Evros MD: Staying relevant is the biggest challenge

1 Nov 2017

Brian Larkin, managing director of Evros Technology Group. Image: Evros

This week on Leaders’ Insights, we caught up with Brian Larkin of Evros to discuss the cloud, managed services and Roy Keane.

Brian Larkin has been the managing director of Evros Technology Group since January 2016.

In the early ’90s, Larkin qualified as a chartered accountant and became senior auditor for Deloitte Ireland before transitioning into a financial management role at Kindle Banking Systems.

Moving into the country PSG sales manager role for Hewlett-Packard, Larkin gained experience in the tech sector and spent more than six years there before finally settling at Evros in 2005.

Across his 12 years at the company, Larkin graduated from business unit director to operations director for Digital Planet, before settling in his current role.

‘Whether it’s deployment, management or procurement, we aim to revolutionise the way companies handle their digital transformation’

Describe your role and what you do.

As managing director of Evros Technology Group, my role involves overseeing all aspects of the operations, management and strategic planning for technology group, which comprises Evros, Digital Planet, itContracting, eSource, Inspired and Comsys. I also review acquisition opportunities that I feel will further our services portfolio.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I break my work down into a number of key deliverables that I want to achieve in the month ahead. Like in most business, your best intentions get taken over by the reality of day-to-day workload. But, over the years, I have learned how to create a balance between development work and business-as-usual-type activities. Making the most of time is important so I try to ensure that every meeting or sit-down must generate some value towards the company goals.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Staying relevant is probably the biggest challenge all companies operating in our sector face today. Technology changes so fast and you must keep up with – or even stay ahead of – it. We focus a large part of our strategy around where the market is going and how we support our clients on this journey.

The shortage of skilled tech workers is also becoming a growing concern. We’re seeing this in our IT recruiting company (itContracting), that demand for qualified IT candidates completely outstrips the current supply, and we’re seeing a real battle for qualified and experienced candidates. This is almost a missed opportunity if our education systems don’t race to meet the needs of our growing tech industry.

We established Evros Academy two years ago to alleviate this issue in our own way. Over the years, we found it increasingly frustrating that potential candidates had the requisite experience that we were looking for, but they did not hold the relevant certifications and accreditations to satisfy our client base.

The objective of the Evros Academy is to give the tools and facilitate an environment that will foster high-performance talent development. Candidates are provided with classroom training, coursework materials and leave for examinations over the period of the three-year internship. Training in all three years is delivered through classroom-tutor-led training, e-learning coursework and technical lab validation.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Cloud and managed services are two of the key areas where we feel there will be tremendous growth over the next few years, and we feel we have established world-class solutions in these areas of technology delivery and support.

In addition, with the recent acquisitions of Comsys and Inspired, Evros solutions now extend up and down the entire stack, and our expertise spans across most aspects of IT: on-premise, public (Azure) and private cloud; end-to-end professional and IT managed services; IT recruitment; and IT procurement. So, what we really want to capitalise on is facilitating a complete end-to-end enterprise-class IT solution. Whether it’s deployment, management or procurement, we aim to revolutionise the way companies handle their digital transformation.

Also, we will be releasing a new brand soon, which will facilitate a subscription model for software licensing and renewals. This is quite disruptive, and will further encourage the ‘as a service’ model to which industries are becoming more acquainted with. Gone are the days where a large chunk of the budget is paid out annually for capital investments.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

Chance, mainly. I wish I could say it was more predetermined. After qualifying as a chartered accountant from Deloitte, I started my career as a financial accountant. After a few years, I felt the accountant/finance manager role didn’t give me enough feel for business. I found myself in Digital, subsequently purchased by Compaq, which was subsequently purchased by HP. Those two acquisitions taught me that I needed to be in control of my own destiny. Around that time, Bob Murray, owner of Hibernia Services Ltd, a partner of HP, invited me to join his company, so I said, ‘What the heck, it’s worth a go.’ 12 years later, here I am.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

It is now 10 minutes since I read that question and, to be honest, I can’t think of one. I have always had a positive attitude to business and tried to get to the next level as quickly as possible. It’s possibly a better question for my senior management team. They would tell you about loads of mistakes, I’m sure.

The one thing I will say is to treat everyone with respect, regardless of how they treat you. If someone is rude to you, then that’s fine as they are probably a rude person. That doesn’t mean that you are a rude person, and their behaviour doesn’t give you the right to behave the same way. It can be difficult at times. I used to reflect what I was facing (as most people do) but now I always try to be myself. Quite often, you find the other person is just having a bad day or having some personal problems, and then you are very glad you didn’t react.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Treat everyone with respect and never ask anyone to do anything that you are unwilling to do yourself. Actions speak louder than words.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

There is definitely a lack of diversity when it comes to gender. 82pc of our workforce is male. We are unhappy about that but, unfortunately, it is really hard to find female candidates in the part of IT we trade in, eg systems integration, managed services and cloud. If it wasn’t for our finance, sales and marketing divisions, then that number would be over 90pc. There is still much more ground to cover. More encouragement for both young girls and boys in primary and secondary schools would be a good place to start when encouraging the gender balance.

There is plenty of ethnic diversity in our industry, more than most I imagine. We have approximately 20 nationalities working for Evros now. There is incredible talent coming into Ireland at the moment as the IT sector has a lot of opportunity for good candidates.

Who is your role model and why?

That’s easy – I have two role models. Firstly, Roy Keane. No matter how unpopular he was, he never accepted second best. He never accepted that the opposition was better than him and, even if they were, he would still want to win. I loved that attitude. No one is unbeatable if you have the conviction.

The other is more obvious: Nelson Mandela. If you get a chance, watch a documentary called The 16th Man. It revolves around the 1995 Rugby World Cup. It shows you what true clarity of thinking looks like. It shows us what true leadership looks like. Our leaders make the popular choices, what will get them good polling stats. This man made his decisions based on what was right, regardless of the popularity. His other great skill was that he could talk slowly and softly and still be heard above the loudest protests. What an amazing gift.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I don’t read and I’m not proud of it by any means. I have only completed two books in my life: Roy Keane’s autobiography, which I struggled to get to the end of, and Too Big To Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin. I have started 100 books and left them after a few chapters, but finally picked up this book, which I couldn’t leave down. It chronicles the collapse of the Wall Street stock markets in 2008, and specifically around the six weeks when the US, and thus the world economy, was on the verge of another great depression. I don’t think we will ever fully understand how close we came to that impending disaster but if you want to get a feel for how it all happened, read this book.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

My phone, laptop and 10 cups of coffee per day, unfortunately.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.