From dreaming of being a footballer to serving in the British Army to running a tech company, Tim Mercer has had a varied career so far. He talks to BQ about his role as CEO of Vapour Cloud.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
As CEO and co-founder of Vapour, I’m a bit of an all-rounder! I’m responsible for our sales strategy and marketing solutions. I also work on our network, host technical events and take care of literally anything else you can think of when it comes to being a CEO!
What is it the company does?
In short, we are a B2B cloud tech company, providing an array of secure services including network connectivity, platform as a Service (PaaS), innovative voice and data communication solutions, data storage, backup and replication services. We work with both SMEs and blue-chip clients throughout the North of England and are quickly increasing our UK-wide presence too.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I joined the British Army in 1987 and was on active service during the Gulf War. I left the forces after seven years, took on a few sales jobs and in 1996 decided it was time to go searching for fame and fortune in London!
I ended up working in a commission only role for a managed printing company IKON for three years, before heading home and buying a house in 1999.
On my return, I managed to secure a job selling data networks at what was then TeleWest. They merged to form NTL then Virgin Media, and by 2011 I had worked my way up to the position of regional sales manager.
I always believed I was destined to have my own business – it was something I just knew would eventually happen. So, in 2013 I decided to take the plunge and ‘go it alone’. I sold everything I owned, founded Vapour and here we are today!
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you always have the best ideas, so listen to your team and work with them.
Be open and honest too! You need to build a strategy that you can deliver clearly to your colleagues so that they understand both you and your business goals. I also think it’s crucial to get your team involved so everyone is on the right ‘roadmap’.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Aside from having the guts to do it in the first place…?!
Firstly, I would say one of the hardest challenges has been building relationships with clients. Back then as a start-up, I had to gain trust and build relationships based on that trust. I was asking customers to take a risk and put their faith in me, but I would hope all were glad that they did.
Secondly, finding the right people to build an extraordinary team culture. It was imperative that we shared the same vision, and now that we have a reputable presence and a strong team behind us, the challenge is to ensure we continue to deliver the service we have become renowned for, whilst remaining true to our values. We pride ourselves on delivering world class customer service, so to keep on doing this, the whole team needs to see, understand and be part of our vision.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I’m quite disciplined when it comes to my day, which perhaps stems from my time in the forces.
So, I’m a big believer in an early morning workout, to get rid of yesterday’s stress. I always follow this up with a good breakfast and then I’m ready to rock and roll!
I’m quite strict with grabbing a 30 minute lunch break too, however busy I feel – it’s an opportunity to quickly recharge. And of course, best of all, I love spending time with my two children when I get home from work.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A footballer – who didn’t? I played football as a child and I still play when I can now. I also had big plans to be a vet!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Honesty is essential in the workplace – you need to be open and approachable. If you’re a closed door, you can end up being hard to work with.
I also can’t stand laziness. If you aren’t going to put maximum effort in, don’t do it at all.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I would like us to be one of the UK’s leading tech firms, with a turnover north of £30m, and a strong, honest team that continues to deliver technical and innovative solutions to clients throughout the UK. If we can do this whilst staying true to our values, we’ll have a very strong brand proposition.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Stay strong, be honest and don’t forget your sense of humour – you’ll need it! Don’t take things too personally either. Be the best you can be, and make sure you have the right team to support you on your journey!