to remain competitive in the space. Even with all the competitors, we believe our combination of intuitive mind-mapping combined with task cards and timeline allows us uniquely to manage a team’s workload from conception to completion of a new idea or project.
Your final thoughts?
Ashley Marron: 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, and we hope that the sacrifices made by all throughout the year allow 2021 to be the year we all move towards a more social and interactive world. We wish all the very best for the forthcoming year.