Accolades recognises the winners at this year's ARN IT Industry Awards - the best of the best. Over the course of the next few weeks, ARN will be running their stories. We begin with the industry leaders inducted into the Hall of Fame, this year.
Craig Somerville, Hall of Fame
In an industry that has proven to be so dynamic with people moving from role to role, it’s a testament to the success of his company that Craig Somerville has been able to remain in the same spot for over 25 years.
Somerville (later, the Somerville Group) has remained a privately owned organisation since 1985. And according to Somerville, not a day of it has been boring.
“The upside to the industry we’re in is that it’s always moving,” he said. “I’m more motivated now than I’ve ever been, and that’s because as our industry evolves, our businesses evolve with the industry. And we’ve developed to meet the needs of customers.”
It all started in electrical and communications, a business unit that has remained a steady corner for the Group ever since. At the same time, the Group has expanded well past its early means.
Somerville has led the company into networking and systems integration, the ISP space, and managed services. Right now, he’s in the process of transforming the company to be cloud ready. “It’s all part of the game,” he said.
“That’s why we’re lucky. To get bored in this industry you’re not doing the right thing.”
Of all those successes, though, the ISP business is the one that Somerville is perhaps most proud off. Set up at a time where everyone was clamouring to be an ISP, what set Somerville’s ISP apart was its technical know-how.
But it took a while to get going. There was the dot com bust, and for a while it looked like it was a poor investment by the company. “I think it was the end of the 2001 financial year that we sat back and the most profitable business we had was the ISP business,” Somerville said. “Whilst it was a very small part of our business at the time, it was actually the most profitable.”
Looking forward, Somerville is happy doing what he’s doing. He’s content in owning a private company, with no intention on taking The Somerville Group public, and has a strong commitment to maintaining a work-life balance that includes his other passions – his family and surfing, with the technology.
Somerville and his four co-directors of the Somerville Group are committed to the concept of a ‘lifestyle business’. “None of the directors are sitting there ‘we want to sell the business,’” he said.
“I don’t think I could answer to a board. I can’t imagine myself sitting down late on a Sunday night because I have to have a board report out on a Monday morning. That’s one of the latitudes you get when you don’t work for a board.”
Indeed, the directors’ desire to remain independent of a board has helped the Somerville Group land in a very positive position for the future, according to Somerville. “We had fairly aggressive growth targets when we first sat down and did our five year plan,” he said. ”We’ve pulled the growth expectations back a little bit, because we want to build a longer term sustainable business.”
It should be an exciting period for the company in the coming years, too. The five-year plan that the directors had agreed on will expire in 2012, at which point it will come time to shape the direction of the company into the future – without shaking the boat too much, naturally.
“We will continue to do what we have been doing and build a sustainable business, and work on improving the business in all areas,” Somerville said.
“I don’t think I could answer to a board. I can’t imagine myself sitting down late on a Sunday night because I have to have a board report out on a Monday morning.”