Interviews

Mike Norfield suggests businesses see mistakes in a different light

9 min read

12 September 2018

Deputy Editor, Real Business

Everyone makes decisions they wish they could go back and change. But according to Mike Norfield, Group CEO for Simoco Wireless Solutions, all mistakes should be seen as learning experiences.

At the core of fear in business, is the fear of failing. While many successful business people have failed and will fail again, what makes them different to those who won’t take risk is they either allow the time to examine a problem clearly, or they rise from the proverbial ashes.

Don’t let a mistake keep you down. It’s a sentiment Mike Norfield, Group CEO for Simoco Wireless Solutions, lives by.

The company delivers wireless solutions to customers around the world to support mission-critical communication needs – and Norfield has big plans for the business in the next five years.

Here, he highlights the importance of learning from experience and where changes in the fast-paced industry might take the company.

Company: Simoco Wireless Solutions
Website: www.simocowirelesssolutions.com
Turnover: £30m

Your legacy:

The most important part of my business is the people. I would like Simoco to be remembered not only for the impact we have made developing and implementing technology at the cutting edge of critical communications, but for how we recruit and treat our employees.

I started my career with an apprenticeship and have always hired people for their potential and their willingness to learn, rather than their qualifications.

Your business model:

We help businesses and organisations develop and manage the communications needed to operate effectively. This ranges from developing narrow band radio networks through to broadband driven services.

Our model consists of offerings in three key areas. We offer consultancy services, to ensure organisations develop the network that is right for their requirements. This includes technical consultation around issues such as network propagation. We also install networks and offer managed service contracts that involve keeping our customers’ existing networks operational.

How do you measure success?

The best question to ask is how to tell when you are successful. It is easy to see success as a one-off, but to be successful you have to consistently deliver results. For me, this is measured by long-term customer relationships, not just by winning the initial contracts.

We aim to become trusted advisors, who our customers can turn to when they need help and advice. When you have long-term customers that keep coming back to you then you know you have been successful.

Growth plans:

We already have a global presence, with one operational arm working across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, operations in North America and a thriving section of the business operating in Australia, as well as Asia and the Far East.

We have recently been working on an emergency services communications network across the mainland and floodplains of Malaysia

How did you fund your business?

Simoco Wireless Solutions has been through a number of reincarnations, mergers and acquisitions over the years. We have no single point of funding.

Your biggest technology boost:

Our core proposition for many years has been the provision of Digital Mobile Radio networks. These can be extended and augmented to provide two-way voice communications as well as data in the form of text messaging or more sophisticated telematics and IoT capabilities.

In five years:

One of the most exciting things about the critical comms space is the rate of development and change. We are constantly working on new technologies and methods to make people safer and make streamlined communications even easier to implement.

The next five years in our industry will see the move away from narrowband technology towards broadband, 4G and 5G. We are planning to take our existing and new customers on a journey from legacy narrowband systems through to broadband, allowing us to unify and streamline their communications. This will help our customers take their businesses from today’s technology into the next era of LTE.

Your highest point:

Completing a successful Management buyout. When I first started at Simoco, it was one of three companies that made up Team Telecom Group (TTG) and sat within Spice PLC. We were in a recession, in 2010, and Spice’s share price was dropping. We saw an opening, through the MBO, to buy the telecoms business, and help Spice repay some debt. Despite a tough climate, we raised £33m, split between private equity and banks.

So TTG bought out Simoco and the other two companies (Indigo Telecom Group and Affini) from Spice. In 2016, Indigo was sold, and Simoco and Affini formed Simoco Wireless Solutions, for which I’m the group chief executive.

Your lowest point:

There are obviously decisions in everyone’s career that they sometimes wish they could go back and change, but I like to think of these not as mistakes but as learning experiences. You can only ever make what seems like the best decision at the time, with the information that you have available. If I had not made some of the ‘mistakes’ that I have, I might not be where I am today.

What would you tell your younger self:

Plan for the longer term future. It is easy to think about what you are doing in the short and medium term and to plan to worry about the long-term future when it arrives.  Also to figure out what success looks like to you, and how you will measure it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Your policy wish list:

From the UK government at the moment I would most like to see a renewed focus on the Emergency Services network. After an initial flurry of activity, the project has been plagued by setbacks and delays. Our emergency services deserve a top quality communications network and the funding that has been pumped into it so far will be wasted if the project is left unfinished.

Your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs:

The most important thing that you can do in a growing business is looking after your people. Support them and give them the means to measure their own success.

Guilty pleasure:

It’s definitely more a hobby and not a guilty pleasure, but I do enjoy mountain biking with my son at the weekends.

What would make you a better leader?

I think enhancing someone’s leadership capabilities is all about fostering mutual respect within the company, making time for your team and allowing everyone enough autonomy to do their job to the best of their abilities.

I am often travelling around the world visiting our sites and clients and as Simoco is a global company it can be difficult to dedicate enough time to each project, but I am very proud of my team and have full confidence in them.

The one app you use the most:

For keeping up with the global agendas, the BBC News app.

A day in your life:

Working across time zones, sometimes it feels like I’m never asleep, but, in general, I work long hours and I’m an early starter and late finisher.

On your reading list right now:

Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It’s not current but will always be relevant.

On your watchlist right now:

On my watch list right now is The Founder, and my favourite inspiring film is Mississippi Burning.