It was this dislike of writing out invoices, doing expenses and calculating VAT payments, that drove Ed Molyneux to launch an online accounting system for small businesses and freelancers.After a decade spent flying military fast-jets in the RAF,Molyneuxmoved into freelance IT consultancy in 2002. However, he found that trying to balance his books with a spreadsheet provided by an accountant was a slow and complicated process. “While I was freelancing that I met a couple of fellow freelancers, Olly Headey and Roan Lavery, who became my FreeAgent co-founders,” saidMolyneux. “We all agreed that whilst we enjoyed working for ourselves, the experience of sorting out the accounts was painful and we detested using spreadsheets. We couldnt believe that there wasnt a single piece of accounting software on the market that was specifically targeted towards the kind of one-man businesses we were running and that was all the impetus I needed to write the first prototype of FreeAgent. He co-founded FreeAgent in 2007 with a view to democratise accounting for SMEs and micro businesses making people feel smart, not stupid, about their finances”. The system allows users to send invoices, track time and expenses, analyse bank statements, calculate tax bills and build real-time, jargon-free accounts and is now used by more than 40,000 freelancers and small business owners worldwide. Keeping the company focused has been a key reason for its success, believesMolyneux. We knew our target audience, understood the problems they faced and tried to develop a solution to those problems,” he added. We specifically-designed FreeAgent to address the needs of micro businesses, which have been historically under-represented in terms of accounting software and weve tried to completely reinvent the way that these businesses manage finances.
Molyneuxs training and experience as an RAF Harrier pilot has helped him in business. If you look at some of the key leadership qualities that the Royal Air Force seeks from its aerial war fighters, youll notice a great deal of crossover with the qualities that make a successful business leader,” he explained. Courage, emotional intelligence, a willingness to take risks, flexibility and responsiveness, the ability to handle ambiguity, technological competence, the ability to lead tomorrows recruits, mental agility and physical robustness, political and global astuteness theyre all important traits that both pilots and business owners need to have in order to succeed. He went on to say: The RAF also says that it’s difficult to overstate the importance of leadership in a military context, while strong and courageous leadership is needed at all levels to achieve success, it must be underpinned by a degree of emotional intelligence and the empowerment of subordinates in order to get the most from our people. Read more about armed forces inspiration:
- Making the transition from the army to business success
- Utilising a military background to build a fast-growing company
- Why you should hire ex-servicemen and women
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