Home Business Heroes: Norman Shaw

Home businesses generate £284bn of the UK's GDP making them the true heroes of our economy. So to continue Smarta and Viking's celebration of these brave entrepreneurs, we tracked down founder of ExactTrak, Norman Shaw.

Can you sum up your business?

ExactTrak is a specialist mobile security business. Think of us as a guardian angel for all your sensitive data. We invent and develop hardware products which ensure that confidential information stored on them are for your eyes only, even in the event of loss or theft.

We have recently created the Security Guardian USB stick, and the beauty of this lies in being able to remotely access its memory. If you lose the USB, that's no problem; you simply log on to the remote portal, and delete all data on the device. Simple, effective, and very necessary.

What were you doing before?

I'm a techie at heart, and have always worked within this sector. Before ExactTrak, I developed and marketed products for Sony, and later set up my own sales-based company in the IT sector, which was sold to IBM.

How did the idea come about?

It very much evolved off the back of feedback. One of our earliest products was designed to protect hardware, and we were showcasing it at a trade show.  At the show, we spoke with representatives from the Home Office, who suggested we try a different tack, and look at protecting data, as opposed to just hardware.

So we mulled over the advice, and two years of development later, the Security Guardian was created!

How did you fund it?

I started by ploughing £700,000 of my own money into the venture, with a view to waiting for as long as necessary to find additional investors. Finding individuals who could add an extra dimension to the company, in terms of vision and expertise, was more important than simply acquiring a cash injection.

In the end, we waited 4 years to find the right individuals, but it was the right decision!

How did you market it?

We started by taking working prototypes of the Security Guardian out to about 200 potential customers, and getting their initial feedback. They suggested we make it smaller. We listened, and tweaked the design in response.

We then launched the Security Guardian at the annual Infosecurity event, which attracted around 13,000 visitors. It was a great way to introduce our product to the market, and the feedback was really positive.

After the launch at Infosecurity, we began selling!

How did you build a list of customers?

I was lucky enough to have a good number of contacts from my old businesses, and this was an excellent starting point. Because those contacts were relevant to the data security sector, I knew that there was a good chance that the Security Guardian would be of real interest to them.

Given we'd honed the Security Guardian via feedback from the Home Office, it was fitting that they then introduced us to the government departments who could benefit from it, including the NHS, and the police force.

We launched Security Guardian at the Infosecurity Show, and 250 companies expressed interest, which we then followed up on.

Where did you find manufacturers for the product?

We wanted to keep the manufacture of the product as close to home as possible, and we came across a small manufacturer based in Leicester. We've worked with them from the beginning, and enjoy the intimacy of the relationship.  The owner has since become a shareholder

Where in the home is your office?

It's at the edge of the house, with a window looking out onto the rolling hills of Banbury.

The office was purpose built when I moved in, so I was fortunate to have some say in terms of the layout.

hbh desk

Do you have set working hours?

I tend to be working by 7:15, and finish at about 6pm.

How do you make sure you're focused and never get distracted at home?

I don't have a television or radio in my office, which certainly helps! I generally find it quite difficult to get distracted. Working alone at home, it's easier to focus, and I have a natural urge to finish the task I've started.  I take a break every two hours or so, and have a wander around the garden to get some air and stretch my legs. (And occasionally talk to my bees.)

What was it like at the start?

Pretty lonely, to be honest. When you're working alone, particularly in the early stages of a business, you don't have many people to bounce off, or mentally spar with. Of course, you have fewer customers at the beginning, which means you're less likely to be occupied actually talking with people, which I missed at times.

There's always the niggling worry at the beginning of any solo venture too. 'Am I making the right decision?' is a question which can abound, until you settle into it, and realise that actually, you're fine.

What's the worst thing about working from home?

Domestic distractions can sometimes work their evil.  I have wonderful gardens, and on a beautiful sunny day, there's always the temptation to get out into them, and make the most of the split-second summers!

What's the best?

The freedom. I can conduct my business in exactly the way I want, and make my day's schedule suit perfectly around my needs. This is something I've never stopped relishing.

For more information about ExactTrak, click here

Home Business Heroes, in association with

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