Eir’s Martin Wells: ‘We are starting to see interest build around 5G services’

3 Dec 2019

Martin Wells. Image: Eir

Eir’s Martin Wells discusses transformation in the telecoms sector, the main challenges that businesses face, and his new-found interest in mindfulness.

Martin Wells, managing director of Eir Business, joined the company at the start of this year, coming from Ibec where he was the director of member services.

Having previously worked in the pharma and retail industries, he also held a number of roles in Vodafone including commercial operations director, customer experience director and marketing director. Wells has an MBA in strategic management from Henley College and has undertaken postgraduate education in IMD Lausanne, Said Business School and Imperial College London.

‘Technology moves at an incredible pace and keeping up with the latest trends and developments can be difficult’

Describe your role and what you do.

I lead the Eir Business team, a group of over 250 professionals across the island of Ireland, working in sales, service, design and delivery of IT solutions for business customers.

Our goal is to help businesses in Ireland deliver customer value across their most mission-critical IT infrastructures. We do this by creating unmatched value and providing advanced solutions that enable our customers to gain competitive edge.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I try to split my working week between internal work with the team and colleagues, meeting customers and home time with the family. Our team is geographically spread so collaboration technology plays a big part in making us efficient in how we communicate with each other.

It’s also a significant product line for us. As more businesses transform their ways of working and implement flexible working solutions, it’s good to be able to advocate the benefits based on real personal experience.

My wife Deirdre is a big advocate of mindfulness and has been encouraging me to put time in for reflection at the end of each week. I was a little sceptical at first but have to say it does help to put things in perspective and focus the mind for the week ahead.

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

There are three common challenges businesses face. The first is managing complexity within their IT estate. Technology moves at an incredible pace and keeping up with the latest trends and developments can be difficult. Our deep experience in the sector allows us to act as a trusted adviser to many of our customers, helping them to design and deliver the right solutions.

The second would be skills and resourcing. The battle for talent is apparent across every sector of the economy and particularly acute in areas such as STEM. Organisations need to deliver flexible working solutions that are not only efficient and effective for the business but also work as incentives to attract and retain the best people. I really believe companies that get this model right will give themselves a competitive edge going forward.

Finally, cost control. Every business these days has a strong focus on managing their cost base. You have to come to the table with solutions and ideas that meet this challenge. We are working with some very progressive companies who are using technology and innovation to drive significant costs out of their business.

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

Customers are prioritising investments in mobile, connectivity and collaboration services with an eye towards making their organisations more dynamic, productive and efficient. The digital transformation agenda is live in almost every business customer we talk to. Eir are very well positioned to drive this transformation.

Our investments in mobile and fixed networks are second to none. On top of that we have the most complete service portfolio in the Irish industry. So while competition is intense, the depth of our portfolio, reach of our network, and expertise in design and delivery mean we are very well placed to succeed.

We are also starting to see interest build around 5G services. While it’s early days yet in terms of demand, we are seeing really interesting innovation projects coming forward for consideration.

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

In hindsight I was lucky, in the early years of my career, to work in a number of different roles across different industries. That taught me how to adapt and succeed in different types of organisations and the value of building good working relationships. It also helped to build confidence and self-belief as the experiences gained stand to you.

I was also lucky to complete an international leadership development programme, which focused on the power of creating great customer experiences. In my mind that hasn’t changed and remains a key tool to winning and retaining business in any industry.

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

You sometimes learn things the hard way. It seems like a quite small thing now but very early in my career, when launching a new product, I approved packaging that had a very noticeable spelling mistake. I was responsible for ordering a warehouse full of product that all had to be written off and repackaged.

Thankfully, I had a very understanding boss, but the feeling will live with me forever. I learned about attention to detail the hard way. We all make mistakes so it’s about what we learn from them and showing resilience to correct things and get back on track.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Be really clear on setting your expectations for the team. People do better when they know what they are responsible for and what’s expected of them. If you can create that clarity then it’s all about trusting and supporting them to get the job done. I try to be available to help where I can and be decisive in taking decisions.  

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

I think most sectors are becoming more aware of diversity and inclusivity. Eir has a female CEO and a 50:50 gender split at the senior management level, so as a company we have come a long way. However, there is still more to do across the organisation and we can move on further through our commitment to CSR and by respecting the diversity of our employees and all of those with whom we do business.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

My parents both have an incredible work ethic and hopefully I’ve inherited some of that. I’ve also been lucky to work with some very bright and inspiring people over the years, many of whom lead businesses here in Ireland.

The best advice I got from one of them was to play a long game and be patient. Often in business and life you don’t get the result you want first time out but keep working on it. Build the relationships, try different approaches and be resilient.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

On the business side, two books I read a while ago made a big impression. The first is Customer Capitalism by Sandra Vandermerwe. It builds a very compelling case and model for putting the customer at the heart of your business and designing experiences with them in mind.

The second is Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones. I was lucky enough to spend a day with Rob where he discussed the book. It was the first time I heard about ‘authentic leadership’ and it definitely helped me to rethink my leadership style and approach.

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

I can get most things done with the basics – a good smartphone and a laptop. I do have access to very good conferencing tools, which makes communication with customers and colleagues very easy. A little help managing my calendar is always welcome.

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