I’ve been a sales director since 1999, working in a small number of companies in the IT reseller and service provider channel in the years since. That’s given me the sense of perspective that comes with seeing things done differently; you get to pick up on what’s making one group of people successful and why other methods or processes might be detrimental elsewhere.
I feel like I’ve been able to take the best examples with me and put some of the ideas I’ve learned along the way into practice at Jigsaw24. We’ve got a great team here, and obviously, the company has a strong reputation as an Apple-first technology solutions provider with a nearly 30-year heritage. I joined in 2018 and I absolutely love it.
The people are fantastic – a melting pot of longtime employees who have made the business the success story it is and newer external recruits who have each added something different to the mix. We’ve all put our stamp on things and shaped our sales approach together, with some fantastic results.
I think the essence of good leadership has always been about being prepared to come in and do things, to lead by example. To be a leader, you have to be “a doer” too. I think we’re blessed at Jigsaw24 because all of our leaders share some similar personality traits, like not thinking about their role as “leading from the front” but instead as the job they do.
Part of our leadership culture has been to empower our staff by giving them the opportunity to show what they can achieve. We provide a kind of blank canvas, really. Steve Jobs famously said “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”, and he was absolutely right!
A man called John Hodges was undoubtedly one of the biggest influences on my work ethic and ultimately my career. I worked for him back in the 1980s at The Burton Group (well before the Philip Green era), where he was Deputy Company Secretary and I was working in a technical capacity helping to keep the network running.
The thing with John was just the simple stuff like having a personal touch – he really cared, and he took me along with him. He would coach me to say “What I am going to do for you is…” and then make sure I delivered on the commitments. I’ve never forgotten this advice, and where possible I’ve tried to impart it to new staff.
There’s nothing more important than honesty, trust and openness. Without those, everything collapses. With them, all the other decisions become so much easier. It’s great at Jigsaw24 because there’s no political posturing. If one of the other senior leaders in the business asks me a question, I just answer the question – I never have to think about what they might really want to know, or wonder if there are agendas at play.
I expect that kind of honest, open attitude from everyone. It’s a culture that allows people to call out things that might be wrong and suggest better ways of working, too.
I think we’ve been rather lucky – although that might be a little unfair, as we have made our own luck to some extent. Some of the areas that we had already been focusing on became more important with the arrival of COVID-19 or helped us to adapt more quickly to the changing circumstances.
Growing our service expertise and prioritising that side of the business was fortuitous, as was our drive to do more work with the public sector, which served us well when we later won important new contracts to help with the fight against the virus.
There have been loads! Things like the work from home policy, the furlough policy- they’ve all been very new, big changes.
Thankfully, the honesty, collaboration and trust in the business has meant there’s never been any major disagreement about what we have done or how we should tackle things. We’ve convened the right people to talk about how we respond to different situations as they come about.
From day one, a major surprise was seeing some of our competitors furloughing salespeople, for example. Our view was that sales affect the business at its core, so it seemed very counterproductive to cut off our growth engine. We were clear on our strategy and our own decisions were straightforward with no disagreements.
We also changed our rewards scheme to align more closely with a traditional reseller scheme. As opposed to a flat-rate scheme, it’s helping us to promote better behaviour and gives us levers and opportunities to influence it. For example, it’s encouraged our salespeople to sell more service opportunities, which reflects our strategic goals and has changed both what we’re selling and how.
When the lockdown rules were first relaxed and people were able to return to the office, they were understandably reluctant at first. Then eventually they wanted to come back in, but we had to deter them in order to keep things safe and COVID secure, of course.
I think we all understand that people have a choice when it comes to where they work, so creating the right environment and behaviours is essential for talent retention. When we come to work, whether in person at the office or remotely from home, there’s no blame culture or toxicity. Instead, things are open and positive with feedback always welcomed, exactly as it should be.
As a leadership team, we’ve held fast on our conviction and our strategy, which hasn’t changed at all since before COVID-19 hit: to be a three-way end-to-end IT provider with equal weight in product, services and support. The pandemic and other interruptions have tried to get in the way, but we’ve dealt with it all in the most practical ways possible, and I’m really proud of that.
As for remote working, we were already pushing this within our own business, not least because we’ve been selling remote working solutions to our customers for many years. We saw the value in it long ago, with the likes of Zoom and Salesforce in day-to-day use across the company. That set us up very well when widespread remote working had to be adopted en masse.
I’d probably say that it all comes down to mindset and attitude. As a leader, I can help people change their behaviour, but I can’t make them change their attitude – you need the right mindset if you want to succeed in any walk of life.