Ben Davison is one of the co-founders of Axiologik, a digital consultancy based in Leeds.
He left a senior role as joint MD at global IT services provider Mastek in 2016 to set up Axiologik, alongside Adrian Stanbury and Rob Stanger.
The company specialises in the delivery of complex, tech-enabled change programmes and has key clients which include the NHS.
We found out all the lessons Ben has learnt.
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
Like most people, a morning coffee. Ironically, I actually drink decaf but there’s something about the routine that helps to switch my mind to work mode. Mornings are such an important time and really help to set you up for the busy day head.
What’s been your luckiest break?
Bizarrely, out of everything I’ve achieved in my career so far, it is in fact the first time I was given real responsibility. I worked at McDonalds when I was 18 years old, trying to save up some money for university. My manager really trusted me and put me in charge of busy shifts. Everything stems from this. Job interviews, university, career changes and challenges – problem solving, customer service, fast-paced environments, it all comes from that time in my life.
I now try to do the same here at Axiologik. Give people responsibility and they will show you how good they really are – it’s a brilliant management tactic that I’m very grateful to have learnt. Without that manager taking a chance, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have gotten my first consulting job and the amazing opportunities and experiences it has led to.
What’s your best failure?
Unfortunately, a big project that I was a part of just didn’t work. It was a tough one for everyone involved but we all took a great deal from that experience. Especially the friendships made that I still cherish to this day. It taught me the value of being ruthlessly honest, working with and not against people and staying positive in adversity. While the project itself was not successful there was still a lot of good that came from it.
What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?
It’s invariably investing in people and seeing them flourish. Without naming names, there are a couple of people who had just never been given the opportunity and now have really transformed their lives and realised their potential. Emotional investments are much more rewarding than anything financial.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
From a personal perspective – The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The most magical, beautiful piece of literature I’ve ever read.
Professionally, Accelerate by Gene Kim, Jez Humble and Nicole Forsgren. It’s a scientific study of how the correlation between highest performing organisations and the investments in technology that really make a difference.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Start your pension and begin saving earlier! Don’t waste your money on pointless things. I bought a succession of ridiculous sports cars at the expense of buying a house. It was a lot of fun, but a waste in the grand scheme of things…
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
The person who hired me into my first job after university and was then my manager during my graduate scheme. He was a role model for me in working hard, having fun and being professional – something I try to continue now with my colleagues at Axiologik.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
Personally, most people think I’m confident, assured and decisive. In reality, I’ve just learned to handle the fear of making mistakes, rather than knowing I’m definitely making the correct decisions all of the time.
Professionally, we didn’t pay ourselves for six months, which became a real challenge when getting a mortgage. Trying to explain to people why they should lend me money when I had an income of precisely £0 was hard work to say the least! We’d also just started the business and I’d ruptured a disc in my back and had terrible sciatica. It was a bit odd having Adrian and Rob (my co-founders) sat working at their desks, whilst I just laid on the floor groaning for a couple of weeks. I can imagine it was fairly distracting, but I was determined to make the effort and go in… so a bit of a rocky start looking back!
How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?
The acceleration in helping people collaborate effectively across huge distances is game changing. That said, I am a real believer in people spending physical time with each other and I believe work should be underpinned by strong personal relationships.
What does success look like to you?
Knowing that I’ve done the best I could and having no regrets.