Source: James Anderson, VeriSIM
Finextra Q&A with James Anderson, CEO of Web simulation firm VeriSIM.
Place of birth: St. Andrews, Scotland
Residence: Dollar in Clackmannanshire (near Stirling)
Marital status: Married with 2 children
Education: Graduated in 1982 with a BSc in Computing and Electronic Engineering from Heriot Watt University.
Career path: Sound recording engineer, management positions in Middle East, entrepeneurial start-ups
Q: What was your first job?
A: My very first job was as a potato quality control inspector!. It was a great school holiday job, and I can now claim to be an educated shopper when it comes to buying spuds in Tesco.
Q: Who is or was your mentor?
A: I have always forged strong relationships with my Chairmen. My first Chairman Don Pinchbeck, and our current Non-Executive Chairman Mervyn Farrant have been great mentors, their depth of experience has been invaluable in helping my own personal development as well as the development of the company.
Q: Which business leaders do you most admire?
A: Perhaps everyone has Richard Branson on their list, however, I have him at the top not just because of his ability to grow highly profitable companies, but also his absolute commitment to bringing products to market that exactly meet customer demand – something that we try to do at VeriSIM.
Q: If you weren’t in your current job, which company would you most like to lead?
A: I would love to run Google. Again, it’s a simple idea, brilliantly executed, and it would be great to take this already highly successful company and drive it to even greater success.
Q: Do you read books on management theory? If, so which has influenced you the most?
A: I’ve read a lot! There’s always one on my bed-side table, and no plane or train journey is complete with out at least one book in my case. I suppose that overall the one that has influenced me the most is Philip Kotlers Marketing Management.
Q: Which competitors do you benchmark your company’s performance against?
A: We are in a rare position where we currently don’t have any competition that precisely mirror what we do. However, we fully expect that to change, and are therefore benchmarking against companies in our general field that have successfully changed their offer to market to meet new competitive landscapes.
Q: What has been your best experience in business?
A: Growing VeriSIM has been a roller-coaster of many successes and some failures. I’ve learnt a lot on the way and from our first big order to the buzz of putting together a great team of people, the whole experience is one that I won’t forget.
Q: What was your biggest mistake in business?
A: Getting the wrong people. Before building VeriSIM I made some big mistakes in assessing peoples capability. Team selection is crucial to grow a business, as is learning from your mistakes, so I’m hoping that I won’t make the same ones again in the future.
Q: What keeps you awake at night?
A: We enjoy a real technology lead, but I really do worry about the competitive landscape changing and how it will affect our business. Companies fail for many reasons one of them is underestimating the power and capability of new competitors. We constantly listen to our customers needs, and try to innovate, both to meet those needs and to keep the competitors away.
Q: How do you relax?
A: I really enjoy being with my family and a few friends enjoying a BBQ looking over the Scottish countryside. I also enjoy music, skiing, reading and a game or two of Backgammon against a worthy opponent.
Q: What was the last gadget you bought?
A: I’ve got a really small Canon camera that also takes video footage. It’s small enough to have with me at all times – the picture quality is excellent, and it’s great to capture family moments without the hassle of carrying a big camera around. I also use it for capturing white board sessions at the end of our planning meetings.
Q: Favourite Web site
A: Finextra, of course! (good answer - ed) But when I’m not reading about what’s happening in our target market of UK financial institutions, I also look at www.theonion.com, for its wacky sense of humour.
Q: Desert island disc/book
A: This one is the hardest question of all. I remember the excitement of reading Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, but I now know it too well, so perhaps that isn’t the right choice. When I was working in the Middle East, I learnt to scuba dive and enjoyed bringing my childhood Jaques Cousteau fantasies to life - so, given that I’m on a desert island, perhaps a definitive book on Reef Fish would be good.