Friday 18 August 2017

From the beginning I should have insisted on monthly accounts. You must know your numbers

What I wish I’d known before I started

Philip Maguire, founder, IT Alliance Group (Susan Jefferies)
Philip Maguire, founder, IT Alliance Group (Susan Jefferies)

Philip Maguire

Sometimes you have to reinvent the wheel. Common advice to entrepreneurs is not to do it. But when the wheels start to fall off, this is unavoidable.

Between 1997 and 2000, IT Alliance grew rapidly, providing IT support to hundreds of companies. By 2000, we employed 230 people. Then the dotcom bubble burst and all technology-related business dried up.

We had to go back to the drawing board and, in association with the Cranfield Institute of Technology in the UK, developed a new business model. This reinvented the company to provide outsourcing services to the world's leading IT outsourcing companies. In a deliberate move, our potential customers went from thousands to a handful. Today, we employ over 500 people.

Never waste a good recession. Despite nearly taking the company under, the technology recession of 2000 was an invaluable learning experience.

So when the 2008 recession took hold on the back of the global banking crisis, we decided to use spare capacity to research new opportunities for the group. As a result, we formed a sister company Auxilion to provide implementation and support services to global firms looking to move their businesses to the cloud using the Microsoft Azure platform.

Parent companies can kill innovation. In the early history of the company, short-term revenue opportunities always seemed to take precedent over long-term goals. This is understandable, but is usually an innovation killer.

So when we decided we wanted to develop a new cloud computing-related business, which turned into Auxilion, we separated the R&D from parent company demands.

Backed by an Enterprise Ireland research grant, we (figuratively speaking of course) locked an R&D team into a basement and told their bosses they were 'off limits'.

We fed pizzas to an R&D team of five techies and a marketing person, supported by a project manager to keep them on track. Six months later, they emerged blinking into the daylight with the Auxilion blueprint.

Information is king. When I began the company back in 1997 I received quarterly accounts. But as Henry Ford is reputed to have said: "History is bunk". From the beginning I should have insisted on monthly accounts.

You must know your numbers on a monthly or even weekly basis to flag potential problems and keep on top of cash flow.

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