The origins of Happy date back to 1987, when I first registered the company and started provided training to friends and contacts. However 4th February 1991, twenty years ago this week, was the date on which Happy Computers established its first training centre in Wicklow Street, near Kings Cross. It had just one training room and the only staff were me and Tina, a part-time administrator. From there we grew steadily to our current training centre, with 14 training rooms and 20,000 people trained last year.
At the time WordPerfect 5.1 was the latest word processing software, taking over from Wordstar and Multimate. Windows 3 had only just being released and Word for Windows had barely been heard of. Supercalc and Lotus were the spread-sheets of choice, and were a bit basic. I remember how, to print in landscape, you ahd to teach people how to enter a 12 digit code. The idea of the world wide web was still being worked on by Tim Berners Lee at CERN. And I remember investing £1,300 per machine to get 16 MB of hard disk space and a whopping 4MB of RAM in the PCs.
A lot has changed since then. The technology is miles ahead, the software is much easier to use and the web has changed just about everything. We now train online, and deliver webinars as well as our core class room training. But the core principles on which Happy Computers was founded, of involvement and making learning about computers fun – and having a positive effect on society, remain in place. And we are very proud of our record of 20 years as an independent training company.
Any other memories of the early days of IT training welcome. Do post a comment.
There have a been series of demonstrations, organised by UK Uncut and others, against companies who have been avoiding paying their tax. I say good luck to those protestors. How about forming a group of companies committed to paying their tax, to put extra pressure on those multi-nationals seeking to avoid it?
But I'm having difficulty finding companies to join! I asked our accountants if any of their clients were happy to pay their tax in full. He thought for a moment, casting his mind over hundreds of companies, and said "maybe one". I wrote before of finding, when looking for a new auditor, that the focus of nearly every auditor we met was how to help me avoid paying tax.
Where is our sense of social responsibility? We expect to get the benefits of public spending. We expect our workforce to be educated, we expect health care for when we or they are ill, we expect to be protected against crime, we expect good transport and infrastructure.
I don't want to seem holier than thou. To be honest, we haven't made a lot of profit in the two years of recession. But when we did well in the previous years, it seemed only appropriate to pay our fair share.
So next time you hear a representative of a company, whether large or small, talking about corporate social responsibility and their contribution to society, ask them a simple question: Is their company committed to paying their full UK tax bill?
Henry Stewart is founder and Chief Executive of Happy Ltd, a training company that has won widespread awards and recognition. This includes being rated the best company in the UK for customer service (by Management Today) and the 2nd best place to work in the country (Financial Times).
Outside of work I am a keen cyclist and have cycled the etape, the public stage of the Tour de France. I am also Chair of Governors of my local secondary school, which my 3 children attend.