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People Power

Dominic McKnight Hardy is Managing Director of Marine Information Solutions, which designs bespoke IT systems for oil and gas companies. He knows that the growth of the company is down to the quality of its people.

Q

What’s been your biggest achievement so far?

We work as the systems partner to a key organisation in the world of pollution prevention and marine safety. We’ve developed and managed these systems on their behalf, which has given us an opportunity to work with all the major players and gain insight into the industry’s requirements and how we can help them going forward.


Q

What has been a key challenge?

We have had to find new ways to source and process data currently lacking from the industry by partnering with companies in specific geographic regions where the relevant information is available. Even with great IT on top, poor data will produce a poor outcome.


Haines Watts is always our first port of call, and they keep us up to date with any trade missions, or tax and regulatory procedures.”

Dominic McKnight Hardy Marine Information Solutions

Q

What objectives have you set for the business?

As a small but growing business, we will continue to develop these applications for our current customers and keep them happy on a day-to-day basis. Longer-term, we aim to take this experience and what we learn through our R&D activities and find new ways and applications for sourcing data and use it more effectively for companies in the pollution prevention industry.


Q

What’s been your main driver of growth?

We’ve found new ways to source data that our customers need and new ways to process it to make their jobs more efficient and time-effective. We haven’t had to diversify our product line because we have found a niche in the industry that we’re very happy to occupy. Our focus has been on finding new geographic regions to take this to and new ways to use the same technologies in different parts of what is a small sector.


Q

Do you have a contingency plan for dealing with funding risks?

We’re lucky that we have long-term contracts. With guidance from Haines Watts, we proactively manage cash flow by putting good agreements and contracts in place and knowing when milestone payments will be due, tracking expenses hourly on a project and communicating this to the customer regularly. We also have control over credit periods and follow up when invoicing is due. Haines Watts offers a service that is far above and beyond the usual accounting and auditing you’d expect, particularly advising on funding opportunities.


Q

How do you manage other risks to your business?

There are always risks – we could lose key people, a customer or an opportunity into which we have put a lot of resources. We could find a piece of research has been barking up the wrong tree, which has happened, but it’s part of the learning process – something every R&D company does. We mitigate staff risk by growing our small team carefully based on personal recommendations. Haines Watts has also provided us with help on patent protection.


Q

How important are your staff to the business?

Finding the right people for a small team is difficult, but we’ve managed it. Adding people to a small team is a big decision, but we have always found the right person through personal recommendations from someone already in the business, people who we know have the right skills, who we may have worked with in the past who we hear are looking for a new opportunity. It’s not an approach that we can rely on forever, but it will be a few more years before we use traditional recruitment.


Q

How did you get the right mix of talent?

We have a small team where every person knows the business inside out. If a customer phones, everyone here can answer the query or change the system to make it work. There are no non-technical people, which is how we have managed to build a small business that is as efficient as possible.

We have grown the business very carefully to ensure we have the right balance of people with the right skills sets in development, data management and design. We’re very proud of the people we’ve got.


Q

What are your future plans for international growth?

As a systems partner to a company at the centre of the industry, we’ve been able to meet a lot of people across many geographic regions who are able to give us help and assistance on moving into international markets. They have helped us find the right people to talk to and the right way to do business in that area. Haines Watts is always our first port of call, and they keep us up to date with any trade missions, or tax and regulatory procedures we need to be aware of in the relevant region.


Q

Why is R&D important to the business?

Research and development is key for us at the moment. There are large areas of the industry which could benefit from the automation of the sourcing and supply of the data they base their decisions on. By the end of the year, we think we will have an IT system that will have truly global reach and demand.


Haines Watts Partner view

It is always a pleasure to assist a dynamic, forward-thinking company like Marine Information Solutions to achieve its goals. By utilising the range of services available at Haines Watts, we have been able support MIS in a number of areas, from compliance services to tax planning, research & development claims and guidance on expansion into international markets. By working closely with Dominic, we have been able to advise on changing MIS’s corporate structure to ensure it is appropriate to meet ongoing requirements. By also establishing a working relationship based on trust, we are privileged to be in a position to be able to act as a sounding board which, in turn, enables us to provide timely proactive advice to the company.

Karen McLellanManaging Director

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