Having spent almost 18 years at the helm of Strencom, Tim Murphy knows a thing or two about leadership.
Tim Murphy is the CEO of Strencom, a role he has held since 2000.
Before Strencom, Murphy sharpened his managerial skills at UPS, BT Ireland (then Esat) and SoundStore in Cork. A former student of Cork Institute of Technology, he went on to hone his training in leadership and strategy with Stanford Graduate School of Business, California.
As a customer-facing CEO, Murphy works personally with consumers and partners to execute the best choices when it comes to managed wide-area network and cloud solutions.
Last November, Strencom announced a €6m investment and 20 additional jobs for Dublin and Cork, adding a silver lining to the cloud computing industry in Ireland.
Describe your role and what you do.
As the CEO of Strencom, my main focus is growing the business. To that end, a large amount of my time is spent visiting our customers on a regular basis and building strong relationships with our key partners. One of the other responsibilities of my role, and a process that I really love being involved in, is generating and developing ideas for new services and products.
At the present time, a key area is sourcing acquisitions and getting them over the line. We’re on a strong growth trajectory and our target is to close at least one acquisition this year. Of course, it’s not all about bringing in business – another major factor for me is the people that we have around the table. I think it’s really important that we have the right people in the company and that they enjoy what they do. After all, the people are what make a business successful.
How do you prioritise and organise your working life?
It’s quite simple, really: at the start of the year, the senior management team sits down and agrees a set of goals. These feed into quarterly objectives – we call them quarterly rocks – and, in turn, these objectives create weekly and monthly targets.
The management team meets every Monday morning at 8.30am to discuss these weekly, monthly and quarterly goals, as well as any issues that may be preventing us from achieving same, and the solutions to these obstacles.
The actions that are decided upon in these regular meetings to address such issues then become my goals for that week. It’s a process that works very well for us, and it cascades across the entire business to ensure that everyone is prioritising the most important things, and that the organisation is aligned and we are all pulling together in the same direction.
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
Like most other companies in our sector, getting the right people can be quite challenging. In saying that, we have managed to build up an amazing team in Strencom over the last number of years. However, it has taken time because it is something that you want to get spot-on. For that reason, we recently hired an internal recruiter, who has been a huge help.
In this day and age, businesses also need to be accommodating, which is why we facilitate home-working, flexible work hours and extended leave for our staff, among other incentives. Creating this culture, which is defined by a core set of values, is something that our team really buys into and it shows how much we value them.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
We have always been strong in the retail sector and we continue to grow that market segment. In fact, during the recessionary years, we expanded that area of our business more than any other, which demonstrates that we understand the field and the customers’ needs driving it.
Due to greater regulation in the financial sector, we have had a very successful few years in financial services, and in particular with credit unions – the credit union movement has ranked number one in the CXi Ireland Customer Experience league table for the past three years. What we do is provide them with a high-quality and reliable, secure, managed cloud and connectivity service that is driven by an understanding of their business and what they really need to deliver to their customers. Ultimately, it delivers peace of mind to the credit unions, their staff and their customers.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
I wanted to develop a company to provide the best service and support available. One of the unique things about Strencom is that we don’t have customer service agents answering our phones – we have highly-qualified engineers dealing with queries, meaning that our clients get a distinctly better-quality service.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I think that my biggest mistake has probably been trying very hard not to make mistakes! If I was giving advice to someone starting out, I would tell them not to be afraid to make mistakes because you will always learn from them. Also, the fallout is usually never as big as you think it will be.
Another piece of advice that I would give someone, or wish I could have given myself, is to outsource what you don’t need internally, or what someone else can do better than you. From experience, taking the time to determine what you do need within the company and finding the people that fit in with your vision is something that you will never regret.
‘For a company the size of Strencom, people are not just a cog in the machine – their input into major decisions is what shapes the future of the company’
– TIM MURPHY
How do you get the best out of your team?
By letting everyone do their job and trusting in them. I think it’s also vital that each member of the team feels challenged by, and appreciated for, what they do. For a company the size of Strencom, people are not just a cog in the machine – their input into major decisions is what shapes the future of the company. This ethos is what the business is built upon and it attracts people who are invested in and motivated by what we do. That, in turn, means that we have a hard-working team that goes over and beyond for our clients.
STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to effect change?
I recently did a programme where I taught STEM subjects to a girls’ primary school over the course of three months. The programme was all about learning STEM subjects in a fun and engaging way. Through this method, many of the students who didn’t think they were good in this area not only excelled, but actually surprised themselves at how good they were.
What this showed me is that we have to encourage more girls to consider these subjects and we also have to adopt an approach that showcases how exciting STEM can be. It is only through this that students will realise their potential within the area, and the gender gap can start to be addressed. I am enthusiastic about other programmes, including the ‘I Wish’ programme, which has been a huge encouragement to young girls.
The fact that STEM has now developed into STEAM, with the addition of arts, is incredibly inspiring and broadens the field even more so. That can only be a positive thing.
Who is your role model and why?
That’s easy – it has to be Steve Jobs. I think the ‘why’ explains itself – he was so far ahead of the game and had a vision that is still unmatched. His ability to articulate his product was nothing short of genius. “A thousand songs in your pocket,” is how he described the Apple MP3 player when all the other companies were talking about megabits, megabytes and features. He described the product in six words and everyone understood it instantly.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
The majority of books that I read are business books and, while they all have something to offer, I encourage caution in using them to better understand and run your business. For instance, Jim Collins’ Good to Great is a fantastic book. However, in it he talks about having the “right people on the bus”, which means having the right people in your business, but there is no explanation on how to find or keep them. That’s the hard part.
If I was to recommend one book, it would be a business book with a twist: DisneyWar by James B Stewart. It tells the real story of Disney under Michael Eisner’s reign. Michael was a tough operator and sometimes not a very nice operator. As an entrepreneur, I can see some of his traits in myself. However, because I am now aware of these characteristics, I am able to make changes. To save time, get it on Audible, but be warned – it’s long and you’ll be months listening to it.
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
My essential tools are my iPhone and Skype for Business, which enables all our offices and remote workers to collaborate every day. In terms of must-have resources, that would have to be the people I am surrounded by – they are the most amazing people and continue to surprise me.
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