Business Spotlight: Rockfield Software
John Cain is MD of Rockfield Software, based in Swansea. It is an independent company providing market leading software and solutions for the energy and nuclear industries. Trusted for over 30 years by international blue-chip clients to find solutions to their everyday problems. John started at the company in 1994 as a data clerk before becoming Managing Director in 2014 following a management buyout.
Tell me more about how Rockfield started
Rockfield Software was founded in the eighties by three professors at Swansea University. Electrical engineering professor Ken Board, and civil engineering professors Cedric Taylor and Roger Owen. It was originally started to commercialise aspects of Research & Development that were being developed within the University.
I joined in 1987 as a data entry clerk. We were a start-up company with just five staff. Over the next 10 years, I got involved in all aspects of the business. I moved up to Sales Manager, then into Operations and Sales Director. Becoming Managing Director in October 2014 following a management buyout.
60% of our revenue comes from abroad. Europe is a big market for us but we also do a significant amount of work in the USA and South America. We recently secured a contract in Columbia.
What does Rockfield do?
We’re an independently-owned company, proudly based in Swansea, right on the waterfront in SA1. We’ve been working with small independents and international blue-chip clients for over 30 years helping them to create solutions to their everyday problems. Rockfield mitigates risk and removes uncertainty through the delivery of software to enable the energy sector to operate a safe subsurface environment; run scenarios on the suitability of various rock-formations for nuclear burial; and assist glass container manufacturers in light-weighting to reduce the carbon footprint in manufacturing transportation whilst maintaining the integrity of the containers.
What geographical markets and industry sectors does Rockfield trade-in?
We trade all over the world. In fact, around 60% of our revenue comes from abroad. Europe is a big market for us but we also do a significant amount of work in the USA and South America. We recently secured a contract in Columbia. Our customers are primarily energy companies - oil, gas and green energy. As the green energy market gains momentum we are getting involved in some really interesting projects relating to carbon storage, geothermal and hydrogen storage foundation design for wind turbines. It’s an exciting time for the energy industry.
Our plans for the future involve consolidating our position as a global leader of technology driven solutions through the embedment of our software for the energy sector and capitalising on our new Glass forming software package to make that the No. 1 software package for modelling of glass containers.
Do you see green energy as the future for Rockfield?
If we fast-forward 20 years then there will be a lot more green energy and diversification at Rockfield. At the moment, however, our daily lives can’t function without hydrocarbons. They’re in everyday materials, the world hasn’t got the technology to change as quickly as we’d want to.
What are your plans for expanding Rockfield’s team globally?
We currently have an office in Houston. We also have staff members working for us from Japan, Spain, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia so we are a truly international employer. We operate a hybrid working policy, so our people can work remotely but always have a base at our headquarters in Swansea. For us, having all our departments under one roof in Swansea means we’re able to communicate with our customers and offer them the best service and solutions possible as well as having a collaborative atmosphere for team building and product development. Our plans for the future involve consolidating our position as a global leader of technology driven solutions through the embedment of our software for the energy sector and capitalising on our new Glass forming software package to make that the No. 1 software package for modelling of glass containers. This will secure the expansion and growth programme of Rockfield for the next 5 years.
Despite the fact some now live thousands of miles away we will always have that Welsh connection and that’s powerful. No matter where you are in the world the Connect platform enables everyone to be connected in one digital place.
What challenges have you faced in the last few years and how have you overcome them?
We were quite fortunate in a way that we tracked the development of Covid as it spread across the world. We quickly implemented a hybrid and remote working approach ahead of the government to test productivity and see the effects it would have on our team and found that it worked positively for us.
Our main challenge during the pandemic was the reduction in travelling which meant less energy resources being used, given our client-base this could have been detrimental to us. We re-grouped and decided to focus on enhancing our glass-forming software package. This way we could re-allocate resources and continue to work with our energy customers whilst also working with existing and new glass container manufacturers. This was where Rockfield started all those years ago so it was great to be back focusing on what we were founded on!
What are your ambitions for the company and how can GlobalWelsh help you achieve them?
We are very ambitious and want to grow the company over the next few years, hoping to get up to 30 staff members. We’d like to invest in the software side of the business more in particular as this is where we see the most opportunity and this would help us become more sustainable as a business. Through GlobalWelsh there are opportunities for us to connect with likeminded Welsh people all over the world. We have opportunities to build new relationships and promote our business globally.
Network, network, network, as much as you can. Have as many face-to-face conversations with your clients and potential clients as possible.
Why did you choose to become a GlobalWelsh business member?
I am Welsh born and bred and I liked GlobalWelsh’s vision. I think it’s a great idea and amazing really how we can form business connections through our love for Wales. Despite the fact some now live thousands of miles away we will always have that Welsh connection and that’s powerful. No matter where you are in the world the Connect platform enables everyone to be connected in one digital place. This helps us, as a business, to make new connections and form new relationships which are invaluable and reduces the pressures of navigating other social media platforms because you already know you have something in common.
We’re re-signing to GlobalWelsh now so I am looking forward to re-immersing myself and discussing business prospects with other passionate Welsh people!
Having built a successful international business, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and business leaders who are looking to trade overseas?
Network, network, network, as much as you can. Have as many face-to-face conversations with your clients and potential clients as possible. There’s no replacement for meeting in person and creating that human element. We’re in a great place now where we can network online and face-to-face and there’s a place for both when you’re building relationships. Connect is great actually, because you can post Trips and Check-ins and share events so it very much helps facilitate the face-to-face networking as well as the online initiating and maintaining of those relationships.
Finding commonality. This helps you to be more personable in your communication and in turn betters your business relationships. Learn what they do in their spare time, whether they like to ski or travel or what football team they support. Even if they are from a completely different culture, there is always something. On Connect, that bit’s taken care of as we all share that Welshness which really helps.
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