As the Managing Director of Cold Banana Studio, Luke is often very busy; whether he’s in a meeting, a phone call, or working on a project - dragging him away from his work is a struggle. However, we managed to grab him for this special edition of Talk With a Techie.
Are you excited for much in the next year?
Yeah, lots! Mainly opening another office, so expanding our second office in Manchester hopefully. I’m also quite excited to launch our first products as a company within the next year. On a personal note; I’m looking forward to starting my flying lessons next month.
What are your hobbies?
Hopefully, as of next month, one of my hobbies will be flying and working towards getting my private pilot's license, something away from a computer screen. I don’t have many other hobbies these days; I spend a lot of time invested in my work! I used to play a lot of sport but don’t play that much anymore these days, same with computer games. I’m trying to get back into playing petanque (French boules), which is what I used to represent Great Britain in. But I slightly fear I’m not as good as I used to be.
What advice would you give any aspiring techies?
Start your career in some sort of support role. This is something I’ve said to all of the guys in the office and the aspiring student developers I meet; if you’ve got some sort of support experience you’ll be a really good developer. The developers that I’ve met, that just go into development tend to struggle in overcoming problems and become defeatist. So they’ll get a bug and try to fix it and if they can't they’ll just give up. Whereas if you look at somebody who has had customer service experience for example or worked in a support team before; they know how to troubleshoot a problem. So if they get a bug or a bit of code that they’ve written they’ll try all the different channels to fix it and it ultimately makes for a much better developer. So, in summary, don’t go straight into development - get a range of transferable skills first.
If I say Cold Banana Studio to you, what’s the first thing you think about?
Techie! I like that fact that were seen as a group of geeks as it shows that people respect our abilities to deliver technically good work. We chose to specialise in a specific area of development for that exact reason. Fun. What’s the word for, not family because that’s quite cheesy but there’s always a good atmosphere around Cold Banana Studio. People see Cold Banana Studio as a positive thing, so when I go to digital and local events and I introduce myself people are always very positive about the company and the guys within the team which is amazing to hear. It's amazing just to hear that they have heard of us on its own!
What are the 3 essential elements of your job?
Professionalism - Yeah, I do forget that I’m the business owner sometimes. So that’s quite hard because you want to be everybody's friend but sometimes you have to remember that you’re the boss. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made and I have to remember that those decisions are on my shoulders.
Staying Technical - staying on top of coding and the latest development practices is really important in my role because if I just went completely businessy I’d soon forget. I find when I’m speaking to customers and people in the field, they often gravitate to the fact that I can talk technical and I have that level of technical expertise and that I’m not just a face for the company selling them the dream. Plus it’s nice to be able to get properly involved in the technical meetings and have valid and respected input.
Flexibility - because I have to do technical tasks, business tasks, and finance tasks, I have to kind of jump around and do lots of different bits so I have to manage that time and not concentrate too much on one area. So if I’m doing a whole day's worth of development then in the evenings I have to catch up on everything else. So it’s having that ability to kind of multi-task and manage my own workload.
What are you most proud of to date?
If it’s to do with Cold Banana, the hardest thing I had to do was employing the first member of staff, because you suddenly go from paying one person to doubling your outgoings I suppose. If I hire someone else today I’m going from 10-11 people which isn't a massive jump whereas 1 person to 2 people is a much bigger risk... I’m most proud of the growth of the team I suppose, the fact that we’ve got a really good team, I’m proud of seeing the guys get better in their skill sets. I’m proud, on a personal level, to be able to provide jobs for a number of people and that's something that goes through my mind every time I hand out a new job offer. We have loyal customers that enjoy working with us which is a great feeling. We’re transparent with every single one of them and if there is something we can’t achieve then were the first ones to put our hands up. We’ve got customers that actually enjoy working with us which is extremely nice. I’m proud that I haven’t gone completely mad running my own business! There has a been a lot of different stresses over the past two years and as the business grows there is always a different type of stress that’s thrown at you.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pilot. Yeah, I wanted to be a pilot for years but I didn’t get the A-levels I needed which meant I couldn’t go to university to become a pilot. So I went to uni to do Business IT as I was naturally good at it and enjoyed it. Now I am in a position to spend some time concentrating on my private pilot's lessons which is amazing and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I hadn’t of setup Cold Banana. Looking back on it I am very happy with the way things have turned out and wouldn't be where I am today without my university experience.
Can you tell me about your job title and responsibilities?
So I am the Managing Director. My responsibilities as the Managing Director is to make sure that everything to do with the company is running smoothly so that’s all the departments of the company from; marketing, to account management, to project management, to development, to finances. All of those areas need to be running and being a small company all of those areas involve me needing an input. Moving forward with the growth of the business and new offices opening I think my role will change into a CEO position allowing someone else to come in and MD the business on a day to day basis.
Can you tell me what led you to success? What did you study at uni etc?
I studied Business IT at Bournemouth University. But I first started my own business when I was 13 years old, out of my bedroom at my parents' house. The business was a cufflinks e-commerce store, which involved building my own website and payment gateway. This soon became integrated with eBay and I ran that for 5 years whilst at school and continued to run it whilst at university. So that gave me the early inspiration to want to run a business and work for myself. It gave me a lot of insight to how to run a business and understand finances, accounts and tax, which you don’t really learn about at that sort of age if you just have a paper round I suppose. As I got older I just didn’t know what sort of business I wanted to set up and my course at university gave me an insight to development but it also gave me a good overview of how to run a business. And then following that I worked for a software company for a year or two as part of the support team, and then I worked for a digital agency that was a start-up at the time and I helped them grow the agency and then I left there 6-7 years later to do it myself. After the experience, I gained at my previous agency it gave me the confidence to build my own agency from scratch with no financial input. Every single one of my jobs I’ve ever had has given me inspiration and experience to what I’m doing today.
If you could say anything to your younger self; what would it be, and why?
My younger self? That makes me feel old! Part of me wishes I’d have set up a business a bit sooner but actually looking back at it every year I worked for someone else I gained more experience and knowledge to allow me to do what I’m doing today. I couldn’t have done this when I was 20 years old because I wouldn’t have had the experience and I’d have made a lot more mistakes. I think if I look back at the past two years at Cold Banana I think every mistake that we’ve made, I kick myself about each and every one of them, but they have only helped shape the company we are today. I just need to learn to not kick myself so hard. Overall I don’t think I’ve done anything that I regret, so far.