As published in The Press and Journal ‘The Business’ 25/09/20
“Right from school, up to senior football, I was captain of every team I ever played for.”
Energy entrepreneur, Colin Manson has been a keen sports fan all his life. Chasing after footballs throughout school and university, the CEO has even made some of his career decisions based on which team the job would enable him to play for.
As an entrepreneur, with two successful businesses under his belt, he credits sport and sportsmanship as a major factor in his leadership and drive. After all, a strong work ethic, perseverance, dogged determination and being a team player are some of the most fundamental values in successful companies.
Sports analysts increasingly provide evidence that the essence of modern football is speed. Players run more, the ball is circulating quicker, and decisions need to be made more rapidly than ever before. In fact, with players often in possession of the ball for an average of less than one second per contact, decision-making is one of the most crucial tactics in football.
Snap, life-defining decision-making has followed Colin throughout his life. It was this mentality that saw him turn down his first job offer with BT and instead opt to study chemical engineering at Heriot Watt University. It’s a quick-fire habit that has continued with him throughout his career.
He explained: “Over the years, I’ve learnt that the ability to make quick decisions is a very entrepreneurial trait. I know several people, especially in Aberdeen where there is a lot of opportunity, who share my ability to make quick decisions. Decisions that most people would shy away from!
“The real secret is appearing like you’ve made these decisions instantaneously, when in fact, you’ve processed and analysed it somewhere in your brain. You’ve worked out the angles and figured out all the routes. But whereas other people need to write it down in plans and spreadsheets and documents, it seems to happen overnight for me, making these quick decisions that ultimately have led to my successes.”
As a long-time fan of team sport, Colin recognises how it’s the combined efforts of a team that brings out an organisation’s key strengths and weaknesses. It’s the teammates and colleagues you surround yourself with that will, in turn, dictate how not only you develop, but how your business eventually crosses the finish line.
Notably, Colin first recognised the power of a great team when working at Enterprise Oil in the mid-1990s.
“If you look at the number of companies and entrepreneurs that sprung from that environment, it’s incredible. Around 10 or 20 small companies came out of there and I’ve often wondered if it was the culture there that did it, or if Enterprise Oil recruited a very specific type of person; someone that just wants to ‘go and get it’.”
And go get it he did when, after eight years at Genesis Oil and Gas Consultants, where Colin crafted his management skills and made a mark in the sector, he and several colleagues decided to set up their own business after an attempted management buyout.
Xodus was launched with everything that Colin had wanted in a team and a company. Not only that, but just as he had with every sports team and work department before it, Colin was, once again, ‘the captain’.
“When we set up Xodus, we broke the rules. We had four equal shareholders and decided that we would not appoint a managing director. But very quickly, I took the lead. Everyone started to look at me to run the place and it evolved into a position. After some time, the other directors formalised it and I was appointed as Xodus’ managing director.”
Just like in sport, business is all about strategy and sound tactics when pushing ahead against the competition. It’s about setting goals and learning from losing. Colin, for the first time in his career, was able to submerge himself in the corporate world. Learning the language and dealing with strategy development, budgeting and marketing. But above all, he wanted to build a great to place to work.
“Yes, we wanted to make money, we wanted to be successful, but deep down, we just wanted to be a great place to work. And I think we achieved that. It was an incredible period of excitement and growth.”
Not only did Colin succeed in driving this culture forward, but he also successfully grew Xodus to a $150M turnover business, with 14 offices operating in five continents.
Passion for the game
Great sportspeople dedicate their life to the sport they are passionate about. Training at every opportunity and looking to develop new tactics and skills at every hurdle. Great entrepreneurs are the same.
Having stepped down as CEO from Xodus in 2015, Colin then took the time to spend time with his family. But before long, the passion he had for growing a business was re-ignited.
“I needed to do something. I wasn’t bored, but at 51, I knew I wasn’t done yet. So, I started to think up a few ideas. This is key for entrepreneurs, being able to fire up five or six ideas at a time and working them all up simultaneously, never knowing which or when they will land.”
One of these ideas, eventually landed on a new tech firm, Xergy and its product, Proteus. Designed to iron out the inefficiencies in operating systems across the oil and gas industry experienced by Colin and many of his former colleagues.
Galvanised by his partnership with chairman, James McCallum, Colin threw himself into the initial start-up frenzy; from articulating the challenge the technology was to solve, setting the values and ethos of the company to designing logos and creating taglines, everything that Colin loves about building a business.
He excitedly proclaims to have enjoyed the best two years of his life bringing a new and revolutionary technology to the marketplace.
“I’ve really relished this. I like coming up with solutions – I love the creativity and the product development. And I think all my life, I’ve wanted to do this,” he explained.
“It’s unbelievably rewarding to see an idea in your brain come to life, first on a piece of paper and then to a tangible product that you can market and sell.”
And that idea was brought to market earlier this year when Proteus was launched at the peak of a global lockdown.
The new digital platform, which is set to revolutionise business operating models, is being used by over 35 companies across the globe and creating several jobs through both development of the tool and its freelance online marketplace.
Backed by almost £3 million of private investment, Proteus may still be in its still in its infancy, but it has the potential to explode across the globe, hitting almost every industry.
Once again, Colin, now in the role of CEO to a burgeoning tech company, is captain of another hugely successful venture. But what does it take to make it as a successful entrepreneur?
“It’s a bit like playing football. You either have the talent or you don’t. That talent then needs to be nurtured and developed but you need to have that to begin with. It’s the same with entrepreneurship. You can learn how to run a business, but being an entrepreneur, has to be in your make-up.”
Download our resources to learn more about how Proteus can help your business become more efficient.