What I've Learnt: Paul McCloskey, Managing Director at Stopford

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Paul McCloskey, Stopford

Paul McCloskey runs Chester-based Stopford Information Systems, one of the leading providers of online booking solutions for local authorities.

This month, Stopford celebrated its 20th anniversary. In those two decades, they've helped clients - including a wide range of local authority, as well as names like BT and Nationwide - with services including e-business and eCommerce, software engineering, bespoke and mobile software development.

We sat down with Paul to find out the lessons he's learnt.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Morning swimming. Although pool time can be a rarity when we’re visiting clients for demos and training, if I can find time I won’t miss out! A swim wakes me up in the morning and focuses me for the day ahead.  

What's been your luckiest break?

Winning our first local authority client. In the early days of the business, we had to prove ourselves in the public sector marketplace and that proved to be no easy feat. It was really difficult to build up a reputation, stand out and get the confidence of these large councils.

When the opportunity came with the now-dissolved Cheshire County Council, it was almost as if all our handwork finally had its payoff, and we haven’t looked back since. 

What's your best failure?

I don’t always accept failure, even when I probably should! I always want to make the best out of a situation even if it can be for nothing.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

The investment that comes to mind is the time I put into learning to scuba dive. I can’t recommend it enough.

I find it’s quite easy to get stuck into routines and have a need to draw your attention to a thousand different things, so going into a space away from all the noise and distractions can be amazingly eye-opening.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Hectic but rewarding. Every week is a new challenge packed with client calls, exhibitions and training visits which can see me working from the office or home some weeks, and in another part of the country the next. 

Even though work doesn’t always stop for the weekend, what’s important I’ve found is making the most of your time off after long weekdays. I always make sure to get some time in for my hobbies to reflect and reenergise for the week ahead. 

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

'The Hound of the Baskervilles' by Arthur Conan Doyle. Besides being a very good read, the book uses logic to make deductions and I was first introduced to this as a reluctant reader whilst a teenager!

The use of that logic to piece together events I found fascinating, and probably led to my interest in my chosen area.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Travel and don’t pass up on opportunities.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many places because of our line of work and the success we’ve had, but I know in the past I’ve had chances to visit somewhere new or do something different that I just couldn’t say yes to. 

I’d tell my past self to look at every opportunity a little differently. Stop counting all the reasons you shouldn’t do something, and start making reasons why you should. 

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Although there are a number of people I could point towards as a massive influence, I’ll avoid naming just one!

Instead I’ll give credit to my first computer, the BBC Micro B, for inspiring me to enter software development when I was older. It was the family computer at a time when having a home computer was far from a normal thing.  

I remember it being easy to understand and tinker with, as I must have spent days on any coding and programming project that came to mind. The computer sparked my imagination back then and that same need to push the boundaries of software continues to motivate me today.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’m an avid Doctor Who collector! I have a library worth of DVDs, books and audiobooks across all the Doctors, with stories from Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor being my favourite.

When we are travelling for demonstrations or training sessions as a team, I regularly make sure to recap the audiobook story to everyone beforehand, as that’s all they are going to hear on the way there!

What does success look like to you?

As much as I’ve tried to avoid clichés, being happy is the most honest measure of success I can think of.

There are loads of things that can influence how happy you are but what makes me happy is the ability to provide a good standard of living for my family. Ensuring they don’t have to worry about finances and have the most opportunities available to them is the height of success.