Intelligent Pathways CEO Peter Robertson reflects on our best moments of 2022, the impacts of this ‘new normal’ hybrid work environment and insight into our next 12 months as a dynamic business.
How would you summarise the past year at IP?
This year has been about building upon core relationships. We’ve worked closely with long term and newer clients to optimise and enhance significant digital solutions. Whilst we didn’t meet all our fiscal targets it has been a great year in building new customer relationships. I’ve been really happy with our staff retention, and also the great feedback we receive from our clients on the quality of our people.
What was a moment you were proud of what you and fellow IPeeps accomplished in 2022?
There’s lots to be proud of in the projects we do. Our team at Qantas Freight delivered industry-leading ‘Direct to Dock’ capability which is streamlining how goods are delivered to airports for distribution. Our work in the Care Sector with the likes of Multicap and Uniting Care is extremely important in helping them deliver high quality services aligned to the particular needs of their customers. I was involved in establishing a partnership with RPMGlobal as they work with clients on ESG reporting. It’s been pleasing that a long-established solution of ours is getting some new life in this industry.
As I mentioned before, I’m also proud of our staff retention post-Covid. This ‘Great Resignation’ still has tremendous impact with high turnover of staff among most industries. When talking to friends from large global organisations, to some running businesses of similar size – they’ve all expressed the amount of churn they’ve had. Whereas we are probably slightly bigger than we were. Such a large percentage of our staff have been with us for over a decade. That’s a key success for us and we should be really proud of it.
We do have a lot of long term staff – with about 20% of the workforce in the ’10 Year Club’. How do you continue to foster great culture within Intelligent Pathways working in this hybrid environment?
For me it’s just listening to what people need. Give them what they need, place trust in them and then get out of the way so they can do their job. I think that approach was a key factor in our successful project delivery during and coming out of COVID. Personally, I’ve always worked in hybrid environments. Pre-Covid I travelled a lot and was always on the road so I didn’t see it as a massive shift for us within the business. However, I would say it’s more of a shift in our client’s thinking because there was a strong on-site expectation to ensure the jobs were being done. I’ve always been more outcome driven in what we do, rather than output driven. That’s an increasing feature of our customer relationships, and I think our team of professionals enjoy that working relationship.
The other challenge of fostering culture within a hybrid environment is perfecting when to be together and knowing when is more beneficial to WFH. I think innovation is stifled when we are apart. But if efficiency is the goal, sometimes it’s best to split up and knuckle down to concentrate. Working out when to be together and when it’s ok to work remotely is a formula we’re still working on, but I find it’s best to empower your people and trust them to make those decisions themselves.
Things are slowly getting back to normal with travelling and events. Has this had a big impact on your recent work – physically and mentally?
For sure. I typically travel a lot so the fact that I haven’t travelled for business in almost two years has physically impacted me. Even when the team was based in the office prior to any lockdown I was always on the go between meetings and work trips. Now everyone’s preference seems to be a conference call. Physically I’ve really had to concentrate on getting myself to the gym etc to stay fit and active.
From being on the move to working from home in the same environment all the time has had mental implications too. I’ve had to re-adjust the dynamics of who I am in some ways. The silver lining is that I have twin daughters who are almost 15, and because of lockdowns and travel restrictions I’ve spent a lot more time with them during the last two years than my normal schedule would have allowed. It’s been interesting to help them both through the difficulties of an interrupted curriculum. Our family has small goals next year – a full school year in the classroom!
One of out key themes to focus on this year was ‘a different kind of thinking’, how did you approach this?
Back to my previous point, I’m bringing other shareholders on to think like business owners. When we are thinking about what is going to be long term for the business, it’s great to know those sitting around the table have skin in the game. And so rather than a different kind of thinking, it’s more extending the thinking of employees to think as business owners too.
Secondly, we are changing the way we engage with our partner network. Typically, we have been agnostic/independent and find what is the best technology fit for our customer. But I’m challenging my team to ask what is the best approach going into the future? We’re a medium sized business, we can’t do everything. We need to think about the key areas we’re going to focus on, who we believe are the leaders in that space and how do we work more closely with them to deliver success for our clients. It’s not necessarily different thinking but thinking is what we’re doing today the right thing to be doing in 5 years? How do we evolve and what may that look like? We are definitely doing a lot around data and I can see us playing more in that space in the near future.
What are you most excited about for the coming year?
One of the most exciting things we’re doing is extending the shareholding of the business to a few long term employees. I want to reward those who have dedicated a period of time and loyalty with more than just long service leave. It’s about growing the business, but also about being a company that is run by its core decision makers. I’m looking to these people to drive our business strategy, and continue to drive our success for as long as they would like to be here. We have a fantastic team we have built over a long time, I want them to continue doing what they are doing.
Next year also marks 20 years in business. It’s a great milestone, and we’ll be celebrating accordingly. But we also have our eye on the future and starting to execute on strategies to help us grow over the next decade. With a strong team in place and some new faces along the way it’s going to be a really re-energising year.
What are your 2023 predictions?
It’s pretty safe to say I think we’re about to see a big shift in the economy similar to past recessions and economic bubbles that have burst. There’s inflation, interest rates going up, unemployment is low, salaries are high, new staff are impossible to find and it’s a super competitive market. The perfect storm is brewing. But when the economy and industry is under pressure it’s generally a time where businesses have to think fast about how to save costs, and often they’ll come to organisations like us to solve problems. Thinking back to the last major downturn we had a couple of slow months until people worked out they couldn’t just sit tight – they needed to evolve as a business and improve their technology landscape to survive.