Andrew Gill: leading by serving
Andrew Gill became managing director of Tait’s EMEA business in February. Sam Fenwick catches finds out how he’s settling into the role and his priorities for the years to come
Andrew Gill has worked for Motorola for almost exactly 20 years, starting his time there in the “boom years of rolling out GSM networks” before becoming part of the company’s public safety business – what is now Motorola Solutions – where he was focused on its new solutions such as body-worn video, software PTT, and command and control products. So why has he decided to leave the comfort of the familiar for something new?
“[It was] the opportunity to have more influence over a smaller business and to run my own show,” he explains. “Tait EMEA is part of a New Zealand corporation, but as my new boss and Tait’s CEO [Garry Diack] has said: New Zealand is an awfully long way away and we will be given the opportunity to develop as a region and invest in the region as a regional management team. That was hugely attractive to me.” Another reason for the move was that it allows Gill to get to know a group of customers better than was possible in his previous role.
Gill adds that he’s in a “lucky and privileged position”, noting the considerable changes that have been made at the global level by Diack. The EMEA region has seen “the best quarter of orders in a decade because of some of these changes and some of the new markets that Tait has been able to enter as well as reinvigorating some of the ones [it] was very strong in in the past”. He also notes the work being done at the regional level, such as setting up a new office in Cambridge, creating new services and key sales roles, and adding to the operational staff in the UK while keeping its offices in Vienna and Paris.
In the last year Tait has also set up a small software development business in Bangalore whose staff have come from operating environments, the rail industry, the IoT world, and large industry. It is helping the company build applications and software architecture that enables radio to interface with other networks.
In the next few weeks Tait will also be opening an innovation centre in Silicon Valley so it can work with start-ups in the fields of wearables, smart IoT business-to-business applications that can be brought into Tait’s ecosystem, and work effectively on behalf of its customers.
Gill explains that after “many years of seeing organisations shrinking, seeing [one grow] – albeit on a slighter smaller scale – is hugely satisfying. We’re looking for a new senior sales role, a new senior services role, and we’re also looking for global marketing and product roles that are hosted in the UK.
“We already have a global role sitting in Vienna on the marketing side [and] we are currently recruiting for a global role that will sit in our new Cambridge office,” he continues. “I’m very keen that we continue down that road, as I know that innovation doesn’t just happen in Silicon Valley; it happens in the UK and the rest of Europe, and having people dotted around those regions is the best way to pick up on those trends and develop them.”
In times of such change and growth a close relationship between colleagues can make or break a company. Gill has taken a direct approach to learning about his new colleagues. “I made a vow in the beginning that in my first 30 days I would spend a minimum of one hour with every single member of the team. It has been encouraging and enlightening because they’re an incredible team that have worked very hard through tough and good years and are prepared to change and grow.
“Not everything is perfect and the team recognises where those imperfections are. My management philosophy is to lead by serving,” he says, with feeling. “ Serving our experts in sales, operations or any of the disciplines. As a general manager [it’s about] being able to make their job possible by removing road blocks.
“The new mantra is going to be ‘we can if’ and my job is to fix the ‘if’ because that should be the job of a general manager,” Gill adds. “So if the sales director says we can double our sales if we do the following things then it’s my job to help assess if that is correct, and assuming it is to then fix those ‘if’ questions and put the structures in place to deliver.”
Gill explains that one of his priorities is making sure all his sub-regions are “firing on all cylinders”, saying that in the past often one does well but another doesn’t. It’s his belief that “we can get all the sub-regions within Europe, the Middle East and Africa performing again and build on the growth path that has been started in the last 12 to18 months.”
He adds that “in the next three to six months” Tait will be addressing a “wider base of our core market” with a series of new products that will be a departure from the company’s traditional focus on higher end devices in “terms of price and performance”, and this will be a pleasant change for Tait’s channel partners.
Speaking of which, one of the initiatives that Tait
is implementing at the global level to make it easier for distributors and resellers and to boost lead generation is its “Next Generation Pricebook” – a complex spreadsheet containing details on all of Tait’s products designed to speed up the quote-writing process. It includes quick DMR reference guides that explain which features come as standard and which are optional.
There’s also ‘Build your own radio’: a web-based questionnaire and lead generation tool that can direct end users to the Tait terminals that best match their requirements. It can be easily tailored to target audiences with widely different levels of technical knowledge.
Tait’s Ignite channel programme is well established in Australia, and Tait is looking to establish something similar in the UK and Ireland. The programme creates incentives and rewards for channel partners. It sets them quarterly targets and if a channel partner meets them Tait pays its a rebate. Finally, Tait is looking to improve the competitive analysis product information that it provides to its channel partners, to aid their conversations with end users.
With the growing popularity of body-worn video cameras and hybrid handsets, is Tait looking to enter any of the newer solutions markets cropping up? Gill says that he sees wearables as the third leg of Tait’s business, in addition to its core radio solutions and those that leverage the company’s expertise with DMR networks in specialised areas such as utilities. He also wants to re-establish Tait in the EMEA region in the extractive industries, noting that the area he’s responsible for includes Africa and the Middle East, which both have a substantial presence in this sector.
In addition, “globally Tait has taken on some specialists in mining. We want to leverage that in our region so we’ve got some interesting projects beginning to brew in Africa in the mining industry for example. That’s going to be one of our areas of focus.
“I think compact deployable LTE solutions is a definite direction of travel for those industries, which by their nature are either underground or in relatively confined areas,” he suggests. “It plays on our core strengths of Tait Tough; the stuff that we do is built for those sorts of environments.”
Staying on the subject of LTE, Gill says that in the short time he’s been with Tait (he started working for the company in February) he has noticed that through working very closely with a few of its core customers it has developed some “very simple” and “very clever” innovations that allow them to get the best use of traditional radio while also benefiting from using 3G and 4G, allowing them to “[retain] the level of security and reliability that you get from a dedicated LMR radio network”.
Gill may still be settling into his role, but given his enthusiasm for the task and Tait’s move into the brave new world of PTT over cellular with UnifyVoice there’ll be plenty for him to exert a tangible influence over. We’ll be following his career with interest here at Land Mobile.