S Central Peter Mavridis talks to ARN
What was your first job?
I didn't come from a wealthy background and had to work my way through university to get through. I can tell you all about cheese, salami and fish as I took a few jobs working in my parents' delicatessen and my uncle's fish and chip shop. I even did some work on TV including a stint on Neighbours, a drama series on the ABC and a commercial for the National Australia Bank. I haven't watched Neighbours for 15 years, although my mum has kept every episode I was in on tape. I'm too scared to look back at them now.
How did you end up in the IT industry?
During 1997 I was based in the US as the director of financial markets for Pacifiicorp, one of the largest utilities on the West Coast. The IT market leaders in the US were full service firms who were able to provide solutions encompassing strategy, delivery and ongoing management.
This was quite different to the Australian market, which was littered with smaller, more specialist firms focused on specific IT skills. Australian businesses have to engage with more than one firm to complete a project unless they are dealing with a multinational.
S Central was founded in 1999 as a full service firm providing end-to-end solutions with service offerings in consulting, development, hosting and data centre, technical services and communications. Our approach eliminates the need to deal with multiple suppliers on a project.
How did you progress to where you are today?
We have the right strategy, and we believe it works for our customers. I find if you give a customer what they want, they come back to you and they refer you to others. Our business grew by referrals in the first few years. Recently, we have been growing organically and through a number of acquisitions, taking our services team to over 100 people in four states.
Also, the quality of the people you hire makes a big difference. We overhauled both our management group and key team leaders a few years ago. The results were immediate and we grew very quickly after that.
What do you like about your current job?
A lot can happen in 12 months in the IT industry, as it did for S Central in 2006. Much of it was planned development but some of it was opportunistic as we actively look for new ways we can improve. I love that there is so much happening all around our business, from new customer projects to new acquisitions.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
It came before my time at S Central. I had just finished my Masters Degree in Finance and at the age of 25 I moved to the US to work on Wall Street. I was managing a debt book of more than $US10 billion.
I was based in Portland, Oregon and New York for a number of years. I was also part of a team of 12 executives in the US putting together Pacificorp's bid to acquire the Energy Group in the UK. It was one of the largest planned utility takeovers in the world ($US20 billion). I am looking forward to more achievements in the future of course, including plans to list S Central on the Australian Stock Exchange.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
The behaviour of some IT providers in the Australian market, in terms of poor performance and delivery to the customer, can be embarrassing. It makes it harder for all of us. We need to continue to boost the reputation of the IT industry in the business sector.
What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
The virtualisation of infrastructure assets will be a big opportunity for IT solutions providers. I also see a lot of opportunity in the storage solutions market and in the emerging hosted infrastructure market.
What is the main focus for your company this year?
Our plan is to keep growing our technical and solutions capability and to secure mandates with larger companies. We need to get closer to each of our customers and understand, even better than we do now, the challenges and the opportunities our customers face.
I think 2007 will be another year of significant growth for S Central, especially in the wake of our purchase of AGM IT, which gives us a strong footprint in the NSW market. We are working on a number of large innovative IT projects with large customers in both the public and private sector.
What do you do when you are not at work?
Spend as much time as I can with my family. I have two kids: Madison (two-and-a-half) and Jonathan (one) who keep me very busy.
Do you like gadgets?
Only when they are practical; I find I don't have enough play time these days!
What did you want to be when you were younger?
A football player. I played junior football for the Carlton AFL team. For a while footy was my life and I thought it was all I would ever do. The current captain of Carlton, Anthony Koutoufi des, and I played our junior footy there. I was the vice-captain and he was the deputy vicecaptain. He was a champion back then, when we were about 15. He went on to be one of the greatest AFL players, my knees gave way. I was retired by 17 and had to find something else to do!
What is your biggest ambition?
To grow a business into a global organisation.