Previous Entrepreneurs Forum’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, ION’s MD Rob Mathieson is focussed on success
What is it the company does?
ION specialises in business transformation, focusing on CRM and integrated accounting solutions. We are consulting partners for Salesforce and Sage – the world’s leading customer relationship management (CRM) and accountancy firms.
We utilise an array of cloud-based tools to enable companies of all sizes to connect with their customers and provide them with the ability to increase productivity and maximise their sales pipeline. Salesforce typically increases sales revenue by 37 percent, so essentially we help businesses grow.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I mainly oversee sales and the day to day running of the business, along with my technical director John Huggins. I meet with new clients as well as existing to ensure they are getting the right products and results for their business. Since we started the business two years ago, we have seen more and more companies switching to Salesforce and Sage, with a higher level of adoption and we’ve been in an amazing position to provide it.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
With a degree in Internet Technology I built my career at some of the top digital agencies in the region, including TH_NK. From 2007 to 2014 I ran my first tech business, AYO Digital. This really let me cut my teeth in the industry.
In 2013, I was delighted to be awarded Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Entrepreneurs Forum.
I then went on to work with True Potential, initially in the technology, before setting up the direct services team, which is now one of the fastest growing workplace pension provider in the country.
In August 2016 I partnered with Salesforce and launched ION. We have an ambitious and incredibly exciting business, which we have aggressively grown. This has meant we have had to evolve and change, carefully controlling the strategy and delivery, which is challenging, but very liberating. We also get to work with some amazing customers, building technology platforms that help them sell faster and smarter, rapidly accelerate growth and outperform their competitors at every level.
Since we launched the business, we have seen the team grow to 18, opened an office in London and are still actively recruiting, so it is an exciting time.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think a great leader has be absolutely committed to their goal and be willing to do any job to achieve it. Leaders should be willing to take on any challenge, at any level and demonstrate to their team that they are willing to do whatever it takes.
When you start a business you have to do every job, but you employee people who are better than you at each of them. You also have to be approachable and open with your team, they will live and breathe your business too.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
Probably making the decision to try and build another business all over again. I was leaving an excellent job with an incredible company, True Potential, which made it even tougher. You’ve got no idea when you’ll get paid again and you are starting completely from scratch. Having a strategy, commitment and absolute belief in yourself was key and thankfully that leap of faith is paying off.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
A lot of people talk about stress as a very generic issue, but it’s usually caused by very specific issues. The biggest inhibitor in building a company is not being able to make forward-looking decisions because of these pressures. It’s important to, therefore, identify these, isolate them and then deal with the problem directly.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an RAF Tornado pilot. For years this was all I ever wanted to do and actually started training as a pilot at university.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
We have a great team who all get along well so there are no pet hates as such. I have a very low tolerance for negativity, as I get my energy from positive people. Our aim is to make money and have fun.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I prefer to talk about achievements once you have realised them, rather than speculating on what we might achieve. We have a very specific plan, which the whole team is briefed on, but we’ll adapt and flex as required.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Stay focused. There are so many distractions and opportunities that many talented people forget what they are trying to do. Break down your monthly objectives into a small number of KPI’s and then build around those. Build a team you can trust and can work with. I’m incredibly lucky to have some very bright people within our company and they make very important decisions.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I’ve been around a lot of amazing people that have mentored me, from members of the Entrepreneurs Forum, to the senior partners at True Potential. I can’t single out any piece of advice, but there is a great line from the film Fight Club:
“On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
This is true about life as much as it is about business. Have a goal and a plan to get there, before it’s too late.
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