PROPERTY entrepreneur Donald Simpson isn’t one for overstatement.

The Edinburgh-based director of Cowiesburn says the cloud-based software system he developed “isn’t rocket science”. More important is the fact that it makes life easier for his clients in the commercial property sector.

“What we do is not spectacular from a technological perspective,” adds the 43-year-old. “But we are still ahead of the game. Our clients can see everything in front of them in real time.

“We designed this system from the ground up. It does the accounting side of things, too, but is based on a property management model. It’s intuitive and it works.”

Mr Simpson saw an opportunity to improve things in a market that has traditionally been slow to respond to technological change. And it’s an approach that seems to be working.

Cowiesburn’s turnover has doubled every year for the last four, and after starting the business on his own, Mr Simpson now has a staff of 20, multiple offices in Scotland and England, and two sister companies.

So what’s the best way to go about expanding a business?

“Cost is always the scary thing,” explains the entrepreneur, who worked as a software developer in the banking industry in London before returning home to Edinburgh to start his own business.

“When we opened up new offices in Glasgow and Manchester we already had business to service. We didn’t have to go out and find it from scratch.

“When expanding you have to be able to rely on your team. If you bring in the wrong person at a major turning point like that it could be disastrous. Thankfully we have always had great people.”

Indeed, Mr Simpson believes building the right team is fundamental to any business.

“When you’re a small business, having the right people around you is more important than ever. The best thing you can do is create a close-knit team.

“I’ve had the same people around me for years. One of the most important things I’ve learned in business is what I'm not good at. Then you surround yourself with people who are.

“Some of my best managers come from the retail sector. Although we work with software, our business relies on the people who use it.”

In common with many entrepreneurs, Mr Simpson enjoys the challenge of innovation.

“Kicking off something new is the exciting bit. That’s why I really enjoy growth and expansion.

“For me it’s not just about going into an existing market and undercutting. The whole point of us entering a market is to do things differently and better.

“Most businesspeople in the sector come from a property background, such as surveying. But because I don’t – I actually have an art history degree – I maybe approach things in a different way. Small changes in a traditional industry can make a big difference.”

Some things never change, however, such as the importance of keeping an eagle eye on finances. Asked what advice he would offer others looking to launch a start-up in the property industry, Mr Simpson focuses on the fundamentals.

“Cash flow should always be keeping you awake at night,” he says. “As we have seen recently, companies, no matter how big, can go down really quickly if money doesn’t come in for a couple of months.

“When you employ others, you have multiple livelihoods to worry about as well as your own, so it’s all the more important to keep on top of things, even when you’re in a relatively low-risk sector.”