‘The most critical factor to our success is the retention of our people’

30 Mar 2023

Colin Hayes. Image: Netwatch Group

Netwatch’s Colin Hayes talks to SiliconRepublic.com about his role as managing director and the importance of recruitment and retention of staff in today’s market.

Colin Hayes is the managing director at Netwatch Ireland & UK. The video monitoring company, which was established in Carlow in 2003, now provides specialist security services to over 300,000 sites in Ireland, the US and the UK.

After graduating from UCD with a master’s degree in agricultural science, Hayes worked with global farming solutions company Keenans, in both Ireland and the UK, where he rose to the position of sales manager for Ireland. He joined Netwatch in 2003 as sales manager and was appointed as the managing director for Ireland and the UK at the beginning of this year.

In this role, my focus revolves around growing the business through new and innovative customer solutions.  I also oversee all operational and cost aspects of the business, while ensuring that we continue to deliver an exceptional service for our many customers.”

‘We have found that measuring diversity, for example gender, has shone more of a spotlight on where we’re at as an organisation and where we’d like to be’

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

Recruitment is challenging in today’s market. For us, the most critical factor to our success is the retention of our people. Our recruitment process has been refined and adapted over the years to support us in making hiring decisions that are good for our business, and for the potential candidates. Finding the right people who are aligned to our values, who understand and have a passion for delivering our service, is vital.

Ensuring we retain our key people, who are experienced, skilled and knowledgeable, is crucial to the customer experience and the success of our business.

We also believe in nurturing talent and work with the South East Technological University in Carlow providing opportunities for students to work with our R&D and technical teams.

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

Having our in-house R&D and product development teams has enabled us to pivot and pursue newly identified opportunities in a quick timeframe.

Our R&D department has been at the heart of our success, enabling us to grow our customer base in multiple markets, using different technologies at the edge, but still delivering the same customer experience.

In the product development space, we have recently developed the Netwatch Eco-Commander, a mobile unit that protects assets in locations where power and connectivity is a challenge, and as a result have created many new opportunities.

We see more retail and hospitality environments where staff intimidation is becoming a risk, so we are currently launching an advanced panic solution to provide for safer workplaces.

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

I had worked with Netwatch founders, David Walsh and Niall Kelly, for a number of years in Keenans. They offered me the sales manager role in a start-up (Netwatch), asking me to leave a well-established, successful business, so I did have to think about it. I was completely drawn into their vision and really wanted to be a part of it, and here I am 20 years later.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Probably choosing to do a degree in Agricultural Science when I left school, despite being from the Northside of Dublin (Beaumont) and having no agricultural background.

I was interested in pursuing a career with racehorses but was advised to first get a qualification and widen my knowledge base around all things agricultural. That’s what I did, and I loved it.

So much so when I graduated with my degree from UCD, I spent another year on UCD’s farm, Lyon’s Estate, completing a master’s degree in Sheep Nutrition. I started my first job (with Keenans) the day after I completed and submitted my master’s.

What one work skill do you wish you had?

I have a sales mindset, so I tend to see the end result and want to rush towards it, which isn’t always a good idea. In recent years, working closer with other teams, such as finance, technical operations and product development, I have tried to adapt my thinking to a more processed, operational way of doing things. I’m getting there!

How do you get the best out of your team?

Through respect and trust.

We have a great team in Netwatch and a really strong culture that is rooted in the pillars of respect, honesty and trust.

Having worked my way up through the Netwatch business, my colleagues all know that I am not afraid of hard work, and the importance that I place on every department in Netwatch delivering for our customers. They also know the value that I put on life outside of work, and how respect for the team, extends beyond them to their families also.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Diversity can always be improved upon and what I’ve seen over recent years is an expectation for companies to be more cognisant of this when hiring and promoting within the organisation.

When Netwatch expanded in the US, diversity within teams working together on an international basis became the new norm and we have seen many positive outcomes in our culture as a result of greater diversity.

We have found that measuring diversity, for example gender, has shone more of a spotlight on where we’re at as an organisation and where we’d like to be. We’ve introduced communication and social platforms across our markets that are accessible to all. This has been an extremely positive step in bringing more inclusivity to our employees.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

Early in my career, David Walsh drilled into me how important it was to ‘surround yourself with positive people’. Netwatch is full of such people, people who think above the line, and it makes such a difference to have people of that mindset in your day-to-day world.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I’m always drawn to sports-related books. Seeing how high achieving people pursue and reach their goals is always inspiring. A favourite has to be Obsessed by Richard Dunwoody, which I read over 20 years ago, and it remains at the top of my list of best sports books.

It reveals a brutally honest and somewhat shocking insight into the world of a top-class national hunt jockey, and his obsession to become champion. It showed that while having ambitious goals and the drive to get them is worthy, you can’t lose sight of everything else around you in order to get there.

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

Technology is a great advantage to help in the changing work environments from remote to office-based. CRMs, phone, laptop, digital calendar are all part of my every day working life and I don’t think I could function without them now.

For me though, the power of conversations can never be underestimated and apart from consistent engagement with all departments in Netwatch, I make a habit of talking with new and existing customers every week, ideally face to face.

You need to be sure to find time for the mind and body too, so I find regular exercise a must in order to get the most from my working week.

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