Martin Large knows a bit about solving problems and selling things
After 15 years in investment banking and derivatives, Martin Large got a call from an old school friend Nigel Steljes to join the management team of his business venture. technology distributor Steljes. He joined Steljes as financial director in June 1996, became managing director in March 2003, and group chief executive when the company evolved in July 2005.
He has worked in IT for 17 years, did some database development work in a previous life, and has shipped over 350,000 whiteboards to customers nationwide.
Problem solving and selling stuff
What are your areas of experience?
.. I’d say they are mainly numbers and problem solving. I’ve done some web development, I think I get what marketing is, and I have actually sold stuff too, which is always useful in this industry. I’m also a semi-competent parent.
What has been your favourite project so far?
Our technology facilitates collaborative working. I’m especially proud of our work in education, and it all began with a project we launched back in 2004. We wanted to engage with the education market, so we hired educators, began to work with publishers, developed relationships with every 3,4 and 5 letter acronym in education and saw our market share and reputation rise. It remains my favourite project because we’re still living it today and it is such a rewarding sector to support. I am proud that the solutions we supply have helped to improve learning outcomes.
What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
Apart from interactive classroom technologies, I was mainly getting excited about small form meeting room PCs and digital pen applications! Taking a journey back ten years, or even five or two years with the current rate of innovation in IT, really brings home just how much has changed.
Tech goes under cover
What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
I’d like to think I’ll be retired, but one of my kids just started a degree in architecture, so I guess I’ll still be in the midst of IT. In which case, I think I’ll be using tech that’s less visible and more wearable.
Who’s your tech hero?
My tech hero has got to be Reed Hastings Jr. CEO at Netflix. Every business leader should read his NetFlix manifesto. I really respect his work in the non-profit sector, especially his charitable and political contributions to education.
Who’s your tech villain?
Without pointing fingers in particular, I think that anyone who claims to “do no evil” and then does has got to be my tech villain.
What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
The bicycle and the iPad – and I kind of wish I used my bike even half as much as I’m on the iPad.
What is your budget outlook going forward? Flat? Growing?
I remain eternally optimistic about the economy. I firmly believe that if we had closed the Daily Mail and gagged Robert Peston in 2004, we wouldn’t have experienced the recession to the extent that the British public generally has. I think we suffer from national pessimism in this country and all need a good dose of positive thinking. As for our business, we currently have revenues of £70m and are keeping positive about continuing our relatively fast-paced growth.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
It’s hard to overlook Berkshire Hathaway – or is that admiration for Warren Buffet?
Employees challenge IT staff
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
For most IT departments globally, I’d say that employees in other department are the main challenge – I think that I’m a pretty significant challenge for this IT company. Recently, I’ve asked the IT department to deliver a new ERP system, a training portal, an e-commerce platform (separate to the ERP), another separate system for our business in the Adriatics, BYOD implementation, and wide-scale adoption of social networking platforms like Yammer. Oh! And can I get a new iPad at the same time please?
You see what I am saying – I’m pretty sure our IT guys are not alone in facing this type of demand. The great thing is that many IT departments have made the transition from a default setting of “We can’t have it unless it’s Microsoft”, so we can all take advantage of the range of great tech that is out there.
To Cloud or not to Cloud?
There is no doubt that cloud computing is changing the way companies work. Traditional IT areas of responsibility such as servers and software are now often cloud based, minimising capital expenditure and making ‘thin’ buildings. So, where it makes business sense to move any of our operations to the cloud, we have, but the new ERP system that we are implementing will not be cloud based. Like many companies, we are operating a hybrid approach.
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