Today, we catch up with our long standing CEO, Stuart Mckean to celebrate a whole 10 years, a decade of Nine23.
“Hi Stuart, thank you for joining me today and a big congratulations on reaching a huge milestone.
Let’s take it back to the very beginning in 2011, what made you start Nine23 and looking at Nine23 today have you achieved what you set out to do?”
“When I started Nine23 it was on the back of a business venture that did not work out as planned and I had a few options:
- Re-join the Army
- Get a job
- Start a company again
So, I opted for number 3 but this time I really did consider what and why before starting Nine23. I reviewed my background and where I thought my skills fitted best and at the same time the iPad 1 had just launched, and I remember thinking these will catch on. My first contract work was ironically back with the Army Air Corps (AAC) who wanted to use them in the back of aircraft as Electronic Flight Bag’s (EFB).
Nine23 today has the very same ethos that I started it with, complete focus on enabling end-users and as an end user in the Army for 23 years I know what it means to use your own equipment to do your job. That has not changed over time, as end users will keep using the tools that make their job or life easier. The fact is that everyone has a smartphone these days, they did 10 years ago, and will use it, even if they shouldn’t.
We continue to operate with the same focus today as we did 10 years ago, to enable the users as we hopefully continue for a further 10 more years.”
“According to recent statistics, 20% of businesses fail in their first year and around 60% will go bust within their first three years. How did Nine23 make it through those crucial years?”
We had seed funding which allowed us to start the company, and then after the first year we secured our first enterprise client which then enabled us to grow rapidly after that.
However, we did hit several issues relating to people which had a major impact due to their actions and this forced me to re-structure in year 3 and to get better at having the right structure and process in place.
Without doubt a key to our success has been our relationship with OBXtek Inc and their founder and our Chairman Ed Jesson who has supported us from the start of our relationship with them as shareholders.
The key to sustaining any business and getting to ten years old in my opinion, is first and foremost down to the team of people around you. Closely followed with the right structure and process in place to operate efficiently.
“What have been the biggest challenges Nine23 has faced in 10 years and how did you overcome them?”
The biggest challenges we have faced are without doubt based on the actions of people who I had trusted.
People are a business and trust is such an important element of any company especially as a young SME and having trusted people, it is beyond words the impact that losing trust has on a company. We overcame our challenges by re-grouping and slowly building up the team with individuals that shared our values.
“On the other hand, what has been the biggest success/achievement?”
It would be easy to say a particular client contract win but I feel that our biggest success has been it getting the group of people that are Nine23 together. I used to scoff at the business articles/books that talked about culture but without question doubt the single best achievement has been in building the team and culture we have today. I will say that there have been staff in the past who have moved on on to other jobs that have had an impact on the culture too and it is at every level in the organisation.
“You’ve stayed an SME throughout the years, was this always the plan or do you plan on getting bigger?”
One thing I have learned during my business career is that bigger is not always better. For me being able to build and then deliver to the end user has been about enablement. There are definitely pros and cons of being an SME and it is fair to say unless you have been involved in an SME then it is difficult to truly understand what it is like.
The key as an SME is you must build your reputation and you must deliver and if you get it wrong, which we all do at some stage, you must own it. You do not have the luxury of a big established brand name with a very different risk profile. So, being an SME is something we are proud off but at the same time we have built and established our process and certification to demonstrate that we operate like a much bigger company.
“Thank you so much for answering my questions Stuart. To finish my questions, what does the next decade hold for Nine23?”
I think it is fair to say we are in a very different world today from when we started and the transformation of our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and its legacy will be in the history books. We were very well prepared for the pandemic but like everyone had to adapt, one of the strengths of being an SME has been our ability to be agile in our approach to the future. Technology has been around for a long time but had such a critical part to play during the pandemic that I feel we are well positioned for the future.
Building partnerships with other SME’s that we add true value to each other is an objective I have set ourselves as I strongly believe the future for the SME collaborative working is the future for our growth.
Continuing to build a team with the values we have, to enable end users is my continued focus and has been since day 1. The team of people are Nine23 and I am very privileged to be part of it.
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