Adam graduated from the University of Hull with a BSc in Computer Science for Games Development (with industrial experience) and set up a video gaming company with two of his fellow students
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I had seen friends graduate from university and start their own company, so I considered it as a possibility from the start of my final year. I spoke to industry experts to determine if it was feasible.
Ultimately, it was the opportunity provided by our local university - to have an office for six months rent free and support from a local business leader - that gave us the confidence to start our company, BetaJester.
How did your university course inspire your career choice?
I didn't know how to code before university, and really only studied computer science because of a general interest in computers. It was taking up the opportunities at university that helped determine my career path.
The two key factors were learning to code, which I knew would be a core part of any path chosen, and taking part in a game jam, which made me realise how much I enjoyed making games - certainly as much as playing them.
The clear career choice was to become a games programmer, which is essentially what I am, just with the additional business aspects of my day-to-day work.
What advice would you give to other students with a business idea?
Nothing stops you from starting a business, so it's up to you to decide if it's something you can do, both in terms of feasibility and finances. A fantastic idea means nothing if you're broke after two months and cannot see it through to completion, and equally just because you have a year's worth of savings doesn't mean you can create something that will start earning you money. You need to carefully plan how you will monetise either your idea or your business, and really push it to ensure you start your business with your eyes wide open.
What are the top three skills needed to be a business owner?
- Determination - You need to drive yourself forward when things seem hard, but also to expand and grow your company. With no manager, it's down to your determination to push yourself.
- Flexibility - Things change constantly, and you'll need to adapt to opportunities as they arise. That isn't to say you should automatically change tact when facing adversity, but refusing to revise your methods and mentality under any circumstance will result in your company being left behind.
- Discipline - Your time is precious, and how you use it becomes doubly important as a business owner. Everything is trying to take up your time, including networking, events, expos, contract work and personal projects. So deciding what you should be doing, and dedicating yourself to that is vital to building a successful company. However, that doesn't mean working all the time, as discipline also means knowing your limits and when to stop and relax so you come back better and stronger.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?
To deal with financial struggles and the inconsistencies of working on short-term contracts, we've had to choose business events over personal ones, often working long days to meet deadlines and ensure the company survived in the long term.
We don't really dwell on the sacrifices, as they are in service of the greater goal of building a sustainable and successful company - but for each one we ask ourselves if it was worth it as it helps to reminds us why we do what we do.
What are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
- A solid business plan - You need to know how you'll make money to keep the company going and that plan can't be as general as 'we'll do some contract work'. You need to set out what work you'll do, where you'll find it, how you'll get someone to pay you for it, and the rates you'll charge.
- A trusted core team - The founders of a company need to trust in each other and their ability to pull their own weight. If you have questions over a team member before you start, they will only become bigger issues later on.
- Contacts and networking - As most work will come from knowing people, you need to build your network before starting a business. If you don't know anyone in the industry, how are you going to get any work?
- Situational awareness - Getting to grips with reading situations and reacting accordingly will help you in the long term. For example, this could be noticing that a co-worker is struggling when being introduced to an important client. Awareness is an important factor in keeping everything running smoothly.
- Enthusiasm - Running a business is hard, even at its best. You have to enjoy what you're doing or your work will soon start to pile on top of you. Focusing on your enthusiasm and enjoying your work will help you to find success with your business.