What I've Learnt: Robert Pilkington of Ebbon-Dacs
Don’t assume you can do it all yourself
Earlier in my career, when I was IT director, I felt that I was capable of designing anything from a software point of view and that I could do everything myself. What I’ve learnt over time is that this rather naive approach is rarely the right one in business life. Instead, I’ve learnt that mixing the talents of strong internal teams, along with those of strategic partners and learning from, and working with, your customers is key to a healthy, successful and growing business.
Work with great teams of people
As a business grows, it becomes increasingly important to work with great teams of people. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that without them it’s impossible to grow a business to its full potential. Whatever the nature of your business, always try and ensure you have a great team around you.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that recruiting people from outside is the best way to achieve this. You may have hidden potential and talent within your existing employees, and over time you will learn more about them and come to recognise what their skill-sets are.
You may also meet someone within your particular sector, like fleet, who you recognise would make the perfect fit with the rest of your team, and it could be simply a matter of waiting for that person to become available. I remember identifying an individual at a certain finance house who was a client of ours and who I thought would make an excellent fit at Ebbon-Dacs. When his existing employer closed its doors to all new business and made him redundant, we were able to make him an offer and successfully employ him. He has proved to be a real asset to the company.
Leverage your business reputation
As your business becomes better known in its specific field of interest or market sector, and your reputation grows, it may be that good people want to come and work for you because they’ve identified you as a company they think is going places. Then you can use your business reputation to your advantage to attract the calibre of people you’re looking for. And the more good people you recruit, the more good people will want to come and work for you. It’s a kind of virtuous circle.
Never overlook the importance of partners
It’s often the right decision to work with a strategic partner to develop a certain area of your business, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel. It may be that a strategic partner has the perfect system, solution or tool that fits perfectly with your existing product, and means that you do not have to invest heavily in the development work for a new solution.
Working with strategic partners is often an excellent way to fill in your knowledge gaps and to overcome a certain business problem, as the right ones typically possess the expertise and know-how in areas that you do not.
Try and ensure you have stable backers
It’s vitally important for any business that wants to be around for the long term to have stable shareholders and backers. It’s not good for the business to have investors who are constantly changing and forever chasing next month’s results. Having a long-term view is key, along with investors who share your long-term vision for the success of the company.
In a business like ours, which is all about building long-term community platforms for ‘families’ of business users, having backers prepared to invest for the long term is extremely important for business confidence and continuity. We have been running this business now for 15 years with the same backers, and that certainty allows us to go on and develop our products through a long-term product development plan with confidence for the future.