I hadn’t heard of Graham Mulholland or his company, epm:technology, before last Thursday. If I had passed him in the street I doubt I would have given him a second glance. A quiet, unassuming figure, slight of build and modest in dress, Graham doesn’t come across as a person of great power.
Until you start to listen to his story. Because Graham is one of the finest examples I’ve ever come across of a true entrepreneur.
I was at Simon Bozeat’s Midlands Leadership Experience Money Debate listening to a group of successful local business people talking about how they did it and what they’ve learned. Gold dust to someone like me.
I’m always interested in the characteristics of successful business people, and how they got to where they are. There are some common features that are evident across this group, and Graham exhibited many of them. Features such as;
Vision. Graham told how he had realised that his business needed to grow, and that meant a new building. He described his vision of a factory purpose built for his business, a shining example of a modern icon for the high-tech field he operates in, with room to grow in line with his plans. The resulting construction (so new it doesn’t yet appear on Google) is clearly a product of Graham’s imagination and vision and he’s obviously very proud of it.
Single-mindedness. Graham negotiated government funding for the building project, tapping into an allocation of money available to businesses in the Derby area. When the auditors charged with approving the grant checked Graham’s books, they questioned why he was writing off a sizeable value of machinery to purchase new equipment at the same time as moving to the new premises. Graham pointed out that the project was designed to future-proof the business and relying on ageing plant, despite it still having life left in it, wasn’t part of the plan.
The auditors prevaricated. Graham dug in. If he couldn’t build the project as he’d envisaged it, he told them, let’s call the whole thing off.
I believed he would have done, too. They obviously believed him as well, because he got the money, got the new machinery, and created the platform for his business that he’d set out to achieve.
Problem-solving. As an engineer at the leading edge of technology, Graham is obviously used to solving problems. But what was so impressive about his approach was that he doesn’t just solve problems – he blows them apart. Like a true entrepreneur, his mind set is to view problems as a challenge to be solved, and if you can’t go round it, or over it, or under it, then just go straight through it. Very inspiring.
Courage. Graham described the process of acquiring other businesses along the road, and how he was doing deals with companies at a time when his own business wasn’t in the best of financial shape. Yet he knew that the acquisition was the right thing to do, and he made it happen.
Self-reliance. Whilst Graham clearly understands how to build a great team of people, he also realised that in making the decisions he needed to make he wasn’t going to get support from some key players, especially the banks. His willingness to look for other options meant that, instead of being in hock to them he was a few steps ahead, meaning he could dictate terms when it mattered.
There were other qualities I could highlight, but you get the picture. The point is, if you want to get things done then find someone like Graham in your life or your business who will show you that you don’t have to take no for an answer, and that if your vision is clear enough you really can change the world.
Thanks Graham, and the other speakers at the event, for sharing your story. I for one appreciated it.
If you’re interested in meeting people like Graham, the Midlands Leadership Experience is a great way to do it. You can register for more information on their website.