Paul Smithson

Ever since I was a young child I have been fascinated with business.

I remember when I was twelve or thirteen visiting my local library and being fascinated by a book about the world’s leading entrepreneurs. The word ‘entrepreneur’ itself evoked images of some kind of special individual who had magical powers that allowed them to create and grow huge businesses at will. I was hooked.

It definitely wasn’t the money that fascinated me - it never really has been - it was primarily the creative process behind starting and building a successful business that excited me, but I was also fascinated by how businesses worked; everything from how businesses kept accounts, right through to employing staff and manufacturing products.

This fascination never wained and all these years later I am still intrigued by how businesses work and what makes the difference between a successful business and a not-so successful business.

I was lucky to have a wide variety of part-time jobs as a teenager ranging from stacking shelves, through to working on a production line, and even four great Christmases working part time at one of the most popular pantomime performances outside of the West End in London.

From the moment I started my first part-time job in a stationery shop at the tender age of 13, I loved being involved in business. I was always on the look out for how to improve the existing processes, which might sound normal now, but for a teenager this was a pretty strange fascination, but this fascination helped me to learn a great deal in a very short period of time.

When I left school at eighteen I spent a year - at my Father’s insistence - working as a trainee cost and management accountant in one of the giant textile mills in my home town. During that year I learned a great deal and decided to go to university to study Accounts & Finance, but by the final year of that course I realized my true love was not accounts and finance, but business strategy and marketing.

The year I finished my degree, Margaret Thatcher’s entrepreneurially focused Government launched 'The Graduate Enterprise Programme'. This special course was run at three of the top business schools in the country and was designed to nurture the entrepreneurial talents of graduates. I was honored to be selected by my university to be put forward for a possible place and after several arduous interviews was selected to start this one-year high-intensity course in the summer of 1986.

The Graduate Enterprise Programme was nothing short of amazing. We had lectures from some of the greatest entrepreneurs of the time such as Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, and people with incredibly in-depth knowledge of specialist topics such as banking, law, and logistics.

The course lasted for a year and provided everything from top-class training from experts in every field, through to a substantial budget for researching a business idea, and the year ended with all the course attendees exhibiting their ideas at an end of year event attended by dignitaries and leading business people of the day.

My business involved providing real-time information to large corporations currently going through mergers and acquisitions. I’m proud to say that my very first customer was Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, followed closely by several leading international corporations based in The City of London’s finance district.

Within just a few weeks of leaving Cranfield I had a very difficult decision to make. Broad Street Associates, a leading financial PR company based in the The City wanted to acquire my fledgling enterprise - which at this point was barely off the ground - and at the same time bring me in to build their business information department. At the time their offer seemed very attractive, but in hindsight I think I sold out far too cheaply and too soon in the growth phase of the business, but I was young and naive and still had a lot to learn.

After a wonderful time at Broad Street Associates I left to start a business in the rapidly expanding IT sector. Within just a few short years I built this business from nothing into one of the leading companies in the sector. I also setup a publishing company and published two top-selling nationally distributed magazines.

In the early 1990s I pioneered software lending in British Libraries, which was something that had never been done before, and it would be many years before Blockbusters brought the same kind of service to the high streets. At the time there were 192 library authorities in the United Kingdom and we had the enviable record of supplying all but three of them. In 1995 we formed a distribution partnership with Askews, the leading library supplier of the time, and in 1999 I sold the business to Chivers, which became part of the BBC two years later.

In 1999 I became the co-owner and Managing Director of Didio, a digital audio distribution company specialising in audiobooks and started with seed funding of $5 million. After a very successful start where we signed deals with pretty much every major publisher, we had to close the business down in 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst. This business was briefly resurrected as Spoken Network in 2005 and was growing to be a viable competitor to Audible, but when Amazon took over Audible in 2007 the writing was on the wall.

In 2004 I published XSitePro, which was a web site design tool designed to compete with Frontpage and Dreamweaver, but created specifically with the online entrepreneur in mind. XSitePro was a huge success and sold in record numbers. In 2008 it was joined by XHeader, a design package that won numerous awards and was downloaded more than 250,000 times.

Unfortunately, in 2012 I had some health issues, which meant I had to reduce my business activities and focus all my energies on getting myself well. This was a long and slow process, but at the same time it gave me a chance to slow down and re-evaluate what I had learned over the past quarter of a century. It also gave me a chance to reflect on what I wanted to do during the next phase of my life.

By this point I’d been in business for nearly three decades and over that time my passion for business had never wained. I still devoured business books with relish, and there were few things I enjoyed more than helping other people start and grow their own business - and this got me to thinking. My company mantra had always been ‘Benefit Others’, so wasn’t it time that I started to do this through sharing what I’d learned and truly helping other people to achieve the success I had and to fulfil their dreams in the way that I’d fulfilled mine.

So, with the ‘Benefit Others’ mantra ringing in my ears, I began to create videos for Udemy, with the sole aim of helping others to start their own business, or if they already have an existing business, to grow it to the level they desire.

If you read this biography expecting the typical pictures of glamorous villas and rented luxury cars then I’m sorry to disappoint. If that’s the kind of thing you’re after then there are thousands of ‘gurus’ around the net who can offer you that, but if you’re after advice from someone who has been in business for nearly three decades and has a real passion for it, then you’ve come to the right place. And who knows, maybe one day I will share with you some photos of my place in Spain with the 180 degree view of the Mediterranean, some shots of my wife and I touring Europe in our luxury RV, and our house in the UK with a pool - you never know :-)

But this isn’t really about me - it is about YOU!

Here’s to your success!