‘If you want to make a business successful, you need to have a long-term vision’

1 Oct 2019

Carl Rodrigues. Image: Soti

Carl Rodrigues of Soti discusses how IoT is transforming different sectors, why he thinks of his company like a sports team, and what his mother taught him about hard work.

Over the last 25 years, Carl Rodrigues has taken his Canadian-based company Soti from a one-person start-up in his basement to a multi-billion-dollar global leader in enterprise software. The company now has more than 1,000 employees across 28 countries around the world, including a recently opened office in Galway.

Rodrigues was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 in Ontario. Soti was also named one of North America’s fastest growing companies, winning Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 award for three consecutive years.

To find out more about the company and its annual user and partner conference, visit soti.net.

‘Technology is driving rapid change but choosing the right tools and harnessing the skills to accelerate your business is increasingly more difficult and costly’

Describe your role and what you do.

I am the CEO and president of Soti, a leader in business-critical mobility and IoT solutions for global enterprises. I oversee the strategic vision of the company and I’m heavily involved with the day-to-day innovations within the company. I am a self-confessed tech geek at heart and I’m passionate about the software solutions we offer our customers.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I have two key principles that I stick to. The first is that I have an open-door policy with all Soti employees. If they need to talk to me, I am always willing to listen. I don’t have a CEO’s office. I am on the shop floor with the rest of the team, so that I can collaborate with them and discuss new ideas.

I am also very in tune with the needs of our customers. I make sure I speak with them regularly. I understand that every country is different, so a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work. We tailor our solutions to our customers’ needs.

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

There is a constant need to build and fix things faster. We understand that technology is driving rapid change but choosing the right tools and harnessing the skills to accelerate your business is increasingly more difficult and costly.

I am a firm believer that the only limitations we face are the limitations that we place on ourselves.

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

Our key sectors are retail, healthcare, transportation and logistics, and field services. All these sectors rely on technology to drive their business-critical mobility. Whether it’s making customer checkouts more seamless or saving lives in an operating theatre, technology is giving us more real-time information and we have to help our customers use this to improve the services they offer.

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

I saw that companies reliant on technology to run their operations were struggling to manage an ever-increasing number of devices and endpoints within their businesses, particularly companies that were embracing the internet of things (IoT).

Our Soti One platform, which we have been developing for the past few years, is designed to reduce the cost, complexity and downtime associated with business-critical mobility by connecting multiple devices and endpoints.

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

The biggest mistake that I could have made was to sell Soti during its early days. As soon as our technology became popular, I was offered a lot of money to sell the company. I spoke to family and friends about it, at length, but ultimately it was my decision to make.

I’m so glad I didn’t sell. If I was faced with the decision now, it would be an easy one to make. We are here to scale, not to sell. I learned an important lesson, which was that if you want to make a business successful, you need to have a long-term vision.

In the current tech industry climate, people are building businesses just to sell them, but this results in poor quality products and, I believe, betrays the customer base that the company might have built up. It’s always been my dream to build a multinational company. Thankfully I’m now living that dream.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I want everyone at Soti to be their own CEO. I want people to take ownership of their area of the business, whether that’s software development, tech support, frontline sales or marketing. I want to empower the team to make decisions and shape their own destinies.

Collaboration is the most important facet of a high performing company. I see Soti like a high-performing sports team and I am the coach (I am an avid ice hockey fan). That means that we stick together and we work together to achieve the best results for our customers and each other by making strategic plays and capitalising on the best strengths of our players.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

We are really proud about how diverse Soti is. In our UK office, for example, we have 28 different cultures and 29 different languages spoken. That being said, I know that isn’t the case for many other companies in the tech sector and, while improvements have been made, there is clearly more that these companies can do to embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

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

Yes, my most important mentor was my mom. We didn’t have a lot of money when we immigrated to Canada from India when I was a child, but my mom took a job as a stenographer – taking public transportation, waking up very early, getting home very late – and still managed to raise me and my three siblings.

She was my role model and taught me that hard work and a commitment to family are the most important qualities that you can possess. To this day, I try to always be home at weekends with my wife and kids, despite my travel schedule.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Being the tech geek that I am, I’d have to recommend Steve Jobs’ autobiography. I know that he’s an inspiration to many people in the tech industry, but what I admire the most is the vision that he had and the obstacles that he overcame to develop one of the most recognisable brands we’ve ever seen.

I really respect the impact he has had on the world and the innovations he masterminded.

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

WhatsApp, LinkedIn and YouTube.

WhatsApp is a great real-time messaging app and it’s my primary communication tool with the team. We use it to talk business, but we also use it to have a laugh. I make a lot of calls on WhatsApp and our teams from around the world use it to collaborate. We have many group chats!

I’m also active on LinkedIn and I use it to stay connected with customers, colleagues and the wider industry. I check it every day.

I love videos, so that’s why YouTube is also a go-to platform for me. It is such a good resource for information and I regularly use it for research.

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