CEO of technology firm Forfusion, Steven Forrest, shares with BQ his opinions on the importance of having a vision and pushing boundaries, whilst also confronting the brutal facts of reality head-on.
What is it the company does?
We serve as a straight-talking trusted advisor to our clients; we solve business problems using technology. Our core technologies include networks and security, unified communications and collaboration, as well as cloud and hosted, all of which are underpinned by FusionCare, our all-encompassing managed service offering – we take pride in delivering lifecycle services using a proven methodology for strategy, design, planning, implementation and 24/7 support services.
Since company inception we’ve been delivering services that you would normally only expect from those turning over hundreds of millions; we’re known for punching above our weight, as well as using flexibility and agility as tools to displace much larger, typically more cumbersome systems integrators.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
As Forfusion’s CEO, my primary focus is to set the strategy, culture and governance across our company. More recently I’ve been placing emphasis on instigating and facilitating positive cultural change, as well as determining methods for instilling accountability throughout our operation.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Prior to launching Forfusion in 2007, I spent 10 years working with technology, both in the Private Sector and Public Sector, primarily architecting large complex unified communications solutions, as well as developing strategic and technological road-maps for all manner of companies.
Prior to this, following university, I served in the armed forces designing blast walls to absorb rocket energy, where I also specialised as a military diver and spent my time searching for dead bodies and other unpleasant things. When not performing drift searches in fast flowing rivers and jumping through broken ice in lakes, I spent my time running, boxing, playing judo, snowboarding and racing motorcycles.
In all honesty, I didn’t really have any interest in technology until the late 90’s; I think I eventually found my vocation through my love of competing. I always preferred being the underdog and fighting for first place against all odds, and to an extent I guess I still do. From my perspective, making progress in the world of business has been more about having the right mindset than it has about education or experience.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I firmly believe the best leaders are not afraid of failure; they have a vision and continually push boundaries, but they’re always true to themselves and are prepared to confront the brutal facts of reality head-on. Great leaders surround themselves with creative and disciplined thinkers and listen carefully to others before making important and often difficult, but necessary decisions.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
I’ve had to face many challenges over the years, which in the early days were related primarily to cash flow; we struggled to promote and build our business, whilst also covering payroll – a common issue experienced by many businesses just starting out. Day to day challenges
Managing employees, including their perceptions and behaviours, has been the most challenging and will likely continue to be one of the most challenging and interesting aspects moving forward. Studying Organisational Behaviour as part of my MBA has made me think differently about how I approach the subject of people management; however, there’s no real substitute for experience on the job.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
As a general rule, I try to focus on things that are within my control and completely shut out those that are not. I make a concerted effort to improve my well-being, whether it be through exercise, time out with my girlfriend and my two crazy boxer dogs, or simply relaxing and reading a book – I think it’s important to create head-space and family time by stepping away from the office and associated day-to-day pressures.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I still chuckle about this today. I wanted to be a lawyer when I was very young, and then a motorcycle racer in my mid-teens; two vocations I know couldn’t be further departed. I don’t know how I ended up doing what I do today, although my university lecturer always told me I would end up in selling in some way shape or form, so I guess that’s what I do, even if only indirectly.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
People that lack integrity, and those that would rather point the finger than hold their hands up and take responsibility. My goal is to instil a certain culture within Forfusion, whereby transparency and accountability are at the forefront of everything we do. A clear objective has been set to change the methods we use to employ new team members, as well as the measures we take to retain and develop valuable current employees.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Moving forward the plan is to continue to build on the foundations we’ve laid, scaling up by making strategic acquisitions, and by focussing on methods that support both aggressive and sustainable growth. In five years’ time, we will have instilled a culture that captures the hearts of our employees and our customers, but we will not have lost sight of our core values.
We will have expanded our reach further nationally, and yielded a healthy return in both revenues and profit, further disrupting the marketplace and adding more mid-market and enterprise customers to our growing portfolio; we will have achieved at least 250% growth, and have well-considered, coherent plans in place for further expansion.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Attack your goals with every single fibre of your being; grasp opportunities with both hands, and ensure you take on-board positive advice from those that you trust, and disregard negative advice imparted by the doubters. Have total belief in what you do, but always be realistic by meeting the brutal facts of reality head-on. Surround yourself only with honest people, preferably those with bright minds, and those that deserve to be part of your journey. Besides, what have you got to lose?