David Tindall, CEO of Talk Straight Ltd, shares his reflections with BQ on managing change, getting the right people on board and backing yourself.
What is it the company does?
We are innovators in digital technology, providing cost-effective cloud-based, managed services and specialist network security services to businesses and schools in the UK.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As CEO, I provide the overall leadership and vision for the business. That means ensuring I have a strong and experienced board of directors, who share my vision and whom I trust implicitly to help develop and deliver our company strategy to turn our vision into reality.
It’s also my responsibility to ensure the Talk Straight team is a happy team. Whilst happiness in the workplace undoubtedly contributes to better productivity, it’s also very important to me that people genuinely enjoy what they do.
How did you come to do the work that you do?
I came from a technical background, originally being an engineer for an internet service provider, installing customer solutions. I then progressed to becoming a solutions architect, where I helped sales teams to win major bids. It was my introduction to the sales side of business that gave me a real buzz.
With a few years’ experience under my belt in both technology and sales, I founded Talk Straight Ltd in 2007. I took the company from the kitchen table to where we are today, providing over 1,500 schools and businesses with internet connectivity and specialist web filtering and security services - all without any initial investment. It has also helped that I brought in good people along the way.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Without a doubt, it has to be driving change. Talk Straight has performed well since 2007, experiencing year on year growth. But the technology market changes rapidly, and we need to ensure we’re always ahead of the curve, anticipating that change. We excel in achieving this and are known as innovative leaders in the field of education technology.
My vision was to capitalise on this skill and reputation and ramp up growth on another scale. There were some doubts originally from some of the team, and it was a challenge to get the buy-in to my vision. However, I’m pleased to say we now have a board who share that vision and I’m excited as to what the future holds.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Now we have a good strong board in place, who share in my vision and have the determination to make it a reality, I see the business being two-to-three times our current size.
That means we will need to continue to innovate, invest heavily in new technologies and invest in our people. This will enable us to become leaders in automation and fulfilment for all of our managed, cloud-based services.
It may mean diversification along the way; a lot can change in the world in five years.
I’d like to think we have an infrastructure and culture that means we are ready to embrace the change to build on our success.
Why did you take part in Digital Enterprise or Digital Knowledge Exchange?
Working in partnership with the Digital Enterprise has not only helped our own business to expand, but by delivering services that have had funding contributions from the Digital Enterprise schemes, we have helped other businesses to grow as well.
What has the Digital Enterprise or Digital Knowledge Exchange done for your business?
Through the Digital Enterprise Connectivity Schemes that have provided funding for businesses to cover the cost of new high-speed internet connections, routers, firewalls and network solutions, we have been able to provide services that give businesses essential improvements to grow in a digital world. It has also been a useful source of knowledge for ourselves.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Back yourself, be headstrong and believe in your vision and your own abilities to succeed. Be sure to listen to others, those who work with you and those who don’t – but especially, those who speak from experience.
Be prepared to make big changes if necessary. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Perhaps to get more investment earlier on. That would have allowed us to grow more quickly, rather than starting out with no investment at all. It took a good few years longer to get where we wanted to be – though I realise hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Why would you recommend Digital Enterprise or the Digital Knowledge Exchange
For any small or medium-sized business wishing to grow, the Digital Enterprise Exchange can really help. Businesses can access all sorts of free help and advice through the Digital Knowledge Exchange, where masterclasses and workshops provide expert advice that might otherwise cost a lot through a consultancy service.
They also provide financial support for new digital and ICT solutions through their various Digital Voucher Schemes and can help businesses with the cost of upgrading to faster broadband.
If you liked this post, please share with your friends and followers. If you are interested in digital, why not check out the Digital Enterprise Top 100, a major initiative to identify those companies that are setting an example for others to follow within the world of digital transformation.
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