Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within the organisation?
I was born and educated in Newbridge. Having completed an apprenticeship locally I moved away to work for many major corporations including; IBM, Memorex, Ascom and AT&T. My final corporation days were spent at Lucent Technologies as Managing Director of the UK and Ireland Contact Centre Business – with a turnover of $200M.
The early 2000’s saw my venture into company start-ups as a co-founder and director of Oritor Services, a large project IT company, and co-founder and Managing Director of RPS Technology Solutions, Wales’s only Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP). RPS has developed and deployed its own network, specifically for bespoke telecom solutions for the SME market.
What are your plans for the next five years and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
My plans for the next five years centre on continuing the growth of RPS whilst maintaining and developing the ethos and values we hold as a business. I often consider retirement but when I see the enjoyment and pride in the team we’re building I know I would greatly miss working.
The challenge comes from continuing to grow at the same rate as the numbers get bigger and ensuring we stay true to our values as a business. Opportunities in the market are extensive with the demise of ISDN post 2020. When services will no longer be available to order from BT, companies will have to turn to internet based Voice Over IP telephony and we are well placed to deliver solutions from simple small installations through to complex contact centre capabilities.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
There aren’t too many things I would have done differently from a business perspective. I possibly could have benefitted from a period spent directly in selling or sales management. However today’s selling is much more about relationship building as opposed to the hard sell. The main regret is that my work did take me away from family life a lot and one thing I realised I missed out on was the growing up of my two daughters.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
Honesty, integrity and never stop learning. Being able to communicate authentically at all levels, from the cleaning staff to senior directors in a boardroom displays you have a genuine affinity with people’s lives. Developing a ‘can do’ culture through leading by example is fundamental to building a successful business.
What are your top three tips for success?
As well as the three above:
Set agreed goals and objectives for the business (not just financial) and inspire everyone in the organisation to become motivated to achieve them.
Teamwork before process, companies who strictly adhere to structure, silos and process cannot compete with fast footed, let’s get the job done professionally-minded organisations.
Surround yourself with a variety of great and flexible people, who are not only experts in their fields by have minimum egos. They can dive in and contribute to a situation outside of their direct remit.
Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?
Through the role out of high speed internet and some modern day thinking, companies should look at developing small satellite offices throughout the valleys/Welsh rural areas. With today’s technologies not all staff has to be located in a large office in Cardiff. Admittedly transport need to be improved, but why get your staff to travel two hours a day when a remote office that is fully and functionally connected to HQ could house a small team and everyone would appear to be centralised to the outside world/customer base.
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
Skills and recruitment could prove to be an issue in the future. Wales is seeing great growth in the digital/technology and science led business sector as well as the financial market places. Creating linkages through universities and schools regarding the skill sets pupils need to have when leaving education and linking those to the local job marketplace could sustain the growth required.
Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
Fortunately not, ourselves, like most telecommunications companies, provide their services to UK based organisations and export very little. There may be some impact on international call rates but that is highly unlikely.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
As a country Wales has a plethora of great, hardworking people who possess wide ranging skills from some of the traditional manufacturing capabilities through to construction capabilities and software development services. All of which are required in today’s high growth businesses.
Transport is crying out for an M4 relief road. Wales needs better integrated transport, covering not only South Wales but also South to North Wales. This could be overcome using the technologies as mentioned above.
The Welsh Government needs to financially support Welsh start-ups as opposed to attracting quick win large foreign companies, who may have long term plans but end up staying only a few years at best.
Finally, there needs to be a drastic simplification of the ways businesses can obtain support. The current mixture of government funded organisations is far too wide and complex for small businesses to understand and use, which results in the smaller companies rarely engaging because it’s too complex. A centralised co-ordinated support group with local offices would work much efficiently.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
Most definitely address and improve the above weaknesses, but continue with the message that Wales is a great place to establish a business due to workforce, links to academia and pitching to the investment communities both in the UK and major international cities. Also marketing a number of potential high growth SME businesses to investors and creating a forum where they and investors can meet in both a formal and informal manner could prove to be extremely beneficial.
What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?
First and foremost the basics need to be promoted; good maths and English skills are paramount. This coupled with an ‘outside of the box’ mentality way of thinking, innovation and confidence will drive the companies of the future. Encouraging every individual to push themselves to the edge of their abilities and learning through failure should be encouraged and not frowned upon. I believe that there needs to be retraction in pushing the fact that everyone needs to go to university, many a good entrepreneur did not and there needs to be avenues available for all skill levels, be it academic or vocational.
How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?
This is critical. Many students have little or no experience of the working world except maybe part time local work or if their parents have run businesses. There are two types of interaction required here; pupils learning more about what different businesses do, how they work, roles involved etc as well as businesses helping to develop curriculum content with establishments that links specific subjects to the business world of today.