Founder of Aspen Solutions, Vincent Harkins, talks about the history of our company as it now celebrates 25 years in business this month and what he’s learned along the way!
1) If you could go back in time to March 1998, what top tips would you share on running Aspen Solutions?
My biggest tip is that your glass must be half full, 24 hours a day. In other words, possess an optimistic attitude – it’s vital in business. A lot of curveballs come at you on a daily basis and you’re required to provide an answer to the issue.
If you let things get to you then it’s a slippery slope, just do the work and if you fail, get up and go again. There is always a solution, it will appear.
So a positive mindset is essential, enjoy your life – spend time with your family and friends. For me, my wife Karen is a great source of inspiration and the perfect person to bounce ideas off of. Things happen outwith your control, that’s life – enjoy the day & enjoy what you do. Don’t dwell on the past, always be looking forward!
2) What’s the greatest advice anyone has given you, regarding life or business?
Finding a work-life balance, that’s the best advice I was ever given. It is easy to say, but hard to implement, however bringing my son, Paul, into the business has helped dramatically. At the age of 58, I believe it is only over the last few years that I am beginning to achieve this balance.
I would have added more talented individuals sooner into the business too. Being the business owner does not mean you know everything. You never stop learning and adding skilled people to your team is never a bad thing. Sales have always been my passion, as is engaging with clients to solve their problems. This helped get the business off the ground in the early years, but getting the right people around you is vital.
3) What are the biggest challenge(s) you have faced – covid aside?
On a personal level, my daughter, Sophie, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003 at the age of 18. It was a horrendous period for my family, but we stuck together and it really brought home the fragility of life. Thankfully a stem cell transplant from The Anthony Nolan Trust with the amazing people at NHS Glasgow saved Sophie’s life – I will forever be in their debt. Everything else pales into significance for sure!
Obviously, my family comes first, but if you were to ask about the biggest business challenge then it would have been 5 years later when the 2008 economic downturn hit. That was the deepest UK recession since World War II. Many well-known and established businesses folded, but we grew with hard work and grafted every day. Sheer determination got us through those tough times, but our plans to expand and develop a new warehouse on land we had purchased in Cumbernauld, had to be put on hold. We slowly built up the business, added clients, and stayed nimble. Ultimately, we came out stronger on the other side!
4) Any particular highlights over the last 25 years?
Our partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID) supplying IT hardware & photocopiers to over 70 offices in the Third World, was a tremendous honour. This led to Hilary Ben MP, visiting our offices in Cumbernauld in 2007 to meet all our team.
Then Rosemary McKenna, a local MP, thanked Aspen Solutions for our work for DFID at Prime Ministers’ Question Time too. As a result of this, Aspen Solutions is now in Hansard, the edited verbatim record of what was said in Parliament.
I was very humbled when an industry icon, David Ennis, OBE, Managing Director OKI UK, opened our new office in Cumbernauld in 2002.
Most important of all, watching my three children grow into brilliant individuals that I am immensely proud of and also my three grandchildren being born.
5) How do you unwind?
I cycle and have done so over the last 15 years to clear my head. Exercise is the best stress buster and I find it helps cope with all challenges. So many ideas & problems are solved on the bike instead of sitting at my desk. This has helped my stress levels and was probably the start of my trying to find a work-life balance. Also, having three grandchildren to chase after has assisted with the opportunity to switch off from the business world!
We look forward to many great years ahead and if we can help your business, please feel free to get in touch – thanks for reading!
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