Josh Hough, Founder & Managing Director, MAS Group & CareLineLive
Josh Hough, Founder and Managing Director of MAS Group and CareLineLive, discusses overcoming significant health difficulties and ageism along the way to launching an award-winning tech business.
I grew up in Horsham, West Sussex. Secondary school was a bit challenging as I spent a lot of my school years in a wheelchair due to a rare muscle weakening disorder called Minicore Myopathy. It was quite difficult and I immediately felt alienated from people. Thankfully, I'm quite sociable and I made some good friends who supported me through this time. I'm still really close to a lot of them now and it’s their support that has kept me going. This experience taught me that there’s always a way to get through, or past something, you just have to find how you’re going to do it.
My mum will tell a story of me being natural a leader, right from when I was very young. I wasn’t able to tie shoelaces and I got one of the people at school, who was notoriously difficult, to tie my laces for me. I've always found ways of persuading people to help me do things.
I set up a publishing company with my sister at the age of 13 called Mad About Stuff. My aunt and uncle owned a mailing house and they helped us develop it into a magazine run by kids for kids. We wanted to sell it in schools, so teachers could buy the magazine for their pupils to read and submit their articles to. We collated this into a magazine, which we printed once a month.
It was quite difficult to manage the magazine with school work. To get around this, I would spend my weekends doing the publishing aspect of things and have time to see friends. Then during the week, I would do my homework after school.
When I was in college, I initially wanted to study law with business. However, I was spending a lot of my weekends working and ended up doing more freelance work during the week as well, so my studies became second to the money that I was earning at the time. Although I came out with really good grades, I didn’t get what I needed to get into Sussex University, so I decided to take a year out and went to Australia to visit some friends. During this time, I started a Limited Company while I did my exam resits. I quickly realised that I was better at running a business, which I enjoyed. It wasn't the choice that initially everybody thought was the right one, but I think it all worked out really well.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES
When you run your own business, every day can become a day where you sit back and ask yourself 'why am I doing this?' But I look at some of the fantastic things that I’ve achieved, such as being the youngest person and the smallest company ever to win the Gatwick Diamond Business Award 2017 for innovation and technology.
We won the award for our CareLineLive product, which is providing a better quality of technology to the homecare industry. This was a real achievement and it definitely encourages me to continue pushing through. Of course, there are still days when I get up and think ‘why do I do it’ but it’s the good things that come from hard work and the recognition that tells me why.
When I started out in this business at 18, my age was definitely a barrier and it was a real challenge at times. I would walk into some of these places and say 'hey, I can do this for you', and people would ask 'where is your experience? How can you prove that you know what to do?' Personally, I think with IT in particular, having experience is not the most important thing. Knowledge, understanding and technical ability are the most important.
I think the biggest risk that I've taken was starting the development of our CareLineLive software. At the beginning we had no idea if it was going to work, and we were just asked to build something for a customer. We didn't know how well it was going to work or how well it was going to be received. As a result, we took private equity in the business and since then, we have seen positive results, gained recognition for our hard work, and customers appreciate what we have built. It was a massive risk because I didn't take a salary for six years while all profits were ploughed back into the business. This ensured that we could continue to develop the software and ensure that it worked.
Looking forward I’d definitely like to see more recognition for CareLineLive. As an IT company, we’re seeing customers buying more and more from us. For the ‘care’ part of the business, international growth would really be the thing that I would like to see the business achieve over the next few years. It’s something we’re working really hard on, to get the UK and other emerging markets to take the software on in their industries. Another goal would be to appear in The Sunday Times’ Virgin Fast Track 100 league table, which ranks Britain's top 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales over the past three years. That our target to enable us to say, ‘yeah you know what? We’ve done it.’
In Good Company
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