This week on Leaders’ Insights, Cillian McCarthy tells us how he gets the best out of his team at Paradyn.
McCarthy has extensive experience in the ICT sector and has established a number of companies. Following a year in Indonesia working as an IT consultant, he returned home in 2006 and set up NeonSMS with business partners Paul Casey and Rob Norton.
In 2007, the trio established Exigent Networks and, two years later, Irish Telecom was founded. In 2016, McCarthy led the acquisition of Netforce by Exigent.
Last month, Paradyn announced plans to double its workforce and turnover in the next three years.
‘We manage absolutely everything, so customers only have one number to call for support on any element of their ICT infrastructure’
– CILLIAN MCCARTHY
Describe your role and what you do.
As CEO, I’m involved in all areas of the business, from sales to operations to HR to finance. My core responsibility is managing the sales team to ensure that we hit our company targets and focus on the correct markets as well as suitable customer types.
I also take an active role in recruitment across the various departments. As is the case in many organisations, we invest a lot of time and effort into finding the right people to hire. It is vital that each individual we bring into the company fits seamlessly into the culture of the business and works well with existing employees.
As far as I’m concerned, the team is what makes the business and I am very proud of the fact that we have the very best team of IT and communications people in Ireland.
How do you prioritise and organise your working life?
Like many others, I start off every day by going through my email inbox – this helps me to prioritise what needs to be done and when. It’s staggering the amount of actions or enquiries that need attention during any given business day, hence why it’s so important to get on top of everything that needs to be done early in the morning.
I spend quite a lot of my working day in meetings with stakeholders, clients and various teams within the company. In fact, my diary tends to fill up a week in advance, but my calendar keeps me right in terms of where I need to be, and I think that being busy is a good complaint to have!
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
Probably the biggest challenge we face is getting access to skilled people, but we are taking steps to address this. We have started taking on younger members of staff and training them up in the areas they are passionate about. As well as equipping them with the necessary skills, it helps the business in terms of having staff that are invested in the company’s progress and aligned with its ethos.
Another challenge we face is educating the market, because not all managed service providers are the same. At the moment, we are trying to cut through the noise and communicate the fact that we are Ireland’s first and only complete managed service provider. In order to do this, we are holding a series of seminars that showcase our products and services to existing and potential customers.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
At Paradyn, we believe customers can benefit greatly in their organisation by having one company meet all the elements of their ICT needs, from connectivity right through to desktop support. Our end-to-end approach means that we have a complete and comprehensive view of a client’s entire network, which leads to a higher return on investment for them both in terms of cost and staff time.
We manage absolutely everything, so customers only have one number to call for support on any element of their ICT infrastructure, thus eliminating the issues that arise with multiple suppliers and different agendas. Moreover, it means a less complex solution that is more secure and efficient.
As well as delivering voice, network and data communications, we also provide integrated cybersecurity solutions – an area that is becoming increasingly important for Irish organisations.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
I have always had a passion for business; I like the pace of the industry and the fact that you have to do a little bit of everything. When I became friends with my two co-directors, who had the same passion as me but in different areas, we knew we had a winning formula. We complement each other and cover all the key areas of any successful ICT business – those being sales, technology, operations and finance.
I would also say that I’m a people person, so working closely with the various departments within the organisation and meeting our customers is something I enjoy. When we merged Exigent Networks, Irish Telecom and Netforce to form Paradyn, it was imperative for me to go out and meet our clients, explain the change and reassure them that they would still be dealing with the same people.
— Paradyn (@WeAreParadyn) March 15, 2018
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
One of the greatest things I have learned in business is how to, or should I say how not to, get the best out of a team. When pressure is applied to a team in order to achieve results, the results are short-lived. People also become stressed, which has an impact on productivity and morale.
In my experience, having a genuine, caring and understanding approach to people produces far better and more sustainable results.
How do you get the best out of your team?
At the end of the day, people want to and should feel like their contribution matters. I believe that when a team member feels valued and appreciated, they are more motivated and will excel.
Everyone should enjoy going to work, and at Paradyn we have tried to create an environment where each member of the team works for each other and respects each other.
I would like to think that if anyone in the organisation was facing some sort of challenge in their working or personal life, they would know that they have our full support and that we will help them in any way that we can. Once that is clear, everything else should fall into place.
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?
We are avid supporters of diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity within the area of STEM. Currently, we have an approximate split of 70pc to 30pc in terms of male and female, with a lot of our senior leadership roles filled by women. Paradyn currently employs people working from seven different countries.
For me, I always look to ensure that we have the best person for the role, regardless of gender or ethnicity. I think that by adopting this attitude, it makes Paradyn a better place to work for everyone.
Who is your role model and why?
Without a doubt, this has to be my father. Since he was 16 years old, he has had his own furniture business. Moreover, he has survived cancer twice. At the age of 76, he is still working 50 hours a week and loves every minute of it. He is the reason I got into business in the first place and there is no better man to teach you about the importance of a hard work ethic and determination.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
A Life Worth Living by Michael Smurfit. His memoir gives you an insight into how he took a small Irish company and made it a world leader. The thing I like the most about it is that his success in business came down to the basics. No matter what industry you work in, it can be easy to forget about the simple things.
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
It will come as no surprise that they are all technology-oriented. If I had to pick three things, I would say my mobile phone, first and foremost. It allows me to stay informed when I’m on the move and come back on any urgent matters.
Secondly, I’d say Cisco Jabber for instant messaging. With so many people spread across different locations, this is absolutely vital.
I also couldn’t live without Cisco Webex, which enables online meetings and collaboration among the team, as well as with customers.
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