Since 1990, Skyview has been providing innovative weather equipment to the UK and Europe and this year we are delighted to be celebrating the company's 25th anniversary. Take this opportunity to read our interview with managing director Nic Hart.
Tell us, where did the idea for Skyview Systems come from?
Having worked in the oil industry for a number of years, I was becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of damage that was being done to the world around us, not only through the burning of fossil fuels, but also from the drilling of vast areas of natural landscapes.
I decided to give up the security of a comfortable career and do something I was passionate about. I started a Master's In Business Administration at the University of Bath, and the germ of an idea for a business was formed in the following months. I had always believed that there must be a way to create an ethical business which would have a part to play in the environmental movement, and the creative and entrepreneurial atmosphere of my MBA class at Bath encouraged me to pursue this dream.
How has your ambition to be part of the environmental movement come to life for you?
Awareness of climate change can start with people monitoring the weather in our gardens at home. Did you know that the breakdown of the ozone layer was first spotted by a scientist working in the Antarctic using very simple methods? He plotted data over time and came up with astounding findings. We can all tune in to what's going on around us for the benefit of the planet by monitoring the weather and our environment.
Even in the lifetime of Skyview, the weather patterns in the UK have changed considerably and we're seeing much more unsettled conditions, particular windier and wetter weather.
You clearly have a passion for what you do, have you always loved the weather?
I have always loved the great outdoors and the contrasts of weather. As a pilot, I have often been surprised when people learning to fly come back from training schools in Florida and say how much they enjoyed having the same soaring temperatures every day. For me, flying, and any other outdoor sport, comes alive when the weather is full of contrast and change, rather than when it stays the same.
What does it mean to be 25 years old?
It's a wonderful feeling to think that the company that started in a garage in Wivenhoe in Essex is now one of the most successful weather companies in Europe, with customers all over the world. We're very proud of everything that we have achieved.
What are you most proud of?
There have been many proud moments but looking back now a personal favourite of mine is when we supplied weather equipment for all of the boats in the British Steel Round the World Yacht Race, allowing them to download satellite charts with wave and weather information. It's incredible to think of the journey that the participants, and our equipment, went on.
You clearly had big ambitions when starting Skyview, but have you ever surpassed your own expectations in the last 25 years?
Certainly, many times. Standing in an open field with Ian and other members of our team 20 years ago, deciding to build our new offices in Sudbury is one of them.
We send all of our orders out from these offices, speak with our customers, meet new suppliers and come up with creative marketing ideas. What lay before us then was an opportunity to expand our growing business, but in reality, what we've created here in Suffolk feels like a family home.
And what do you see in Skyview's future over the next 25 years?
Skyview continues to be at the forefront of new ideas and new technologies, bringing great weather products to both home users and companies at the cutting edge of their respective industries. If we can continue serving these customers, I'll be happy. We've been fortunate over the years to be able to support a number of charities close to our hearts, both through our work and through the donation of equipment, and I see this continuing indefinitely. It has been an honour to work with charities such as the Air Ambulance, the RNLI, Coastwatch and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
Do you have a favourite product in the Skyview catalogue?
The technological ability of some of our products never ceases to amaze me; the laser ceilometers we install at industrial sites such as heliports give cloud height information to ensure helicopters can land safely. In reality, though, it's often the simplest things that are the best. Our Combined Climemet Weather Dial, for example, is one unit, no larger than a clock face, yet it gives temperature, humidity and pressure readings. These three parameters can provide real insight into what the weather is doing. Simple, yet perfectly designed.
Technology has developed at an extraordinary pace in recent years. What do you think the most significant development in weather equipment has been over the last 25 years?
Skyview was the first company in Europe to link computers to weather equipment in order to record data, and at the 1991 Meteorology Technology World Expo, 'Metex' we were probably the only company exhibiting skills in this department. Skyview is still at the forefront of the distribution of weather equipment online with services such as Skylink Pro, and I hope we will continue innovating for the next 25 years.
What can weather enthusiasts new to Skyview expect from the company?
Just as our company relies on the individuals working for us, Skyview relies on really knowing its customers. Our job is not to sell a product but to solve problem. We have customers so delighted with our service that they often get in touch to tell us. Just the other day, we received an email with feedback on our Sales Assistant, Claire, saying: "You are a credit to your company Claire". This is what means the most to us. Without our customers and our staff, Skyview wouldn't exist.
And lastly, there are a number of sayings and quotes involving the weather, do you have a favourite?
This little tongue twister always makes me laugh: The storm starts, when the drops start dropping; When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping. ~ Dr. Seuss