The Megabuyte Interview

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An ongoing series since 2012, interviewing leading lights among UK technology CEOs, Chairmen, CFOs and investment professionals for Megabuyte.

Full archive.

* Chris Spencer, CEO Of Emis. “The secret to the company’s success, he believes, is not trying to do every system at once, and to not assume midwives, brain surgeons and psychiatric nurses all have the same needs. And to talk to the people doing the work on the ground and get them onboard, because it won’t work if the doctors don’t want it to.” Read

* Steve Vaughan, CEO of Phoenix IT. “A lot of people have 10% of the answer, cluttered up with lots of things that aren’t part of the answer.” Vaughan’s job is to be the one who can step back and put all these pieces of 10% together, and make a plan for the whole. “But how much of the plan is me thinking it up out of my own imagination? Not very much, I’m relieved to say.” Read

* Katie Potts, Founder of Herald Investment Management. “You just have to be prepared for things to take longer. I’m sensitive to how we are different from a lot of investors: we will regularly make investments that we expect to be dead money for a couple of years. … It takes time for real businesses to come through.” Read

* John Hawkins, Executive Chairman of Vislink. “What you have to listen to most are the markets and the customers, and what you have to listen to least is middle management, because they have their own agenda. Where a lot of people fail is that they don’t execute on what they’ve seen in those first 60 days.” Read

* Alistair Lukies, CEO and founder of Monitise. “[In the UK] we are a little bit embarrassed about entrepreneurship, about risk-taking and all the things you need to create that kind of ecosystem of technology companies. Do I see my role as being a bit of a Pied Piper for UK doing more of this sort of thing? Yes, I absolutely hope Monitise is a good example.” Read

* Lawrence Jones, CEO and founder of UKFast. “Asked how worked out how to manage 250 people after the startup days, Jones cites listening, reading and getting it wrong: “I’ve lost some brilliant people over the years by not understanding how to get them to the next level. But now, we understand. Now we have a good business that nurtures people. And if there’s no room for them to grow, you can advise them to set up another business, and then fund that.” Read

* Greg Day, Chief Security Officer of EMEA at Palo Alto Networks. “One of the reasons I love working in this industry is, no two days are the same. … Just when you think you have a handle on the cyber security industry, new technology comes out. New threats come out. It’s an amazing space that’s only limited by people’s imagination.” Read

* Richard Law, CEO of GB Group. “But at some stage, if you’re going to disrupt things, you have to ignore what the crowd is telling you. That’s how you steal the march and make an impact.” Read

* Bob Falconer, CEO of Gamma Communications. “But to be frank, after an IPO you come back into the business and realise you must have been out of it for the best part of six months. You think you’ll have a rest, but it’s actually the opposite: I haven’t done this! I haven’t done that! There’s a huge period of catch-up.” Read

* Mike Norris, CEO of Computacenter. “Norris started at Computacenter as a salesman, an attitude that seems to have stuck: “Oh you have to read people. I’m a salesman, yes absolutely. I’m a B2B sales guy though, which is slightly different. If people don’t buy it from me, they’re going to buy it from somebody else. I’m not developing a need. But I’m a salesman. I love it – it’s the best part of the job.”” Read

* Andrew Lindsay, CEO of Telecom Plus. “Our view is that we’re at the vanguard of [the trend towards fairer customer treatment]. The customer who comes to us and gets treated well has lifetime value. This is much, much greater than a short-term disgruntled customer, even if you’re making a healthy margin out of them.” Read

* Mike Tobin, CEO of Telecity. “You have to grow up and you have to have luck. Every job I’ve gone for everyone said I would never get it. To be fair, I probably secretly thought I couldn’t do it! When I recruit someone, I don’t look at their CV. I assume whatever process they’ve gone through to sit in front of me means they have the minimum requirement. All I’m looking for is the chemistry. Can I trust this person?” Read

* Ian Churchill, CEO of BigHand. A high level of customer satisfaction, along with exciting new products and a stable financial base, were key reasons why Churchill opted to join BigHand last November. “You start to get a feel for the organisation as you go through an interview process, and it just felt like a really nice place to work. Five months in, I still think it’s a great place to work.” Read

* David Pollock, CEO and founder of Chess Telecom. “When you become very narrow, you become boring and you miss out on opportunities. I still don’t think, as a business, we’ve had our moment yet. There’s plenty more for us to achieve.” Read

* Christian Nellemann, CEO and founder of XLN Business Services. “One of the things Nellemann wants his business to be, is a champion for small businesses. “I’ve never worked for anybody else, I’ve always run small businesses. This one happened to morph into a big business. But my family has always been entrepreneurs. I have a very full understanding of the challenges of starting and running your own business: the priorities, the time pressures, the sacrifices.”” Read

* Lee Wade, CEO and co-founder of Exponential-e. “It’s our culture that drives the company. All these things we’ve talked about add up to this: Exponential-e 3.0. That’s been on our wall for ten years.” Well, there’s one thing that’s changed: the scope has expanded, from Europe to the world. “What I’m seeking here is about one thing, and one thing only. Recognition! Because we believe we are the best at what we do in the world.” Read

* Neville Davis, Chairman. “The nature of the chairmanship means you mustn’t want to do what the CEO does. Otherwise you’ll be a really lousy chairman! You need to have got to a point in your life where you have done enough of that, when you are fulfilled and satisfied and you want to do something different.” Read

* Chris Humphrey, CEO of Anite. “Humphrey does an admirable job at explaining how it works, but frankly, this stuff is madly complicated with lots of acronyms and metaphors. “It’s data that’s caused this huge pressure on the network, plus scarcity of spectrum. We’ve basically reached the natural physical limit.” Read

* Michael Whitfield, CEO and co-founder of Thomsons Online Benefits. “Recently Whitfield felt the company was becoming too process-y, with too many people changing the proverbial lightbulb, and issued a call for more pink: “Don’t tell me you can’t get it done for six months. Find a way! I feel the culture of this business, so if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. I think that’s a great way to run a company.”” Read

* Sherry Coutu, investment angel. “All the companies I spend time with make the world a better place from one angle or another. That’s what keeps me from going to bed at night, because I’m so excited about things. And it wakes me up early in the morning because I can’t wait … it’s almost like slaying another dragon.” Read

* Charles Nasser, CEO and founder of Claranet. “That was a huge lesson for me: only take the money if you really need it, and make sure you explore not just financial but also commercial alternatives. It gave us a huge amount of freedom.” Read

* Matthew Hare, CEO and founder of Gigaclear. “People want reliability – that’s what our market research says – it’s not just about speed,” asserts Hare. “Fundamentally, I believe having fibre everywhere will make as much difference to this country as the railways.” Read

* Mark Howling, CEO of Pulsant. ““At the time, what happened was horrible. In hindsight, it was one of the best experiences I ever had. When you’re running a business with a tiny margin, which reselling computers has, and your sales are shrinking, it makes you realise how careful you have to be about spending money.” Read

* Matthew Riley, CEO and founder of Daisy Group “There’s something in me that wants to build a billion pound turnover company. I’d like to be part of something with that size and scale – and put my name to it.” Read

* Nick Bray, CFO of Sophos. “Whether it’s a public or a private company, investors want a strong leadership team. I’m a big believer that a great CEO and a great CFO make a hugely powerful team. That´s what I enjoy doing: being the CFO in the formula.” Read

* Richard Longdon, CEO of Aveva. We have being playing catch up for a long time. Having got to the position we are in now, I think we could become a much, much bigger company.” Read

* Andy Roberts, CEO of The Innovation Group. “I quite like the idea of working with young people. It’s a real treat. You feel you are contributing in ways that maybe they can’t, but equally they are contributing in ways that you can’t. … As you get older you don’t panic as much. You’re more used to what goes wrong, as well as what goes right.” Read

* Martin Leuw, Chairman. “I think this is a really exciting time. The economic climate is driving people to do things differently; they say the best time to start a business is during a recession because it drives change and evolution that much quicker. Read

* John Innes, CEO of Amor Group. “Culture trumps strategy. Not only do you need a fantastic plan, but you also need an environment where people want to execute it. And people generally want to do things when they feel happy, appreciated, and rewarded.” Read

* Nick Discombe, Chairman. “Just having someone to talk to can often help you get to the right answer. Even the most confident CEOs often need someone to just chat things through with. I always felt Terry was in my corner, but I also felt Terry would tell me very clearly if he thought i had something wrong.” Read