Founder Series: Andrew Muir, Co-Founder of FarrPoint

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Andrew Muir
Andrew Muir

What does your company do?

FarrPoint is an IT, telecoms and infrastructure consultancy which provides forward-thinking guidance on IT infrastructure, networks and connectivity. Our four main functions are: strategic advice and high level technical design; specification and sourcing; implementation management; technical assurance and reviews. While most of our work is focused on the public and private sector in the UK, our operations take place around the world.

What do you do there / what is your role?

I lead the FarrPoint team on a day-to-day basis; primarily I focus on growing the business by finding opportunities and new sectors to target. I also keep an eye on our resources and finances. Despite all this I still am very much involved in the delivery of projects too and often lead the teams working on networking and IT projects.

What is your background?

I grew up on Achiltibuie and always thought I’d be a fisherman. My dad, however, encouraged me to get a degree and I decided to study communication and electronic engineering at Napier University. Once I’d graduated, I did end up being a lobster fisherman for a year before I was again politely encouraged to apply my degree in engineering. I went down to Ipswich to work for BT in their research labs before returning to academia and studying for my PhD. I then spent time with a public sector organisation. It was in the mid 90s that I got into consultancy, working for a company where I managed projects taking place in Scotland as it expanded to become a global entity. In 2007 myself and our two other directors decided to take the plunge and we set up FarrPoint.

What was the aha moment that led to the company founding?

When the three of us started the company, we had been thinking about it for a few months. We all worked for a larger consultancy which was getting bigger and bigger and were just drifting apart. So what to do? It became clear that to steer things the way we believed they should go, we had to set up our own company. But could we succeed and still pay the mortgages?

Why did you launch the company?

The consultancy I worked with previously was increasingly moving their operation towards London and the south. I saw that Scotland was being neglected, so to speak, and decided that I would launch FarrPoint to focus on Scotland.

Where did you get assistance when you started?

We had no assistance, we just gave it and go and thought it can’t be that hard.

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company

We set up FarrPoint just over ten years ago and initially had offices in Rutland Square with just a handful of staff. We quickly outgrew those offices and moved to new premises in Exchange Place. Around this time we also opened our London office to give us a base in England as the contracts we were winning spread further across the country. We continued to take on staff, carefully building a highly skilled team, making sure we chose the highest calibre applicants possible. At the start of 2018 we opened our office in Manchester and recruited two consultants to look after our interests in the North of England.

So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?

At the moment we have 15 members of staff but hope to reach between 25-30 in the near future, similarly our turnover in 2016 was just over £1 million and we hope this will rise above £3 million in the next few years.

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?

Technology is ever changing, some areas have been commoditised, new things come on the market, software plays an increasing role in communications, significant funding has become available to build national and local infrastructures. As we grow we get involved in a wider range of projects which opens up opportunities in other sectors and geographies compared to when we started.

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What is your target market –  Who is buying your product / service?

We work with companies in various industries across the public and private sectors. It is a bit of a cliché but there is some truth in the saying ‘every company is a now tech company’. Any large organisation with connectivity, telecoms and network planning challenges could benefit from our work.  Our expertise is in networks, infrastructure, telephony, next generation broadband, and cyber security, which, in the current digital environment, is a requirement of businesses in multiple sectors.

What are your goals for your business?

To continue to grow, move into other sectors and expand into other countries.

What are your biggest current challenges?

Finding the right people with the right skills to allow us to meet the demand for our services and to continue at our current rate of growth.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Finding the right people to help us expand and improve is our biggest challenge at the moment. In consultancy you have to hold an exceptional technical understanding, be able to communicate clearly and also be able to process large pieces of information, It can be very challenging. Trying to find someone with these skills as well as a commercial awareness is difficult.

What do you do outside work?

At the weekends I enjoy getting away from the city. Fishing, sea or fly, is a passion of mine I only wish I could do more often! I’m also a bit of a motorcycle enthusiast and like to use my bike to commute when I’m in Edinburgh, or further afield at the weekend – a good countryside ride is always fun.

What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?

So many things I can’t list. You are continuing to learn which is a good thing of course. And you can’t dwell on mistakes which are inevitable if you’re trying new things.

What’s the secret to good leadership?

Leadership is all about respect in my mind, if you respect others and show your appreciation for their contributions then this will filter through the organsiation. Always be honest in whatever you do and take pride in your organisation and your work.

Where do you see the company in five years?

We are growing and plan to continue doing so for the next five years. We have expanded our presence down south with offices in London and Manchester and hired new people to service the growing demand we’re facing in these areas. We really want to expand our UK operation and wish to open more offices here, also we would look at taking on projects in other countries providing they are right for us.

How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?

Two things spring to mind. Easy access to funding and improving the availability of skilled graduates?

Can you give us some numbers? Turnover, growth rate, etc.

Turnover is currently £2m and growth has been consistent over the years and with plans to double in size over the next 3 – 5 years. Along with growth in numbers, we have grown in many different ways, number of employees, geographical markets, service offerings, employee salaries and packages and of course our knowledge and experience.

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