From 'terribly precocious' beginnings envisioning himself on the cover of Times Magazine by 30 years old, Damian Pike has successfully navigated the business world and learned many valuable lessons along the way, which he now uses to help business owners deliver business growth.
What is it the company does?
The newly launched Murphy Advisory arm of the business (part of Murphy Group) helps entrepreneurs and business leaders deliver growth by helping them to be less tied up in the day-to-day running of the business, and gain greater oversight.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is to grow the Murphy Advisory business. Currently, this is focused on communicating to customers how we can help them run their business in a way that adds more value and encourages growth. This means digging deep into our clients’ businesses to make sure we understand their challenges. As a newly launched business, we also need to constantly evaluate and refine our services, which is also part of my remit.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
After graduating from Durham University with a degree in computer science, I completed a graduate sales and marketing programme at International Computers Ltd (ICL), now Fujitsu. I then did an MBA in France and the US. On completion, I went to work for PA Consulting in their strategy and marketing practice. As the first internet boom exploded, I joined a digital agency and helped build their business practice, working in London and Paris.
I moved to Glasgow 15 years ago, taking a business development role in a mobile phone services business - Total Repair Solutions. From there, I became chief operating officer and helped grow the business from 70 members of staff to 700. I was then heavily involved in the sale to Regenersis in 2011.
From there, I joined DHL Supply Chain – originally in an innovation role, and then became responsible for the company’s business development and ventures team. This was an incredible experience and my team oversaw more than £1bn of new business during this period. From there, I moved to Murphy Advisory.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
It seems a bit cliché to say out loud, but I believe leaders need to inspire, which requires having a real insight into what challenges and opportunities you face, and then crafting a vision that deals with the situation, and stretches beyond money and profit.
Of course, you can’t run a business alone. You need to listen to your team and make sure you’re doing all you can to help them reach their full potential. This is one of those lessons that you only really learn when you’re in the job. I’m a great believer of leading by example and understand that when a team works well together, everything else follows.
Great leaders are also consistent, regardless of the challenges they’re facing, and can calmly lead their teams through tougher times. There is definitely a role for passion, but not for excessive emotion – if that’s not a contradiction.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Starting a business from scratch is not a walk in the park. You really need to work hard to build a brand, build relationships, and build a client base. It can be a slow process at times, but it’s rewarding when your efforts start to pay off. We’re not interested in marketing to the masses, but rather building meaningful relationships with clients that last.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress, but for me, sweating it out really helps. Recently, I’ve become a bit of an evangelist on this. Having worked in a high pressure, heavy travel environment for many years, I had become stuck on the saw-tooth journey of training when I could, then getting injured, then starting all over again. Now, I focus on getting three full-on sessions a week and it has done wonders for my fitness and the quality of my thinking. I’d say that if you’re over the age of 40 and not allocating enough time to exercise, you’re missing a trick.
The benefits of exercise can be realised by anyone and almost anywhere. Just getting away from your desk can be beneficial too and helps to break cycles of negative thought. One of my most memorable board meetings was carried out taking the team up over Loch Katrine.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I was terribly precocious and saw myself on the cover of Time magazine – before the age of 30. I dedicated myself to reading the FT cover to cover throughout my teens in an effort to get there, but by the time I hit my mid-twenties, it dawned on me it wasn’t going to happen. I also realised that this wasn’t my goal anymore – I had other aspirations, including seeking out as much experience as possible, building a family, and developing new skills.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
That’s easy – unprofessionalism. I’m a believer that work is work, and you should do all you can to remain professional at all times. At top level, this means demonstrating respect to your colleagues, customers and suppliers. On a day-to-day basis, this means doing work that you’re proud of, being in the moment in conversations and meetings (not being on your phone) and being generally considerate.
On a detail level, I’m also a stickler for proper document formatting – it only takes a few minutes to add a header and footer to a document and shows that you care about the little things.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We’re an ambitious and growing business, and I see us having 30 specialist consultants in the next five years, as well as international bases. As an enthusiastic Francophile, I would love us to have an office in Paris.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
This is tricky to answer, as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to being a leader, and not all leadership situations are the same. That being said, there are a few things I’ve learned, such as the execution of an idea being just as important as the idea itself (ideas are simple, execution is harder); know your personal values and stay true to them; protect your team but do not shy away from difficult conversations; and always be learning (not just from your own business).
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
This isn’t totally business-related, but if I could speak to my mid-20s self, I would warn myself about being caught in a big-salary trap which denies the chance to try new things and take risks. So, I’d tell myself (pre-commitments) to invest in property, starting small, with projects that you can work on over time. If you can get to a point where you don’t need the salary to cover the costs of your property, you are giving yourself the option to chase your ambition.
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