Cian Prendergast, founder and CEO of Ortus joins the show to share his story on the origins of Ortus in Ireland, sharing his story on how there’s a lot more to providing cloud and managed IT services to SMEs than what you’d expect, entrepreneurial leadership during a pandemic, surrounding yourself with brilliant people….and a past life of having every job under the clouds!
Cian spent 8 years in the IT sector before launching Ortus in 2007, inspired by his ambition to build a client-centric business based on his own values and vision. Ortus provide cloud and managed IT services for over 300 small-to-medium-sized businesses in Ireland, and more recently in Continental Europe, in the financial, healthcare and legal sectors.
On Cian’s inspiration to launch Ortus: “It was this notion that there were some people sitting upstairs, making decisions that weren't actually connected with the clients, but I felt like I was the one that was connected to the clients. I found it more stressful to work for other people who I felt were doing it wrong than to work for myself, as petrifying as it was looking down the barrel of a recession in 2007.”
On building the team: “There are only three things we look for an interview. We don't ask what you did in college, we don't ask whether or not you have a degree, we just try and figure out three things - Is this person humble, hungry, and smart. Nothing else, there’s no script.”
On getting traction at the inception of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008: “I realized we were coming into a recession, but people liked our message when we visited them as we were totally going down the road of cloud computing. We would say ’During a recession, do you want to spend twenty-grand on a server or do you want to give me 500 euros? And for that 500 euros a month, I will put your stuff in the cloud.’”
On adapting to the work-from-home realities of the pandemic for Ortus’ clients: “If you have 300 clients in a managed environment with a managed network and managed internet connections and there are 20 or 30 people in each of those businesses, when they all go home, you've got 20 or 30 times the amount of internet connection problems. So, it was a disaster, but we were ready for it.”
On doing what you say you will do: “Underneath our logo on our website, it says ‘Where IT just works’. If you say that, you're going to get beaten over the head with it at every opportunity. So, you’ve got to stand up to that, you’ve got to own it and you've got to really deliver on it.”
On the Ortus culture: “We want it to be a great place to work. It's not a great place to work if you work everyone to the bone, it’s toxic.
On the approach with new clients: “One of the things we love doing is interviewing some of the teams on the ground instead of those people upstairs. When you find out, for example, that they've got duplicate entry across the board and you can show them they don't need to do that anymore, then they go, ‘Okay, that saves me time, you're not a threat, you're not someone that's coming here to replace us with computers. You're actually someone that's going to make us more efficient and make my life easier.’”
On how he treats people: “You know what's in them, you can sense that regardless of what their qualifications are. What's the point in not nurturing that, what's the point in trying to control it and bark orders at them? Of course, you've got processes and policies and all that stuff, but let them grow and do their thing and let them flourish.”
On surrounding yourself with great people: “I think it was a Steve Jobs quote, ‘You don't hire great people and then tell them what to do, you hire great people so they can tell you what to do’. I think all I've really done is hire people that are better than me at different things. So, if I see someone and I think ‘She's better than me at that,’ then I'm probably going to hire them. If you keep on doing that, you end up with a great balance of people that are all brilliant at something.”
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