Steve Ross.

Age: 50.

What is your business called?

Shackleton Technologies.

Where is it based?


What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We are an IT managed service provider. We work with our clients to provide them with an IT strategy based upon their business goals and objectives. We specialise in IT infrastructure, whether it’s on premise or in the cloud, and provide a roadmap that allows them to futureproof their systems and plan for investment. We provided consultancy services to develop the IT infrastructure strategy for the V&A Museum in Dundee and now provide ongoing support to keep systems running smoothly.

To whom does it sell?

The majority of our clients are growing businesses employing 25 – 100 people. Either we are their outsourced IT department or we complement the skills of their in-house team.

What is its turnover?

£1.5 million.

How many employees?

We currently have 14 employees.

When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

I’ve always wanting to run my own business as a lot of people do. I had a good mix of corporate and small business experience having worked as an accountant in both and I really enjoyed the small business environment. The corporate world didn’t really fit with what I wanted to become. Therefore, making the decision to start up a business became a “no-brainer”. My thoughts at the time were “if I don’t try, I’ll never know”. I’m glad I gave it a go!

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We used our own money and took advantage of the Government’s small loans guarantee scheme. This provided a Government guarantee to our lender because we had a viable business plan and were able to service the borrowing. It felt like we had to fight tooth and nail to get the money from our bank, even although they were only on the hook for a very small percentage of the loan. Fifteen years on we’re still thriving.

What was your biggest break?

Our biggest break was winning our first public sector contract, with the Scottish Charity Regulator, when we only had three people on board. It allowed us to ramp up the business, and create more jobs. After winning several successive tender processes, they are still a client to this day.

What was your worst moment?

It has to be when the recession kicked in after 2008. We had moved our business banking over to RBS by this time and they called up to ask us to repay our overdraft within two weeks. We convinced them that this was a ridiculous move on their part as we were a strong business and they would be putting good jobs on the line. They agreed to convert it to a two year loan and removed our overdraft facility virtually overnight.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I enjoy the variety of working with businesses of different sizes across all sectors. The IT industry is very fast paced and we travel frequently to attend conferences and industry events in the UK and America to stay abreast of best practice and technology developments. It is essential that we remain relevant and the thought of becoming an industry dinosaur keeps me awake at night.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We have a business plan in place that sees us reach £3.5 million turnover within the next three years through acquisition and organic growth.

Even getting to the level we are at now has been tough in our industry. However, we have invested our time over the past year in working to a methodology we think will help us become a world-class IT company and as a leadership team we now focus completely on our quarterly goals that helps us reach our targets. This has been transformational for our company.

What are your five top priorities?

• Our business is totally dependent on our people so a top priority is to look after the wellbeing of our staff, and from a personal point of view I aim to keep fit and healthy – it makes me a much better ambassador for the business.

• To look after our clients – always.

• To grow the business through acquisition, and organically – and to open in Edinburgh in the near future.

• To remain relevant in the marketplace by keeping on top of industry developments.

• To meet our current sales, profit and cash flow targets.

What single thing would most help?

A stable economic environment and less political posturing – if only! The last recession was tough, but we survived.

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

If Government finds innovative ways to fund small businesses and help the people behind them who are prepared to take a chance with their lives and put their heart and soul into building growth, then Scotland will be an amazing economy. That, and ensuring great broadband is available everywhere in Scotland.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

To believe in your business, yourself and your team. If you have any lingering doubts, everything becomes a bit harder. It’s also important to keep learning. I’m part of MHA Henderson Loggie’s Leadership Group which provides leadership training and an opportunity to take some time out and consider strategic and operational issues with the support of other business leaders. It is important to keep a long term view while running the day to day aspects of the business.

Finally, keeping close to customers and building good relationships and trust with them is essential. We very rarely lose clients and I have found that you can usually iron out any issues by simply speaking to people.

How do you relax?

With great difficulty! I like going to the gym and running. I think I make better decisions after taking time out to work out.