Starting Over & Going Again…Day One

Published on October 1, 2020

In many ways this is by far the easiest of all blogs to write as I have been here so many times before.

As Tony Stark from the film ‘Avengers Endgame’ says “Part of the journey is the end”, the final part of my own Certus journey has now come to its natural end with Accenture. But as one door closes, another opens (even if you have to kick it in!).

So, what’s next? I’m not the kind of person to sit on a yacht in the Mediterranean and watch the world go-by (and before anyone asks, no I don’t own one!), and I am far too young to retire as I miss the cut and thrust of the tech ecosystem and I know I still have much to contribute to rebuilding the UK economy.

In the meantime, our once pioneering territory of Oracle Cloud has matured into the most complete back office SaaS integrated solution available, wider technology innovation has progressed, and the market itself is changing with the experience economy coming to the forefront. Whilst all this has been happening the global economy has been devastated and we are in a global recession due to the pandemic. Opportunity a plenty exists but not for the faint hearted, Certus itself was founded just before the last recession of 2008, so in some ways this is history repeating itself.

My sabbatical is over and my desire to go again burns deeply. Regardless of outcome it is time to step up to the plate once again.

Mixed Emotions – The Mindset of the Entrepreneur

It’s Complex!

Mum, Dad and my, ever understanding, wife Natalie all ask, “Why go again?”, “What else is there to prove?”. Even my former CEO peers in the Oracle Partner ecosystem have said “Why do another start up?”

The point here is that I have nothing left to prove to anyone, but only ever to myself. I can’t solve the Covid pandemic. I will leave that to those who are vastly more skilled and knowledgeable in the science that will ultimately deliver us, but by going again I can get to play my part and contribute to rebuilding the British economy.

However, there is a cost. By going again those closest to me also have to go on the journey as well. Being an entrepreneur, you become quite selfish, as your commitment has to be 110% to succeed, which is never ever guaranteed, and to do that personal sacrifices have to be made that affect those you most love around you.

I can already feel the butterflies in my stomach as the spectre of failure raises its head one more time and my personal anxiety levels are already building. It puts me on the edge again, walking the tightrope of success and failure, for me mentally is the place to be and it makes me feel alive. The corporate landscape by default gives employees a safety net, in the world of an entrepreneur, there is no safety net and you have to embrace failure everyday knowing it has very real consequences.

Building and growing a business, any business, is in my opinion the ultimate challenge an individual can undertake in the work environment. You cannot afford to have a bad day, you cannot afford not to turn up, and you have to bring your “A” game every day to be successful. More importantly you have to set high expectations with those people that surround you ensuring everyone can also be the very best they can be. This takes serious personal investment and expends your most important of all assets – your time.

The odds from the outset are immediately stacked against you. Pre-Covid, only one in ten businesses made it through the first year, and of that then only 50% of those businesses were still operating five years later. I could not even begin to guess what the odds are now, but they won’t have got any better that’s for sure.

Business is a game of strategy and tactics (and cash!). You have to anticipate customer needs; define new markets; win new customers over; recruit and retain the very best talent; outthink and out manoeuvre the competition (always fun); deliver on your promises; create customer advocacy and now new dynamics are in play from diversity through too contributing to the wider social good. Most importantly you need to create cash, as without liquidity you can’t do any of the above.

No one element can be ignored, to do so can be fatal. And once you have a business running like a well-tuned formula one engine, you have to reinvent yourself constantly to remain relevant to the customer base as technology innovation has moved on again and market demand and consumption changes.

It’s the ultimate game of chess, and to win, you constantly have to think five moves ahead.

Wise Words – Never Forgotten

In the early years of Certus I was lucky to be invited to a very small private audience with the late Mark Hurd, Co-CEO of Oracle Corporation. Mark had just got off a plane from California and was being propped up by heavy dosages of caffeine. I was in the front row, when someone from behind me asked him what was ‘top of mind’ every morning? Alert and as sharp as ever, he for some reason looked directly into my eyes and said one word ‘survival’.

What followed was a masterclass, as over the next hour he shared his worries about ensuring how he had to keep the second largest software company in the world remaining relevant everyday not only to grow, but to survive. There was me, leading a small company of then 20 people with absolutely no money and here was Larry Elison’s right hand man sharing his insight into exactly the same problem I was facing. How do you survive? The answer is you always focus on the fundamentals of a business operation.

A lesson truly learned and something that is firmly on my mind as I get ready to embark on the rollercoaster of new adventure.

Many things will now be tried and evolved before any final offering is ready. There will be plenty of failure along the way. This is all part of the journey. There is no immediate magic bullet, and just recreating Certus as it was is not on the agenda as the world has moved on.

Back at the Bottom of The Mountain Looking Upwards

Despite the past success, which was by no means was overnight, one does not get a free pass back to the top of the mountain.

However, having been able to get to the very top previously the experience does give you an edge, but what is important is to remember it is not the same mountain you are climbing again. Consequently, there will be many new challenges and obstacles to overcome before the flag can be planted at the summit.

But the view from the top? trust me when I say it is worth it and I want to get back there.

Finding My Feet Again – Renewal  

“Every day is a school day” and one never stops learning. For me over the past year I needed to introduce myself to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Many have sort out my advice, which is humbling, but equally I have learned (and continue to do so) much from them.

This is the kind of hard-nosed experience and learning that can only be accessed in the street and not in any classroom. Real innovation created around the kitchen table and in the garage rather than in an MBA class (and yes, I do have one!) or a posh state of the art corporate innovation lab.

You learn so much from those with hunger in their eyes and you can feel their passion and desire for success. I love learning about their businesses and seeing what they are doing. The UK Tech sector is very much alive, in-fact it bloody inspires me talking and more importantly listening to these people.

Engaging with the next generation of entrepreneurs is very much about expanding my mind and getting myself match fit mentally again. Time to Reset.

The Phoenix Rises – Getting the Band Back Together

“The Phoenix has to burn, before it rises” – well it has been well and truly burnt and now a new Company arises from the ashes.

Many of the old faces that created the Certus family I hope will be tempted back for another adventure at some point as we roll the dice one more time and journey off into the next pioneering sunset, looking to push the barriers of technology innovation further, with customer advocacy through delivery excellence of customer value always our goal in the world of business operations and experiences. And just as important re-establishing our reputation as being highly pragmatic and just easy to work with.

We all know the risks involved. Success is never guaranteed and the spectre of failure will always be present. Most importantly it is going to take time, so patience will be a vital ingredient.

Equally, the team (once I have assembled it and this takes time) will be talent spotting the next generation, so very much looking to work with some new faces and seeing what they can bring to the party as well.

In creating a new business, in whatever form it takes, it becomes our vehicle to now give back to the wider community. Just like we were mentored and advised it is so important to contribute by passing on our experience to the generation that follows and celebrate in their success as well.

No more blog disclaimers to keep the Corporate lawyers at bay. If you say it, write it, then you mean it, so stand by it. (Politicians please take note!). So, in words I am going to steal from Robert Downey Jnr “Sometimes you may need to disappear for a little if you want to be successful!”

See you all soon…exciting isn’t it?

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