Getting to know you: Nat Hardwick

With my background in psychology and technology my interests lie in providing support systems for small business based on current and emerging technologies. My philosophy is based around the online open-source movement, in that access to best practice tools, resources and support should be based on principles of sharing, peer review and should be free for all. By exchanging knowledge and experience the small business community can only become stronger. My circle of friends include a number of other small business owners and I know that if I have an issue, it’s highly likely I’m not the first. Ask around and find out how other people solved it, what they used and where they got it. Small businesses helping other small businesses. By pooling our expertise we make the whole community stronger than its composite parts. That’s what SFEDI aims to make happen. A national, collaborative small business movement.

Who is your inspiration in business?
I think it’s a close call between, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and Pixar Studios, and Bill Gates, Microsoft’s former CEO. Starting out in computing in the 70s when it was all unknown territory and creating hardware and software systems that changed the face of the way we do business today is no small undertaking.

Bill Gates’ dream of having ‘A computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software’ is one of the most aspirational statements I think you can make, and made inspirational by the fact that he went on to achieve this seemingly impossible goal. Against todays technological backdrop such a claim would be bold but not unbelievable, but it was originally made at a time when computers filled rooms! The idea of home computing was unheard of.

Steve Jobs has created, in my opinion, the worlds greatest brand. He’s influenced not only the world of technology but their brand and design has crossed into so many other arenas, not least music.

Whom do you admire?
My admiration is for anyone who is able to take new paths and exert a positive influence on those around them. Passionate people, from whatever walk of life, who are able to take their passion and enthuse others are key to a progressive society. If I had to pick one person it would have to be Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. He was passionate about music and its power to forge social change. He understood his own abilities as a businessman and was able to recognise talent and abilities in others. He went on to form not only a business but a musical genre and through that a social movement. He knew that in order to achieve his goals he would have to collaborate with others with the skills he didn’t have and develop networks. From the back room of a studio in Detroit he went on to create a global phenomenon that still influences the industry today. He was one of a number of pioneers in music at the time but he stands out in my mind as a formidable businessman who took a structured, well thought out approach at a time when an industry was in its ‘Wild West’ phase.

Looking back, are there things you would do differently?
I try not to look back with any sense of regret. Of course, there are things that perhaps I wish I hadn’t done and things I wish I had but the art of the entrepreneur is to continually look to the future. How can I make things better? How can I use the experiences of the past to positively influence what I’m doing now? These are better questions to ask than to wish you’d done things differently.

What defines your way of doing business?
I think freedom of expression and a sense of community are key to my work philosophy and way of doing business. As a sometime musician I experience such a strong sense of community and collaboration, where the final output can only be created by working together and utilising each persons own specialism, that it cannot fail to influence the way I do business. Each and every on of us has our own unique skill and knowledge base. There’s no way I can assume to be the best at everything, and it would be arrogant to think otherwise. By working together with my colleagues, partners and clients then we draw on the best that each individual has to offer.

I’m lucky in that the majority of my working life I’ve been my own boss. This has afforded me the freedom to think and do what I want. I find that I thrive in these conditions and try to nurture this same environment for those I work with. Do as you would be done by.

What would you say to businesses who are worried about tough times ahead?
Tough times for small businesses can come at any time. Successful small companies must be prepared for tough times at all times. Disaster can be just around the corner. It’s when you get complacent that problems can arise. In terms of the current economic situation it provides an opportunity to focus on areas of your business where improvements can be made. Necessity is the mother of invention and difficult times can focus your mind.

By viewing the current situation as an opportunity to be more efficient and innovate small businesses can come out of the other side as stronger, leaner more effective organisations. The small business actually has an advantage over big business in that they are more agile and can move quickly to take advantage of change to improve the way they do business. Don’t get bogged down by worry and allow it to lead to inaction. Pro-active businesses can and will prosper in tougher times. If you can maintain your success in harder times it makes it that much easier to prosper when things take a turn for the better.