Leading Solutions' Roy Pater talks to ARN
What was your first job?
I began in distribution in South Africa, selling tape backups and networking. Believe it or not, that was even before Novell was invented. I was 20 when I started and the company was called Thruput Distribution.
How did you end up in the IT industry?
It was by default. My brother was in the industry. I was travelling overseas at the time and he told me to get back quick because the PC was just starting to sell. The idea was once everyone had a PC then that was it: the boom of the IT industry would end. This was back in 1986. It was quite funny - we haven't stopped selling computers. They're getting bigger, smarter, smaller and faster.
How did you progress to where you are today?
I was with Citrix, then diverted into motor racing, which is a big passion of mine. A friend started up the A1 Grand Prix series, which is the world cup of motor sport. He asked me to run team Australia, which I did for a year. They wanted me to then move to London, which I didn't want to do. I knew of BCA IT [acquired by Leading Solutions in November], which had a good reputation and clientele. I thought I would build their services division.
What do you like about your current job?
Traditionally Leading has not been very strong in the NSW market, so it's a challenge building that. Having run my own business [network analysis business, LAN Metrix], been in distribution and in vendor land, it's now about harnessing and putting that experience into my general management of this business.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
Besides running a racing team, there's two things: one was the development of the wireless Internet access business in South Africa. It was the first one in the world to do it [back in 1994] to overcome connectivity issues. Unfortunately we were too early in the game for wireless technology, but I think it was a fair achievement because we ran a pretty large network and provided Internet access for the price of dial-up.
The other one was when we created a reactive network analysis and turned it into proactive management and monitoring. We were able to sell both companies as successful entities.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
The biggest dislike is that we are still not recognised by the end users as being very critical to the business. I think people still see IT as a component of the business and don't realise it can make a difference. There's also the fact that our margins are continuously under pressure.
What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
I think mobility is the next big thing. When I say mobility, it's not just down to the PDA - I think it's the fact that IT will become a centralised commodity and people will get their information on demand. We are at that stage from an on-demand perspective and I think everything will become totally ubiquitous. You'll get whatever you want from wherever you want, whenever you want it.
I think the same thing applies within the computer industry. We need to get to a point where the data doesn't have to necessarily be stored by our company or within our business. News search engines and search facilities we see within Google and Vista are the start of that. We need to get information presented to us in a way that we want it. Whoever gets that right is going to win the next race. It sounds so simple but it's not easy to do. There are some great technologies out there with the Microsofts, Googles, Citrix and Cognos, that are working towards that.
What is the main focus for your company this year?
To get our merger completed within a six month period. It's something that I think we are very close to doing. Our focus is to get our services and software divisions running well and then cross over all three to provide a total solution to our customer base.
What do you do when you are not at work?
My wife and kids will tell you I only work. I'm a very keen rugby enthusiast and coach my son's rugby team. We have won several championships already in Sydney. I snow and water ski, and spend a lot of time with my family. I also love watching formula one racing, grand prix and V8.
What is the rugby team called?
It's called the Red Field Rugby Club and we train once a week, which forces me to take some time off work - always a good thing. We usually have a game on Saturdays. That is a lot of fun. It's like a business, when you watch something forming and teams coming and working together.
I guess it's no different in the work place: You build a team up and try to get them to work as one cohesive unit. If you do that well, you enjoy yourself and win.
Do you like gadgets?
I love gadgets, my Blackberry, good digital cameras and my PlayStation. I often spend time with my son on the PlayStation and I also bought a home entertainment system. Maybe I'm a bit of a techie at heart: I like figuring out new things, trying out new systems and seeing how they work.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I was going to get into hotel management and have a short, quick stint in IT. Yet 20 years later I'm still here.
What is your biggest ambition?
To build the number one services company in Australia and remain independent whilst doing so. I do believe companies that are privately held work for their clients, not their shareholders.
What is your ambition on a personal level?
I'm a bit of a property investor and would like to build up a nice property portfolio. Ultimately I wouldn't mind running a wine farm.