Sarah Pawson is much happier talking about her approach to risk than she is about herself.
In 2008 she launched her first business – Fruition IT – during the global financial crisis and launched her second – Fruition Consulting – in 2020 during the global pandemic.
This year the two Leeds-based businesses will have a combined turnover of £27 million with zero investment, making it very difficult not to talk about Pawson.
“Our success has been a real team effort so it’s not just down to me,” she says modestly.
Pawson’s back story is fascinating. A talented childhood showjumper, she worked in tech recruitment after leaving university before launching Fruition IT at the age of 30.
“Having had a successful career working for a corporate business, where I’d progressed to a senior management role, I was quite entrepreneurial and thought ‘I want to do it my way’,” she recalls to TechBlast.
“I was young, had no children at the time so the risk was all on me as an individual. I’ve always backed myself and felt I could make it work.
“Unbeknown to me at the time that I left, the financial crisis was just around the corner but we managed to ride the storm really well.”
However that wasn’t the only surprise facing the startup. The company was originally called Ambition IT but the name had already been trademarked.
“I was a bit naïve,” she admits. “I came up with this great name – Ambition IT – and hit a hurdle after 12 months when we found out an Australian company owned the EU trademark for Ambition IT so we had to rebrand.
“As a business that had only been trading for 12 months that was a difficult conversation to have with clients, who automatically assumed we’d experienced financial problems but that was absolutely not the case.
“Once we found out about it, it was quite easy to manage but at the time it felt like the world had ended.”
Pawson says there are three core values that underpin the ‘Fruition’ family – pride, energy and persistence.
“The main one is pride and doing things to the very best of your ability,” she explains. “If you say you’re going to do something, do it. All we can ever ask of someone is that they do their best. The key things that we look for in anyone joining our business are attitude and effort.”
Fruition IT is completely bootstrapped and has just hit £20m turnover this year.
Pawson says the key to its success has been about being authentic, both as a business and as individuals.
“It’s so important to be authentic in the relationships that we build,” she says. “By being authentic we’re likeable. That seems a silly thing to say but it’s true. People do business with people they like and they trust.”
In 2020, as the world dealt with COVID-19, the entrepreneur launched her second business with the financial support of the first.
“You must not think too much about what could go wrong,” she says. “Anything could go wrong and we’ve learnt that over the last two years but you have to be prepared to ride out the storm.
“Setting up Fruition Consulting made perfect sense. The relationships we’d built up at senior level were incredibly strong and based on trust. If we say we’ll do something, we’ll do it.
“We spoke to a number of CEOs and CIOs about what they really wanted from a consultancy partner. We understand that really well.
“Coupled with that we had a really strong network that we’d build up through our recruitment business from nearly 14 years of working with world class technical consultants, who have now become associates of Fruition Consulting. We are able to deliver services and scale them really quickly.”
Fruition Consulting deliver high quality technology and change consultancy services to clients across the UK.
Clients include Sky Betting and Gaming, TransUnion Pokerstars and the GDS Group.
Pawson says: “We employ 30 permanent staff, with 300 contractors sitting across the group. Of these 100 are associates to the consultancy business.”
The mother of eight-year-old twin boys says there’s now a global race for talent and it’s not unusual for the UK’s best tech talent to be targeted by Silicon Valley.
“It’s suddenly become easy for companies outside of the UK to try and attract talent from home. We have some really good technical people and it’s become a global opportunity for companies to recruit talent from wherever. There’s no geographical restrictions anymore.”
Pawson prefers not to talk about herself but spoke of the challenges of being a working parent.
“I want to be a role model for young women who want to progress in business,” she says. “You can successfully run a business as a female, have a family, have young children and still be present in both but it’s difficult and challenging.
“At different stages, depending on how demanding things are at work or at home, certain things have to give. It’s about trying to get that balance right.”
- Sarah Pawson is speaking at a virtual event on January 31st entitled ‘Tech trends and the investment story in the Leeds City Region’ https://www.techclimbers.co.uk/webinar/tech-trends-investment-story-leeds-city-region-2022?hsLang=en-gb