What is it that drives and motivates the people that make the IT business tick? For most people in this industry, it seems their main ambition is achieving success – and that means personal success, not just the success of their companies. This is a people business: it is people who count, not just businesses.
Most of the A-List personalities see the highlight of their career as being the establishment, growth and success of their business, or the particular part of the organisation that they work for. There are clearly a lot of people out there who are proud of their achievements. Asked what has been his greatest achievement, Frank Salmon, managing director of CMS, says: “Setting up CMS and running it successfully for the past 18 years.” Simon Aron, managing director of Eurodata, says: “Growing a company from nothing to approximately £25m turnover in 15 years.” These are typical responses to the question.
Even those who have scaled the heights of their industry are striving to achieve more, and it is doubtful that the appetite for success will ever be sated among the A-List. Many would share the view of Westcon’s managing director, Simon Thompson. He says: “I am still trying. As soon as you achieve your goal you need to find a new, more important challenge.”
As well as their business success, the A-List are proud of having been able to help drive others forward. Marlene Yeoman, former vice-president and northern European managing director of Avnet, for example, says that she counts among her greatest achievements “being part of an innovating team, empowered to make decisions that ultimately affect people’s lives” and “enabling people to have the confidence to stretch themselves further than they thought possible”.
A good number of A-List crowd are also proud of having made it to the top, or near to it, from very humble beginnings. Ian Snadden, channels and SME director at Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC), for example, started off selling Brother printers, then served his time in the PC business at Apricot and Compaq.
Gary Turner, boss of Pegasus Software started out on the sales floor in Kettering 16 years ago, and Bhavesh Patel, commercial director at Ingram, had his first taste
of the industry in a shop on London’s Tottenham Court Road. Steve Muttram, managing director of Portable Addons, started off two decades ago selling modems “the size of a house” at Dowty.
Those were the days
Muttram is also one of many who are happy just to have made it through the roller-coaster ravages of the past few years. Another is Les Billing, managing director of Microtronica, who says that “keeping the business returning good profits, shareholder value and capital utilisation through the industry cycles and the latest recession”, has been his greatest achievement. And Tony Larks, marketing manager at Trend Micro, says that, apart from lasting in the industry for 15 years, his biggest achievement has been “to be surviving in a very competitive world that changes daily”.
While it is easy to remember the very challenging times of recent years, there is also a fair dose of nostalgia among the A-List. Many people express fond memories of the early days (wouldn’t we all like to see a return to the healthy margins of the 80s and 90s?) and companies such as Compaq, Apricot and others during the heady days when the industry was enjoying triple-digit growth every year.
There is also a stark recognition that there is no easy way to build and develop a business today. You have to fight hard win and to keep business and never forget that what goes around will almost certainly come around. Answering the question ‘What has the industry has taught you?’ Cisco’s UK managing director, John Donovan, says: “You don’t get anything or anywhere without working bloody hard for it.” Richard Chilver, country manager at 3Com has a similar view. “Very few companies stay at the top forever. You have to work hard to stay in the game, especially in distribution. Never take success for granted,” he says.
There is also a surprising degree of modesty at the top levels of the IT community. Larks says that what the industry has taught him is that it is wise to “rise with humility and fall with dignity – it’s a very small industry”. Snadden underlines this point by advising: “Never step on anyone on the way up. You are sure to see them on the way down.”
This time it’s personal
So what sort of people are part of the A-List? Roger Preece is founder and director of ThinkingLife, which provides work-life balance coaching and support. He says that, taken at face value, the results of CRN’s survey of the IT A-List indicate that a lot of people in the industry make work a part of their personal ambitions.
While about quarter of the A-List personalities are driven by the thrill of the chase, and another quarter are motivated chiefly by the wish to provide for their families, half are driven in some way by personal power, achievement or gratification. The IT industry contains some very driven and competitive people.
“Without consulting a full psychological survey, I’d say that IT is a lot more focused on personal power than other sectors,” says Preece. The alternative careers that the A-List personalities selected also reveals something of the nature of the business, he adds. The most popular choices were banking and finance, sports and flying – all areas that are fast-moving, dynamic, high-risk and with plenty of earning potential.
Playing fast and furious
These characteristics are further underlined by what people say they love most about the business: its quick-fire pace and the challenges and changes that are always arising. “It is dynamic and constantly moves and shifts,” says Kevin Drew, managing director of Triangle. “If you can survive any length of time in IT you can survive anywhere – especially as a reseller.”
Most people in the business would agree. Lee Perkins, UK director of Azlan, relishes being part of such a fast-moving business. “The greatest opportunities present themselves when times are challenging,” he says.
Others highlight the people who work in it and the spirit of the IT business as its most attractive facet.
“The people are what I love about the channel: they have real passion, and they are smart, quick thinking and entrepreneurial. These are just some of the skills of the people that I have the pleasure of engaging with on a daily basis,” says Natalie Johnston, channel development and marketing manager at Microsoft.
Alex Tatham, director of commercial products at Bell Microproducts, has a similar view. “I love the fact that such a large industry doesn’t feel quite so large when you get inside it. There is a great deal of camaraderie,” he says.
The prevailing hunger and ambition of the channel can be taken as read. There are plenty of people who want to make their companies number one, and many who want to make their money and go sailing or play golf, and there are also a good number who put their families first.
Whatever their ultimate motive, success is the biggest target for the A-List. They may work hard and play hard, they may be ambitious and determined to win, but in the end, the top performers in IT are ordinary people who are doing well, enjoying their time in the business and giving it everything they’ve got.
Vendor's announcements include AI-powered Microsoft Office, a move away from password verification and an alliance with Adobe and SAP
Vendor claims hackers are hijacking machines to mine for cryptocurrency
Nearly half of SMBs are planning to invest in digital workflows to reduce their paper-based processes by 2025, according to Quocirca
The charter has pulled together the biggest names in tech in an unprecedented attempt to address the tech industry's lack of diversity. Tom Wright asks how it plans to do it