20 Questions: The founder of SmartSurvey Ltd, provider of user-friendly survey software, takes on raikesjournal.co.uk’s 20 questions
Quite what his fantasy dinner dates - Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers and Bill Gates - would make of his prefered choice of music (a little chilled drum and bass) would be worth being a fly on the wall for.
He loves how central Gloucestershire is - in easy reach of cities and the countryside - and his favourite place in the county is Tewkesbury.
He would recommend the restaurant at the Tewkesbury Park Hotel, and if he had to choose a county occassion to attend it would be Cirencester Food Festival.
His biggest kick is delivering for his customers and working with his team, but one man remains a hero for him - his father.
In the latest in our weekend series, Mo Naser, chief executive officer of SmartSurvey, the Tewkesbury-headquartered provider of user-friendly survey software, sat down with raikesjournal.co.uk (at a safe social distance, of course) and took on its ‘20 Questions’.
Question: What is your favourite film or series?
Q: You’re hosting a dinner party and can invite any three guests from any time in history. Who would they be and why?
A: Albert Einstein - given everything he’s achieved and his influence on the world, it would be so interesting to find out more about his theories.
The Wright Brothers – mainly because from a very young age I have always been massively fascinated with aviation and making things fly.
Bill Gates – I just find it so inspirational how he revolutionised software and fulfilled his vision in ensuring everyone could have a PC at their desk. I still follow him now.
Q: What is the best bit of your job?
A: I love working with people and solving problems. So, for me I’m happiest when I’ve helped to solve issues for customers, my own teams or other stakeholders that I have contact with.
Q: What is the worst part of your job?
A: There aren’t any worse parts as such, it’s more about some of the challenges that the role brings. Given how rapidly we’ve grown, the hardest challenge for me has been in taking a step back from different areas of the business and letting the various specialists we’ve recruited to just get on with their jobs. CEOs often say it can be lonely at the top and it’s often challenging not having someone to bounce ideas off too.
Q: Who was your childhood hero or the person you looked up to?
A: It’s got to be my Father. He has achieved everything from scratch with hard work and determination. And it’s this kind of entrepreneurial spirit that has he instilled in all my siblings, in never having any limitations about what we could achieve and being there to support us along the way.
Q: Where is your favourite place in Gloucestershire?
A: For me it’s got to be Tewkesbury, as this is essentially where SmartSurvey was born.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting out now?
A: Essentially there’s two key bits of advice I would give them.
1). Don’t go into business purely to make money, but rather to solve a problem and be able to do this in a unique way. If you can achieve this, the money will naturally follow.
2) Given how quickly its progressing, you need to think about technology and where it’s going next, if you’re going to future proof your business.
Q: Was there a mistake or piece of bad luck which changed things for the better?
A: If there’s any mistake I could reference, it would be in not trusting our gut instinct, which would have changed things for the better even earlier in our business.
Basically, having started off as a web design company in 2003, and then built SmartSurvey in 2006, we held onto the web design part of our business for longer than we needed to really. Although, at that stage it was our bread and butter, its growth based on customer projects was a lot more limited than the self-serve model of the SmartSurvey platform - something we soon realised when we finally launched SmartSurvey to the market and we doubled our revenue in our very first year.
Q: What is your favourite piece of music?
A: It would have to be the chilled drum and base genre of music.
Q: What qualities do you look for in a new member of staff?
A: A mixture of things really. Given the size of our business we look for intrapreneurs, essentially people that share our proactivity and self-motivation to really make the company succeed. I don’t believe anyone wants to be baby sat. With our approach it helps facilitate an open and innovative environment that is stimulating and exciting for everyone involved.
Q: What is your favourite pudding?
A: Ice cream
Q: Has the coronavirus pandemic changed how you see the world?
A: For me personally it would have to be my views on remote working, which has been experienced by an unprecedented number of companies following the Covid-19 outbreak.
While it has been successful for us as a technology company and offers many benefits, for most businesses the benefits of remote working are a lot less clear cut, particularly if they’re not given sufficient time to plan it, as was the case for many companies in the present climate.
While getting the right technology and security in place is essential, it’s only part of the story. There’s a lot more issues to consider from the furniture they have available to work from and their ability to connect with and gain support from colleagues and managers, to better understanding their home environment and how that might impact their work routine and motivation. Ultimately what might work for some people, may not suit others and needs to be tweaked accordingly.
In fact as the lockdown begins to ease and we’re starting to plan the return of our staff, we’ve even sent our employees a survey to find out more about their own experiences of remote working, so that should we need to do it again in the future we can make it work even better for them.
Q: If it was in the name of pleasure – would it be car, bicycle, walk, run, swim?
A: It would actually have to be flying, with me flying the aircraft
Q: What is the best thing about living/working in Gloucestershire?
A: I love the fact that it’s very central and we’re only an hour away from cities like Bristol and Birmingham, with London and Manchester also reachable within just 2 hours. Gloucestershire also provides a perfect balance between town and country.
Q: If you could wave a magic wand to achieve what you wanted to at work, what would it be?
A: Given the unique strengths that some people have that’s often difficult to find in other people, I often wondered how good it could be if you could clone these people.
Q: What’s your biggest frustration?
A: There’s often never enough hours in the day.
Q: If you could start again and had to do something else, what would it be?
A: Airline pilot
Q: Cheltenham Festival, any of the town’s other festivals, Giffords Circus, Stroud Fringe, Gloucester Rugby v Bath, Three Choirs Festival, Cirencester food Festival, evensong at Tewkesbury Abbey, or Newent Onion Fayre? And why?
A: Cirencester Food Festival
Q: If you had to recommend a pub or restaurant in Gloucestershire, what would it be and why?
A: I love the restaurant at Tewkesbury Park Hotel, with its mix of great food and amazing views.
Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
A: Probably doing the same thing, but maybe having a few more technology companies too. With the way the industry continues to evolve and innovate, I’m sure there will be plenty of fresh and interesting areas to invest in.
Q: What would you like to be remembered for?
A: Changing the world for the better.
Mo Naser is CEO of SmartSurvey Ltd: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/
Read more about SmartSurvey: Recruitment drive as tech firm goes from strength to strength
Every week theraikesjournal champions an individual from the Gloucestershire business community through the '20 questions' feature.
We pick them on merit (but if you want to guarantee to be featured £75 will ensure that happens and the article on you goes to our near 10,000 social media connections. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).