Leaders’ Insights: Marc O’Dwyer, Big Red Cloud

10 Dec 2015

Marc O’Dwyer is the CEO of Big Red Cloud.

Big Red Cloud started out 20 years ago as Big Red Book, an on-premise accounting software.

With the advent of cloud technology, Big Red Cloud arrived in 2012, carrying on Big Red Book’s ethos of providing accounting software to small businesses but now as a software-as-a-service provider. Big Red Cloud allows businesses to manage their financial records using cloud accounting software.

Yesterday, the company announced that it was launching Account-Ability, a free five-part online video training series to help small business owners to get to grips with the basics of bookkeeping.

Describe your role and what you do?

My role within Big Red Cloud is very varied and changes on a daily basis. The foremost role is to lead my team by working with management and team members to help us attain our various goals, from marketing to sales, support and service to excellent admin.

I’m involved in the strategy on both the rollout of Big Red Cloud in Ireland and the UK from a sales and marketing perspective but also product development and new features.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

Routine is absolutely imperative for me. Without that I find it a real struggle to achieve a proper work-life balance. So, unless I’m travelling, then my Monday to Friday looks like this – train, work, family time, possibly a little more training or working depending on what’s going on at the time. And a full six hours’ sleep!

I know it’s a cliché, but I work to live, not the other way around. So, I work very, very hard to ensure that I can spend that quality time with those most important to me – my wife and kids.

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

I always think that challenges can be opportunities in disguise – and vice versa – so developments in technology have meant that you constantly need to be on the top of your game when it comes to delivering the most up-to-date support systems for clients. This can be a challenge as the tech sector is growing at such a fast pace, but this is also an opportunity because if you can keep up then you can reap the rewards of first-mover advantage. Bringing our business to the cloud a few years ago is a case in point – at the time, I thought: ‘we can sit back and make a good living out of our software but eventually it will whittle away. Or we can take the baton and move with the future’ – so we did just that.

‘I work very, very hard to ensure that I can spend that quality time with those most important to me – my wife and kids’

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

The Irish economy is making a comeback and growing faster than any other in the EU: GDP up 6.5pc and GNP up 7.3pc. This turnaround is mirrored by a growth in Irish company start-ups also – they are up 14pc from 2013 to 2014 – the highest seen since 2007. 2014 saw 43,586 new company and business start-ups registered with the CRO.

Therein lies the opportunity for our business. We are perfectly positioned to offer something that 90pc-plus of these start-ups will need. We can capitalise on these economic good fortunes because we understand so well what setting up a business entails – on a personal level, I’ve done it myself, and from a business perspective we deal with start-up clients on a daily basis. So we know exactly what these businesses need and know the type of supports they are looking for.

What set you on the road to where you are in the technology industry?

For me it was a love of sales and problem-solving for clients that set me on this career path. But for many years now fintech has been an area that has been playing an ever more important part in Ireland’s economic landscape. It’s the problem-solving side of me that pushes me to constantly look for easier and more efficient ways for our clients to do what needs to be done in their business in terms of bookkeeping and accounting.

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

I couldn’t put my finger on ‘one big mistake’ but I do know that a failing of mine sometimes is impatience. If we identify a good idea then I want it done yesterday! Thankfully I have a team of people around me who can curb my enthusiasm when needed – they are more methodical in their approach and always ensure that the groundwork that needs to be done is complete before we embark on the next business adventure.

‘I have a team of people around me who can curb my enthusiasm when needed’

How do you get the best out of your team?

I think it is symbiotic to be honest – we all get the best out of each other. This starts from the recruitment process – if you surround yourself with people who fit your company’s ethos then you raise the odds of success tenfold. All companies are unique in their own way and while one person may be absolutely excellent at their job they simply might not be the best ‘fit’ for your company. It’s important to foster the type of company ethos and working environment that resonates throughout every member in the company. I believe that at Big Red Cloud we have developed a fast-paced dynamic work culture that promotes creativity.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to effect change?

STEM sectors include a number of key growth industries and I believe that the intertwining of the various areas will produce better diversity and increase the employability of graduates that get a broader education.

Who is your business hero and why?

Every small business owner that has taken the risk to open their own business and make a difference to the world of business and our economy – however, clearly my favourites are Big Red Cloud users!

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I tend to read when on holidays because on a day-to-day basis my downtime is spent training! However, I would recommend From Vision to Exit by Guy Rigby as a must-read for anyone starting up in business.

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

Big Red Cloud provides me with all the financial information I need to run my business. Office 365 for email, word-processing and spreadsheets. My smartphone and Microsoft Surface device provide the platform to view all information and stay in touch with my staff and customers.