Neill Lawson-Smith, MD and founder of CIS, is interviewed by his daughter, Erin, on the origins of CIS, how the company has grown over the last 31 years, and much more!
Below we have written a brief overview of this interview, but check out the video at the bottom for the full interview!
CIS was founded in 1989 by Neill, having graduated from Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University) with a degree in Computing Information Systems (BSc Hons) – and this is how CIS got its name!
Neill particularly enjoyed his degree as he feels it was ahead of its time because it bought Business, Management and Computer Science together for the first time, even including topics such as artificial intelligence well ahead of its time.
When starting the business, his father, Peter, gave him £100, a telephone, some clients and an office for a year to start his business, and the rest is history! Neill worked for himself for some time and, over the 31 years he has run the business, has grown CIS to a company of 22 people. However, building a business was not all rainbows and butterflies – for example, Neill was running CIS at the time of the dot com boom, where small IT businesses were really struggling to keep their best staff. Many people were being attracted to work for larger businesses of the likes of Microsoft, Oracle etc., rather than for small start-up IT firms.
Technology now is very different from how it was in 1989! One of the things Neill has particularly enjoyed and continues to enjoy is how the technology and computing field is constantly changing, and he was lucky to be starting CIS at a really exciting time for technology. Email was only just starting to be implemented, internet was only really accessible to academic institutions and people were only just starting to move to computers from typewriters! Neill found it incredibly exciting to be working at the very forefront of new computing technology and his success in this field has contributed to the fantastic reputation that CIS upholds today.
Neill is particularly proud of the values embedded within CIS – that it is a very people-focused company and communication is a strong point. Neill firmly believes that having the right people creates success in business and he attributes much of his success to having had a hugely supportive team around him. These qualities have massively paid off, having created trusting and rewarding relationships with his clients – one success that particularly comes to mind for Neill is his project implementing more modern computer systems into St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He has also been particularly enjoying working with small and medium-sized businesses like Rovema UK Ltd as he loves to see what he’s doing is really making a change and connecting with businesses on a personal level.
What for the future? Neill predicts that cybersecurity is going to be increasingly important in the coming years, with more and more of people’s activity being based online. As well as exploring new areas like this, he wants to make sure all of the company’s trusted and traditional support methods carry on at the same time.
When asked about what advice he would give to businesses struggling at the time of this COVID-19 pandemic, Neill says this is a really good time to look at training and developing new skills. He also highlights that communication is absolutely key in making sure that companies can work from home efficiently and effectively. At CIS, we are having lots of virtual meetings using platforms such as Zoom, and also continuing fun events like virtual quizzes to keep the staff morale and well-being up!
Here’s to another 31 years of CIS, and thanks to Neill for doing this interview! You can check out the full video interview below.