A BRIEF HISTORY OF ME
My love of technology began when I was 15 and my Dad bought one of the first Commodore PET computers, complete with a dodgy keyboard and a massive 8Kbyte of RAM!
That started an obsession with computers and I spent all my free time coding, including games and a 6502 assembler called Mikro. I was so passionate about this that I was spending all evenings and weekends whilst at college writing software - the income from games was a great supplement to my college grant! I had written Mikro Assembler for my own use as a tool to write games, but I then decided to launch it as a professional program. This became quite successful.
But whilst I was at college, the electronic music scene had exploded and I was intrigued with a computer called the ‘Fairlight CMI’ which became a revolutionary music tool. So I decided to design my own system which utilised the Commodore 64 with an audio interface box. I called this system ‘Microvox’ and it was heavily influenced by the Fairlight but somewhat more limited due to the performance limitations of the Commodore 64. But it became a commercial success and was used on a number of recordings including Fergal Sharkey’s number 1 single “A Good Heart”.
Mikro Assembler was used by many professional programmers and it received quite a bit of attention in the press which generated my first press interview.
Me with Fergal Sharkey in 1984
After leaving college, I spent the following few years self employed, developing products, software and more computer games - my early life was very anti-social, often working all through the night. But not only did the computer games industry crash in 1987, I also met my future wife and so decided to get a 'proper' job so we could get a mortgage.
At first I joined a company called Studiomater who were in the professional audio industry. I had a lot of fun there but the business and industry was very unprofessional at that time and I knew I would never develop my career working in that environment. So I switched to the Telecoms industry in order to progress and after spending six years in R&D engineering and R&D Management roles, I joined Pace Micro Technology in 1995, which was the start of my Executive Management career. Pace were a rapidly growing business supplying satellite TV set-top boxes to BSB and Sky TV. I started off as Engineering Manager but within two years had been made Engineering Director. I started up the cable TV business within Pace, supplying analog cable TV boxes to Foxtel (Australia) and Star TV (Asia).
In 1997 digital TV was in its infancy and one of my colleagues was pioneering DVB digital set-top boxes with News Corporation. Shortly after Sky conducted trials of digital satellite, one of the founders of Pace won a contract with Stream (Italy) to supply the worlds first DVB digital cable set-top box. My team were given this project and we spent the following year developing and integrating the box onto Stream's network. This project went live in late 1998 and was the start of Pace's digital cable TV business. It was a very exciting time and even the BBC decided to feature Pace (and me!) on 'Tomorrow's World'.
My team grew considerably and I increasingly moved into more commercial roles whilst retaining my R&D leadership role. I formed a strategic alliance with Cisco to pioneer the worlds first DVB digital cable box with integrated DOCSIS cable modem. This proved hugely successful and we won 95% of the UK cable industry with derivatives of this box, first winning Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), then Telewest and finally NTL. All three businesses later merged and became Virgin Media. These contracts totally transformed the revenue profile of Pace and cable TV revenue went from £0 in 1996 to over £300m by 2000.
In 1999, I officially moved into more commercial roles at Pace, first as Director of Technology & Strategic Development and then in 2001 I was promoted to Divisional CEO. But around this time, NTL and CWC had merged but then crashed under a mountain of debt. This had a terrible effect on sales of cable boxes and over the following year, Pace became a very stressful place to work. In 2003, an opportunity arose at Harman which I found too exciting to ignore, so I started as Managing Director of Soundcraft, joining the Executive Team of the Professional Division.
Soundcraft revenue was $40m but it was in bad shape, barely breaking even, poor product portfolio, low staff morale, several unprofitable brands, out of date technology and tired market perception. So there was a lot to do to turn it around. Whilst re-building the leadership team, I conducted an urgent review of cost structure of the business, looking in detail at P&L, product contribution margins, sub-brands and department costs. This resulted in an aggressive cost management project with a ‘House Is On Fire’ attitude whilst protecting investment into R&D. I divested three non-strategic / non profitable brands which had disproportionate costs to revenue contribution and initiated ‘End Of Life’ on a number of very low revenue products. Additionally, we initiated various operations projects to improve contribution margin on key product lines. The result was that the business was stabilised over the course of the year.
In 2004, I presented a plan to Dr Sidney Harman (owner) to consolidate Soundcraft with another Harman business unit in Switzerland called Studer which was hugely loss making. The plan involved a major restructuring of both business units over 3 years, merging into a single management team, sharing and optimising R&D resources, consolidating marketing, finance and operations teams, renovating our UK manufacturing facility with the latest SMT machines, downsizing the Studer operations team and consolidating both business units PCBA manufacturing into the UK facility. Dr Harman loved the plan and I was promoted to President / Managing Director of the two businesses which we called Mixer Group. It was a highly ambitious project but it totally transformed the business and by 2010 we had achieved $100m in revenue at 16% EBIT.
In 2010, I was given a third business unit to run, AKG in Vienna, and I was promoted to President & Managing Director of this renamed 'Strategic Business Unit'. There was much less synergy between AKG and the other two businesses, but over the following three years we grew the combined SBU to $200m at 23% EBIT. This was achieved by further consolidation into UK manufacturing facility, closing the remaining Zurich manufacturing and relocating the Studer team to a smaller, lower cost facility. Unfortunately, this created massive unrest in Zurich and I was faced with a striking workforce. This was one of the most stressful situations in my professional career, but we got through it with diligence and patience. The reward was a significantly improved business model across the SBU and by 2013 my SBU had its most profitable year.
But in 2011, Harman had been going through massive change at corporate level which affected most regional business units. It turned into a major restructuring and 2014 - 2015 were very challenging years for the Professional Division. In 2016, Harman was sold to Samsung, but by that time, I had joined Music Group as Senior Vice President.
At Music Group, I joined to build and lead the professional division after the recent acquisition of the TC Group which almost doubled Music Group's size. But within two weeks of joining I found myself deep in crisis management as the TC Group leadership were in melt down as a result of being acquired. This took several months of careful management from myself, the owner and other senior managers to resolve and stabilise.
At the same time, I worked with the owner and developed a business model for the professional division. This was an exciting time and after being given full authority to deliver the changes, I and my team started to reorganise and build. But unfortunately, a few months later, the owner had second thoughts and decided to take his business in a different direction, leaving me somewhat isolated. So in early 2017, I cut my losses and decided to move my career in a different direction.
So that brings me to here, and my passion for technology and business drives me to use the experience and expertise I have gained over the last 25 years to build a portfolio of businesses that I can assist, help develop and potentially invest in. This includes acting as a Non-Executive Director, a coach / mentor and a consultant.
If I can be of assistance to you, please do get in contact. It costs nothing to have a chat!
Very best regards