Uptime Distribution's Tony Geagea talks to ARN
What was your first job?
I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for IT. At the age of 12 during high school, I started a computer business that served student home computing interests. Formally speaking though, my first job was working as the 2IC at a computer shop in Melbourne called PC Micro Labs. The role was extremely diverse and I'd do anything from bubble wrap product to serving customers.
How did you get into IT?
I was inspired by a close family friend who was very successful in this space and it became sort of a natural progression for me to get my IT degree and then start my own business.
What was your degree in?
Bachelor of Computing, Information Technology. A very anti-social degree. Lots of studying, lots of assignments and problem solving - and not enough time for partying.
How did you progress from there to running Uptime?
Well I think that degree provided the framework. The real progression was being hungry, passionate and driven and wanting to be different. That's what I've always strived to be.
What do you like about the role?
One of the things I like about my job is that I'm in control of my own destiny. I also like watching others around me because the business sets people up for success. Watching people become entrepreneurial - which is something we encourage in our business - is rewarding. Another thing I enjoy is the success we've had to date. Since our inception two years ago we've grown 140 per cent month-on-month consistently. It proves we've set up a model that stacks and that makes business sense. Our differentiator is we're out there to solve business problems rather than talk bits and bytes. We're quite selective about who we take on precisely because we like to over-invest into any technology that we take on. It's a costly exercise to put the mechanisms in place to support these vendors.
What's been your biggest success?
My biggest success is Uptime Distribution. I think our figures really talk for themselves. We're growing ferociously and experiencing good wins with our channel partners. It's good when you're winning: Everyone wants to be on the winning side. Seeing our partners and vendors grow simultaneously is definitely one of the biggest things I can be proud of.
What do you dislike about the IT industry?
There's not a lot I don't like about the industry but it's maybe disorganised at times and one of the biggest problems I see is lack of skill sets. I come across a lot of people who fit the businesses I deal with but not necessarily my business. Finding somebody who has their head in the right place and has the right capabilities is a real challenge. Working in an entrepreneurial environment we're always encouraging people to think outside the square and that's something people aren't used to in this industry unfortunately. Maybe I need to go and hire some stockbrokers!
What do you think the next big thing is?
Convergence hasn't stopped; I don't think it ends with voice and data coming together. Something else needs to happen to make convergence really dazzle and be sexy. I think applications and computing are being taken to a new level and that applications need to be drawn into the mix. We were engaged in a project recently where one of our banking and finance customers wanted its share price updated on telephone handsets to motivate employees. Now they have their share price as well as a financial calculator built into each phone. That's what unified communication is all about.
What is your main focus for the rest of 2007?
We're expanding internationally to try and replicate what we've enjoyed in Australia. We're really looking forward to bringing that into the rest of Asia and beyond. Sometimes there are challenges - it's always a new environment and you don't have your home base right there. Being able to set up an office in New Zealand has been interesting and if we can make it work there, can make it work anywhere. We've already got support in Singapore and India so that's where we'll look next.
What do you do outside of work?
I try to socialise and get away from IT as much as possible. I've joined a gym to focus on my health and just get my head back into shape. I'm also a sucker for the water so that's where you'll often find me - especially on a hot day. I'm also into food and alcohol like most people in this industry. So it's all about relaxation.
Do you like gadgets?
I have a love-hate relationship with gadgets. I get really frustrated if I can't work something out quickly. But I guess they enable me and you can't live without them, especially when you're travelling. I've got a Blackberry and I'm still trying to work out how to use it. Gadgets are nice to have but not a necessity.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I always wanted to make an impact and I knew the way to do that was to focus on an area I was interested in and passionate about. Hence IT.
What's your biggest ambition?
Good health and happiness - which is contradictory to all the hard work I do. But that's definitely my ambition and it's why I work so hard. I encourage everybody internally to find that balance between work and pleasure.