Matt Wilson’s tale is one of rags to riches – at 16 years old he had no job and £100 in his pocket – but now he is an IET Fellow and chief executive of his own highly successful business: Crosby Communications.
“No money, no prospects and unemployed, I transformed my life with Crosby Communications,” he says. “I’m proud because I’ve taken it from being a company worth £1 when it first started, to now being worth an awful lot more. This pride comes from putting the time in and seeing that all the stress and hassle was worth it in the end. I built this ‘little empire’ from the ground up and it’s nice to see it flourish.”
Matt’s taste for business began young. At 12 he started a disco agency that he funded by washing cars in his neighbourhood. It was a big success and at 15 he was interviewed on local BBC radio as a “budding entrepreneur that would go places”.
After finishing school Matt became unemployed and was trying to find his way. His dad convinced him to take an apprenticeship in electrical engineering, but at the same time he started the company that would become Crosby Communications. He’d had a keen interest in electronics from an early age; the budding entrepreneur in him hunting out and fixing old TVs and radios and selling them in the local newspaper, and so the apprenticeship seemed like the next logical, and safe, step.
Whilst doing this work and the few other jobs that followed, he continued his career in music by doing DJ work. This money he saved in order to fund the new company.
“I started the business whilst I was doing the apprenticeship, but I didn't start trading officially until I was 18. I got into comms work and I was building the business up part-time. Whilst I was on my apprenticeship I was doing odd jobs such as fitting telephone systems into offices, going to college during the day to learn the theory or on work placements with various companies learning how to install electrical systems.
In the evenings I’d work on the business or as a mobile DJ, as I was funding all of this by doing discos. It was a very busy time and pretty crazy.”
For Matt, the toughest challenge in his career so far was pulling together the money to get the business properly started.
“The money in the business originated from people’s weddings, 21st and 65th birthday parties!,” he laughs. “It all adds up and that’s what drove the business. Getting the capital I needed was the hardest thing to do.”
Once he’d raised the cash he needed, Matt was able to concentrate on the voice, data and video business and began working solely for himself. He’s continued to grow the business, branching into other areas so as to be sure he didn’t have all his “eggs in one basket”.
Once Crosby Communications was successfully up and running, Matt turned his attention towards self-development. With the business expanding, Matt decided it was time to get recognition for his growing management and technical skills, to prove that he was able to interact with his peers at this level.
As well as working towards becoming a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and the BCS – The Chartered Institute of IT, he wanted recognition for his technical abilities from the IET.
With his background he’d looked into becoming a member at during stages during his career but the timing wasn’t right. After putting it on the backseat while his career developed, in 2007 he enquired again and joined up.
“I joined because I wanted to be part of an important institution that is not solely academic. In fact the IET is made up of engineers who know how it’s done because they’re the ones who do it in the first place! That's what really attracted me,” he says, “it’s real people who’ve got hands on experience and I thought I've got to be part of this!”
Matt achieved Fellow status in the summer of 2010. He decided to apply after speaking to a colleague and mentor with Fellow status, who explained how distinguished it made him feel amongst his peers.
“The more I looked into it, the more it appealed. I wanted to do it to further my career, but also because I wanted to get more involved with the IET, the local communities and the committees.
“It allowed me to become more involved with the committees that help set policy, and it commands a lot of respect. I can also say to my customers that I am operating at Fellow level and they can recognise that."
Indeed, Matt is now a very active member, working on the Mersey West and Cheshire Local Network committee, the Registration and Standards committee and mentoring a number of engineers in his area. He enjoys the experience and loves giving back, by working with the IET Schools Liaison to go into skills and get children interested in careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.
His next achievement is to achieve Chartered Engineer (CEng) status, which he has now applied for.
“I’ve wanted to get Chartered for a very long time,” he explains. “ When I was younger I felt it was way out of my league, but as I’ve become more experienced and picked up some qualifications along the way, I wanted to go for it. As I don’t have a degree I thought that might hold me back, however I believe my experiences and achievements will show that I am clearly operating at Fellow level across a number of organisations. I will justify the rest through my competency statements.”
When this case study was written Matt was awaiting his interview date. We wish him the best of luck.