Running a tight ship

Running a tight ship

Datacom's Clark Hobson on developing the company in Queensland and how he came to be a Sydney Swans supporter

How has the Queensland business developed during your time here?

Operating at arms length from the core business brings a different set of challenges. We had 46 people in Brisbane when I arrived and if you replicated that business today it would have less. We needed to be more efficient and grow new businesses. People questioned the wisdom of taking on two new beachheads, and perhaps they were right because it's been difficult, but I wanted three substantial businesses. By the beginning of the next financial year, [profits from] the services and bespoke software development businesses combined will be as big as the pure product sales business.

What can we expect to see in the next 12 months?

If I could have anything it would be a local datacentre, because managing datacentres is a core strength of Datacom across Australia and New Zealand, but there's a scarce supply of them in Queensland. The main focus will be on getting our services and software development businesses to a greater level of maturity with reliable, predictable and repeatable processes. We're getting there with a large part of the process pieces but there are always parts that need more work. It's the little extra things that a good services organisation does that you have to keep your attention on. What do you dislike most about the industry?

The scepticism that some customers have for providers in terms of your intentions. As a full-service IT company you want to see your customers be successful but some think you are just trying to sell them something. We are in it for the long haul and provide open-book pricing to customers with disclosed margins.

What do you do in your spare time?

Since my son was born three years ago a lot of my time is spent with him. My wife and I like to make a big effort keeping him entertained. My best friends are people I met in the Navy and I like to go south and visit them whenever I can. I also play a bit of golf - poorly - and support the Swans in the AFL.

How does a Queenslander end up supporting a Sydney team?

I took an interest in AFL when I was living in Sydney. My wife and I were members for 12 months and went along to all the games. It was not long after we were married so we were looking for something to do together.

Do you like gadgets?

No, I'm hopeless because I don't like taking the time to learn how to use something. I also like being able to go home and switch off. I can check my email online if I want to but if they were popping up all the time on a smartphone I'd let it take over my life.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

A pilot. I thought about joining the Air Force but even at 17 my eyes weren't good enough for that sort of thing. It would also have been great to be an engineer, because you can see exactly what you've achieved, but IT has a demonstrable value. A simple product sale isn't as exciting as a project where you are putting together different pieces of a puzzle.

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