AMID continued debate about how to develop growth companies a successful business builder reckons many companies need to get much better at selling without neglecting the people who develop the products and services they offer.

Name: Ashley Marron.

Age: 57.

What is your business called?


Where is it based?

East Kilbride.

What does it produce?

MindGenius provides software productivity tools to help individuals and teams achieve more. The tools use the principles of MindMapping to help understand and plan what needs to be done. Mindmapping is a recognised way of capturing and illustrating complex sets of information in an intuitive and easy-to-remember format. They also use Gantt techniques, a bar-chart based means of graphical illustration to help identify dependencies and schedule tasks; and Kanban, a visual process board which provides visibility of progress through to the completion of projects.

To whom does it sell?

Our Barvas software is aimed principally at small-to-medium sized businesses and we have clients across a range of sectors including engineering, construction, medical devices and charities. It is also used by schools, universities and public sector organisations, including The Scottish Government. Customers use our tools to map their current situation, understand weaknesses and work out how best to move forward. Many managers responsible for change have had little formal project management training.

What is its turnover?

£360,060 to financial year March 2017.

How many employees? 14.

When was it formed?

MindGenius as a company was formed in 2008 as a spin-out of Gael, another software company with which I was involved, to market a MindMapping software application that was downloaded onto personal computers. In 2015 the company choose to reinvent itself and we developed Barvas as a new cloud-based product. We consider ourselves to be a start-up and we’ve adopted that mentality in growing the business.

Why did you take the plunge?

The flagship product at Gael, Q-Pulse, was used by customer ranging from manufacturers to airlines to establish their safety management systems. In 2015, having grown Gael to £12million turnover and £2m EBITDA, we sold it to Ideagen plc for £20.9m. It would have been tempting to take things easy and to hit the golf course, but I wasn’t quite ready for that and, having spun MindGenius out of Gael in 2008, I felt the management team there could do something meaningful if we all focused our efforts.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Earlier in my career I worked with Unisys in Livingston as part of a team that designed cheque-clearing products used by banks. I was fortunate to gain experience in the manufacturing and production processes that gave me oversight of the whole system. During my time there I met Donald Maciver and Derek Jack who had developed an idea to help companies manage their Quality Management System and who left to launch Gael, which proved to be hugely successful in domestic and international markets. After leaving Unisys, I worked with a number of sub-contract engineering companies before becoming chief executive of Gael in 2008.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Since 2015, we’ve invested some of the proceeds from the sale of Gael to fund the business through its transition.

What was your biggest break?

I was fortunate that, when I arrived at MindGenius in 2015, it had in place already an established workforce who knew the principles of the product and a marketing team that had developed a route to market with the desktop version of the product.

What was your worst moment?

I don’t think we have had any real bad moments but I found the aftermath of selling Gael difficult to deal with.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Seeing and hearing customers tell you and others of the benefits they derive from the blood, sweat and tears that we put into developing and implementing our products.

What is your biggest bugbear?

I feel strongly that all staff should benefit from a business that performs well and don’t subscribe to the idea that only sales people get rewarded. Too often businesses go down that route, making it look like the people who make the products don’t matter. There would be no sales without great products and services.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

I want to see our staff take increasing ownership of the business and for them to enjoy the rewards that come from its success. Gael provided the owners and management team with all the financial reward they will ever need. It’s now all about helping others make their mark and fortune. We have in place a share scheme for all current staff who now own 10 per cent of the business,.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Help create a generation of gifted technical and commercial graduates. Not one university in the UK has a degree in Selling and yet that is the skill that most tech companies struggle with. Let’s face it, we have enough accountants and solicitors.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Treat people well, hold true to your values and take decisions for the long term good not short term reward.

How do you relax?

With anything alcoholic, golf or outside activity with my wife and daughters to bring a smile to my face. As a Scouser I continue to suffer through the highs and lows of supporting Liverpool from afar.