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Martin Hanney

Associate, Board Member,

Martin Hanney - Lloyd-Davies Associate - Coaching and Training

Martin is a late blooming entrepreneur with a strong social conscience, significant experience in transforming customer services and applying technology to operations. His Work XP Training business is creating opportunities for young people based in Worcestershire. Don Phillips caught up with him to discuss how he gained his experience and how he is applying it in 2023.

Interview November 2023: Don Phillips

“Martin, you started your career in deepest government working for the MOD as an accountant, you're now an entrepreneur in technology and developing working talent, what has the journey been?”

It's been a long one! I started out with a financial bent, having been good at maths in school. This actually meant my first job was at Nat West bank before moving to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in 1983. I wanted to get on quickly and was coached to specialise, so I did in management accounting. I did the role for 7 years.

“Because you enjoyed it?”

To a degree, but it felt a bit slow. Things changed for me when we implemented a financial software package by a company called Cedar. Whilst implementing the software, the company offered me a job as a trainer, so I moved into the private sector.

“Were they substantial?”

Relatively small, twenty to twenty-five people at the time of joining, but they were becoming the leading financial software supplier to the NHS and had significant success in other areas of government.

“But jumping from the relative security of a big government organisation to a young small company must have been a big step, why did you make the jump?”

My preference has always been more towards working with people. I enjoyed training, the MOD role was back office and back of site so very little people interaction, whereas Cedar offered a chance to engage and meet people. It was a different culture and a different way of working.

“I interrupted your flow, you have joined Cedar, how did it develop?”

It started in training, then became a consultant, implementing the system at new client sites. Then I progressed to project management and eventually product management, so very varied. The last role had me interpreting customer requirements, working with the development team and customer interaction through managing user groups and product enhancement groups.

“Financial planning systems were new back then, so I guess you were implementing a lot of change?”

Yes, Cedar software was very flexible, it had very good analytics. You could code a transaction in one way but analyse it from multiple dimensions. It made a big difference to a lot of organisations.

After Cedar I returned to the public sector, joining Woking Borough Council as an IT consultant. This allowed me to look in detail at many different processes, working on workflow improvements and contact management improvements. Primarily trying to speed up and improve the time to resolution of customer issues.

“Were these bespoke systems or packages that you used?”

The main system was a contact management and workflow system developed by a company called Comino, which later became part of Civica. It was well used by local authorities and provided me with a tool that helped me get to know the council in detail. Very useful for what I am doing now in Aspenify, 

Throughout these years I never lost sight of my ideal working environment, which was more training and coaching, helping people start and expand their careers. This is why I have

set up Work XP Training Ltd, to enable me to expand the training I can offer to help young people particularly in the Worcestershire area where we are based.

“On your journey you have been through large ‘anchor’ organisations as well as smaller but growing companies, have you ended up with views of what makes good entrepreneurs and less good ones?”

I think to have a good vision to start with is important, to know where you're going and how you're going to get there. But the more successful entrepreneurs are the ones that realise that you can't do it all alone and you need a good group of people around you, supporting and advising you. It's vital that you can find people that you trust that can give you advice on the right route to success. There are many that start out and get lost on the way. It is very important to find it early as it's more difficult when you have already hit problems.

“What kind of problems are you thinking of that people won’t have been anticipating Martin?”

There's lots of ‘red tape’, lots of legislation, lots of requirements of a small business that can take up much of your time. If you’re not careful you won’t spend time on the vision and the goals of the business. So, it's important you have good people in the compliance areas. It was once said to me that a small business with one or two people in it has as many forms to fill and documents to keep updated as a multimillion-pound business with tens or hundreds of thousands of employees. The workload is similar, and you can get bogged down. 

“With entrepreneurs, in terms of their vision, what other areas should they be looking for support in?”

Somebody that knows the market that you are going into. It often makes sense to build your network locally, for example I have joined the local chamber of commerce and built networks local, County level. It can take time, but you build a reputation locally, and you can draw on the experience of the people you meet.

“What creates trust in the people you meet in these networks Martin?”

Spending time face to face either physically or virtually, telling stories, getting to know people. Talking on a personal level. If you get to know each other, trust builds up. Relationships build trust over time and people get to know they can rely on each other.

“Working with you I have perceived a strong interest in locality, wanting to have an impact in Worcestershire, with the Cohesion/Aspenify platforms we have you could cherry pick globally, what's driving you at the locality level?”

It's a by-product of history and roots. This is where I grew up and spent time before my ‘career’. It's rooted in good friends and support which I realised, after living away for thirty years, I had missed. So, moving back it became a bit of a passion to promote the area and do what I can to help the area to be as successful as possible, particularly providing opportunities for younger people.

“Is this what has been the driver around the creation of Work XP?”

Partially yes, I’ve a number of hopes and goals for the business. We have a big involvement in software and software development. It will be good to show that attractive, exciting jobs can be created locally, and young people can create careers locally, close to family and friends. We also want to promote software as a career for everyone. A lot of good developers are women. I want to attract a good diverse set of employees into the company. Hence a lot of work with local schools, colleges and universities as well as local businesses.

“My last area of questions is what do you see as the potential of the Cohesion Platform we have been developing together?”

Having gone through starting a business myself I think the Cohesion Platform gives you a significant head start. It contains information and data in one place and offers access to a group of experts that you know have a certain level of knowledge and experience. As you implement processes you have access to tried and tested capability without having to spend a lot of time working them out for yourself. You don't know what you don't know and finding information can take time, the platform lays it out for you.

“There is still the blend of talking to people as well as the Cohesion Platform, do you agree?”

To me Cohesion is not just the platform it’s the combination of the people and technology on there. It's the fact that should I have to start employing people I can go to playbooks that discover content, but also, I can also find someone to talk to, to sanity check that I am going in the right direction.

Last random question, when will you think Work XP has succeeded, is it financial or an outcome?”

For me it's an outcome, seeing regularly that people are being successful after going through programmes run by Work XP. Seeing young people in particular who come to us not knowing quite what they want to do, but with certain interests, and then leaving confident, with a plan and doing what they want to do, Going to college or a university of their choice and saying thank you very much to us. That is what is driving the company and myself.


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