Winner Best Professional Practice 2015 – Tech Division Ltd, Mark Lilleyman, Managing Director


When my name was called out for the award of ‘Best Professional Practice’, I couldn’t believe it.  It brought home to me a real sense of accomplishment: starting a business is one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced.

Running a micro-business is difficult, mainly because you’re the ‘jack of all trades’.  You’re the marketing guru, the business strategy expert, and oh yes – the bins need emptying too.  Growing a micro-business in the headwinds of the recession is even more difficult.  The problems of obtaining finance are still there, and even customers with cash reserves have been very careful in how they spend it.  So every penny needs to be justified; no contract is ‘in the bag’ until the paperwork is signed – and that takes much longer than it used to.

This isn’t just my perspective – we provide IT support to small networks of up to 30 users, so the vast majority of my customers are micro-businesses, and they all reported the same problems.  A construction recession would cause problems for people in the building trade, but a financial recession affects EVERYONE.

From talking about this I’ve seen for myself how tightly the local business community in Richmond binds together.  The Chamber of Commerce does a great job of bringing entrepreneurs from completely different businesses together, allowing them to network and share common ideas and work through common problems.  As I say, we smaller types need all the help we can give each other.

So to be awarded this prize was a real validation – and the greatest surprise has been the reaction of our customers.  They have reacted in a really heart-warming and positive manner. In addition, our engineers Adam and Harry see it as a great validation of their work, a ‘job well done’.  They naturally take more pride in their job – being part of a successful organisation is great for morale.  They still don’t like the uniform, though.  Well, sorry lads, but you can’t have everything.

We intend to use this award, and the goodwill from our customers, as our base to grow.  Richmond’s a wonderful place to start a business – with the river and parks, Heathrow nearby, and the city a short train ride away, it’s in an enviable position, and no wonder that many hi-tech companies are interested in setting up base here.  Personally, my next venture will be to launch a new dot-com.  Cloud for Me ( will concentrate on providing ‘cloud-based’ (i.e. Internet-based) services for individual users and small business owners.  Already I have smartphone-controlled central heating in my house, where I can warm the house up before I get home. An entrepreneur can set up a video-conferencing session with a large corporation from her spare room, or run a global workforce consisting of 3 people connected via Skype and a shared workspace.  The ability to be ‘instantly global’ has never happened before – and with the forthcoming revolution in smart appliances and smart health monitoring technology (the Apple Watch being the most famous example), the era of Cloud Computing and mobile devices is here to stay.

I would definitely recommend that people enter the business awards for next year.  Just filling in the entry form makes you think about your business from an external perspective, and too many entrepreneurs spend too much time working ‘in’ their business rather than ‘on’ it.  And if you win – the rewards are truly unexpected.  A more motivated workforce, a realisation that in fact, you’re doing well.  And if that’s not an incentive to grow, then what is?