TECHNOLOGY interests Andy Earnshaw – but it has to serve a purpose.
As business development manager for text messaging services firm SMiLeS and a member of the Institute of Marketing’s technology interest group, you’d expect nothing less.
But it’s not the latest gadgets and gizmos that matter – only how they can help businesses do things better.
“I have an interest and excitement about technology,” says Andy. “But there has to be a purpose. I don’t like technology for technology’s sake. My job is about understanding the technology, but it is more about understanding the customer and knowing where the technology can help them.”
From its light and airy offices overlooking the Colne Valley, SMiLeS has built up an enviable client list providing business text messaging services – putting its customers in touch with their customers to send targeted, relevant information.
Says Andy: “Figures show that while consumer-to-consumer text messaging is still rising slightly, business-to-business text messaging is rising quite steeply. Businesses are realising that it is a great way to get their message across – and that message will be read.
“It is the abuse of emails that has given text messaging the opportunity to grow and become the real channel for sending ‘must-read’ communications. We have to make sure text messaging is not abused the way emails have been – so that you cannot find the important message for all the spam.”
Marketing seemed an unlikely career destination after Andy set out from Penistone Grammar School to enter the world of work.
Andy, who was brought up in Shepley, took a foundation course in accountancy at Huddersfield Polytechnic and was articled to town centre accountancy firm Wheawill & Sudworth before leaving for a job as a quotations clerk with an electrical wholesaler in Leeds.
“I applied for a job as a ‘rep’ selling electrical products, but I didn’t know anything about it really. Instead, they offered me the job of quotations clerk, saying: ‘You're obviously good with numbers because you worked for an accountant’.” However, within a year of joining Thorn Lighting, Andy was out on the road selling.
He ended up working in Huddersfield for a company called Caselco, which had premises near the old Town ground at Leeds Road, before being headhunted about five years later by two American-owned companies in quick succession.
At the age of 30, Andy finally set up his own company, Systems Connect, selling computer cabling. He moved into consultancy six years later, working for businesses on short and long-term contracts – moving increasingly into helping start-ups and young companies in the technology field.
He became a Business Link-registered approved supplier of consultancy services and worked with ambitious companies on products and services using leading-edge technology of the time – such as bluetooth and touch-screen.
Since August last year, he has been business development manager for Golcar-based SMiLeS. As well as helping to build up the company, he has been able to generate links with worthy causes in the town.
“I am passionate about Huddersfield and proud of my Yorkshire roots,” says Andy. “My father was involved in the textile industry, which was the basis of Huddersfield’s wealth.
“I see that mantle being taken up by the emerging media industries. We have this richness of ideas and enterprise in Huddersfield.
“There is also a strong ethos about giving to local causes. SMiLeS has relationships with the Laura Crane Trust, Kirkwood Hospice, West Yorkshire Forget Me Not Trust and the Hollybank Trust. We use our expertise and technology to help people make donations by text.”
Andy detects a similar willingness for local firms to work together, saying: “We are very good at networking – whether we realise it or not. People in Huddersfield and Kirklees have a strong desire to work with each other.
“I don’t think there many products or services you cannot get in Kirklees.”
Andy is a strong supporter of initiatives such as the Kirklees Business Conference and the involvement of major organisations such as Huddersfield University and Huddersfield Town in bringing business people together.
As for SMiLeS, Andy aims to see it spread its wings and become a strong player not only in West Yorkshire but further afield. “We have the resources to help businesses send hundreds of thousands of text messages a year,” he says.
“We are focusing on organisations such as sports clubs and health and fitness clubs where they have members who want to keep up to date; schools and educational institutions; software developers and franchisors, who need to send information to franchisees.
“I understand communications and I have also run a business, so I know where good communication can bring benefits and where costs can be saved.”
Andy also believes in supporting the marketing industry.
He gained his marketing qualifications back in 1994 and became a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
He set up a Huddersfield-Halifax group and was asked to sit on the Mid Yorkshire branch committee before becoming chairman in 2007.
During his two-year tenure, Andy helped organise Creativity, Commerce and You – a showcase for some of Huddersfield’s most creative businesses and individuals who took to the “catwalk” at the Odeon Cinema alongside the Galpharm Stadium.
The event included a motivational talk by James Sommerville, director of award-winning design agency Attik, which was founded in the town and featured companies including Paxman Coolers, Creative North, Steel Dreams and ID-Wall.
They were joined by video specialist Virtual Huddersfield, insulating paint supplier Thermilate, fashion designers Toni Waller and Jamie Nelson, jewellery designers Frances Brown and Maria Lau, artist Gemma Nelson and women’s footwear designer Romilly Jane.
Andy now sits on the institute’s regional board for Yorkshire and Humber and attends its annual north of England meetings.
One of his proudest professional moments was to receive the Alan Brownley Award from the CIM in recognition of his achievements.
The award is in honour of Alan Brownley, of the CIM’s South Yorkshire branch, who died in June, 2007.
Andrew was in competition with 10 other CIM members from around the UK for the prize.
Andy, who lives in Fenay Bridge, finds himself working long hours so enjoys “chilling out, eating in with friends and listening to music” when he has time to unwind. He is also a keen follower of both Town and the Giants.
But work matters are never far away. “I am passionate about the idea of continual professional improvement,” he says. “I keep in touch with what’s happening in marketing and communications so that I can give best advice to my employers and clients.
“And I’m always trying to work out what the ‘next big thing’ is going to be.”
No, technology doesn’t stand still.