glen 6 year anniversary

Glen’s 6 Year Smile IT Anniversary

In honour of his six years of being a major driving force at Smile IT, we sat down with our General Manager Glen to pick his brain about his time here, our recent growth and what he sees the future holding for Smile IT. Here’s how the conversation went.

Before joining Smile IT, you spent over 25 years in management and consulting roles at various multinational corporations. What made you confident in Smile IT’s potential when you transitioned from corporate work to a startup company? 

I began my career in corporates, and then started my own entrepreneurial IT organisation with a colleague. We grew that and ended up selling it back to a corporate. So, although I’ve had a lot of experience with larger businesses, I’ve always had the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. When I met the people at Smile IT, I realised that their values and culture were something special. In addition, the team was made up of people who had done the hard yards and had overcome some significant challenges during the life of the business. From what I saw, it was easy to understand that the company had a promising future.  

Can you make a comparison between then and now. What did your role entail in the beginning, and how does that differ from now? 

When I started, I was very much ‘hands-on’ because rapid growth required me to wear multiple hats. We were fortunate to have a decent pipeline of work, but servicing that with constrained resources was difficult. We all had to do what was necessary to keep the business engine running. Now, six years later, we’ve got a much bigger team with diversified skill sets. We’re a different animal and we’re starting to realise the early benefits of scale. Ironically, I’m now falling back on my corporate experience as we look to effectively manage our high growth rate. I’m now involved in ensuring the stability and future growth prospects of the organisation while protecting our culture.   

With almost 60% growth in team personnel in one year, it’s safe to say Smile IT is experiencing a substantial period of growth. To what do you attribute this success? 

I think there are two things driving the growth. The first is that we have really good relationships with customers. We’ve never had to look for work. We’ve delivered well and clients trust us. This has created a flywheel effect which has resulted in a lot of repeat business and a lot of referral work. The outcome of that has been an ongoing need for extra staff.  

I’d say that the other reason for our growing headcount is that in the past, we’ve waited for work to be available before taking on resources. We’ve flipped that around and are now hiring the right people in anticipation of work. We identify good recruits who align with our values and look to take them on when they become available.  

What is the most memorable project or initiative you’ve been involved in at Smile IT, and what impact did this have on Smile IT and the broader community? 

We’ve been incredibly busy during my time at Smile IT and there have been numerous initiatives that I’ve been involved in. They’ve all been memorable and it seems as though each one is worth a mention. However, the one thing that I think about a lot is the overall journey that our team has undertaken to get to where we are today. It’s taken enormous effort from everyone, but from a team of 8 when I joined, we have 42 employees. That means that we support 42 families in some way, and we get to have a direct impact on each employee’s personal growth. That ripple effect makes a positive difference in the world. 

Operating in the IT space, there is constant pressure to continually innovate to keep up with the evolving nature of the industry. How do you encourage forward thinking across the organisation? 

To be honest we’ve never had to encourage this in the organisation. Our teams are always looking for ways to solve their own problems. We give people a high level of autonomy and trust them to ‘fail fast’ if they’re trying something new. The Smile IT payoff line is ‘Forward Thinkers’ and we specifically look for this quality in new recruits. If you’re not comfortable with the ‘build-measure-learn’ cycle, then I’m not sure you’d like our work environment.  

What are the most challenging aspects of your role, and what fundamental skills or personal qualities do you need to navigate those challenges?

Smile IT is scaling up very quickly, and my role is to make sure we can do this successfully. The problem is that growth creates complexity, but complexity stifles growth. So, the main challenge is to maintain a balance between these dynamics as we move towards our objectives. This involves being across all aspects of the business and looking for optimal ways to deploy constantly constrained resources. 

In terms of personal qualities, I think that it’s important to be comfortable with uncertainty. We make a lot of decisions quickly, based on limited information. So, I spend a lot of time considering scenarios and assessing acceptable risk. I also think that you need to have the courage to change your mind if your plan isn’t shaping up.   

You’ve gained a reputation for imparting valuable pearls of wisdom during your lunch breaks, rightfully earning you the ‘Lunch Time Wisdom Award’ at our Christmas Party. Can you share the most valuable career advice you’ve received?  

My father always used to say – ‘If you’re asked to do something, then just do it!’. It seems obvious, but I think it’s powerful. I’ve worked with so many people who either don’t listen to what is being asked, or don’t fully deliver. I’ve found that you’ll go a long way just to find someone who focuses on taking something through to completion. In the workplace, if you get known as someone who takes accountability for solving problems, then you’ll go far.  

Looking ahead, what do you envision for Smile IT’s future, and how do you see yourself contributing to its continued success? 

Our vision statement is ‘To make a true difference by growing ourselves, our customers and others’. The organisation is growing quickly, and I’d like to see Smile IT creating increasingly positive outcomes for everyone that we work with. With our combined expertise in technology, we’re in the right space to create far-reaching beneficial impacts for society in general.  

As for me, I think the role will change to one where I can play a greater part in achieving our vision. This will require a strong focus on retaining and perpetuating our culture. It will also require the identification of new opportunities that align with our goals, and the work involved to bring them to reality.   

peter drummond

When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!