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Featured Business: E-MIT Solutions
Name: Eamon Moore, MD of E-MIT Solutions, an IT consultancy and outsourcing business
It was a situation any small business owner will be familiar with: taking a call about a client problem on holiday. For sole trader Eamon Moore, taking just such a call on holiday in 2007 was the prompt that it was time to take somebody else on to share the load.
Having seen his father run his own retail business for a number of years, he wanted to run his own business – he just hadn’t planned to start so soon after graduating.
Eamon, who had been working in IT since a transition-year placement at CSK Software and was involved in Esat Clear (Denis O’Brien and Esat’s first internet offering), set up business in 2003, just months after graduating.
In 2008 he moved from sole trader to limited company and took on his first staff member, Finian Nally, whom he knew from his college days and who came on board to help with a disaster recovery project where a client had a fire on their office premises.
The business has grown considerably since Eamon made that leap into taking on staff, and E-MIT now specialises in legal, semi-state, financial, not-for-profit and broader SME clients with anything from 10 to several hundred staff.
E-MIT’s approach has always been about getting to know the client and how technology could work with their business. IT infrastructure was at the core of this – servers, PCs and networks – and that had to be managed by an IT company.
Last year Eamon set up a new company, Cloud Compare, a brokerage that educates people about choices in cloud services.
The benefit of cloud is that it is the cloud provider’s job to proactively manage the core elements of a business’ IT operations.
This means E-MIT is more about technology solutions that benefit the business: how you enhance your business processes, how you operate, do business and interact with your clients, says Eamon. “That’s how things have changed for us as a business. It’s no longer about the hardware, it’s about the technology.”
Soon technology will be what the company is about in more ways than one: Eamon is keen to transform E-MIT from an IT company to a technology company.
Interview with Eamon Moore
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
I started in DCU in 1998. I did a degree in computer applications there. I remember around that time I was talking to a career guidance teacher in secondary school; we were all pushed towards IT. Then 2000 came, the bubble burst and we were wondering what was going to happen. The years before, our year [in university] would have been headhunted even before they finished their course. I always wanted to be self-employed. I don’t tell this story often, but I lost my mother to cancer; the day I got my results from college was her funeral. I got my first client through the solicitor dealing with my mother’s estate. He rang me a few months later saying, “We need an IT manager, we see it as a part-time role, we’d like to outsource it to a company and we see you as a fit for that role.” I had a couple of days to spare, set up E-MIT as a sole trader and carried out that role. I thought it would be for six months but more people got word that you can have an IT manager on an outsourced basis and, before I knew it, my week was full and I left Esat. I left college in June ’02 and registered the business in March ’03.
How did you initially fund your business?
It was self-funded for the most part. About three to four years in, I got a small business loan from AIB to help me fund the expansion of the business, move into new office premises and take on new staff.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
I launched a second business last year, Cloud Compare, which is Ireland’s first cloud services brokerage. It’s a middle man between businesses and cloud providers. I saw the need there through my experience in E-MIT. There was mass confusion out there and people were really struggling to make decisions so we set up this concept with a couple of other business partners. I returned to education to complete a diploma in cloud strategy in the Irish Management Institute. That course helped me develop the whole business model and I launched it two months after I finished the course.
What have been the highlights to date?
There’s been a progression. I started E-MIT at the dining room table. We’ve now moved into state-of-the-art premises in Northwood in Santry about a year ago. To look out and see the progression there in terms of the number of staff who have bought into the idea and the concepts we’ve built E-MIT on, has been great. Since moving into the new premises, we’ve received recognition from industry bodies, including being shortlisted in the Tech Excellence Awards for IT Team of the Year.
What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?
I suppose that, in a sense, you’re in control of your own destiny, and I am always very grateful for that. To have that control to build up something. It’s not for everyone.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
With great difficulty. Taking on a team to work with me. The art of delegation is something we all struggle with. To be able to pass on tasks and try and compartmentalise E-MIT has been great: accounts, technical and sales functions. That has taken a lot off my plate as well. I became a father for the first time last year so it’s now more important than ever that I have that balance. I start earlier in the mornings because that gives me more time in the evenings. I like to integrate some of my hobbies into business life: golf, football games and sporting events.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
Somebody I really admire is Bobby Kerr. I love his approach, the way he does business. I love that there is a variety there, that he is involved in a number of different businesses. I can relate to that, it’s nice to have a flavour. There’s that personality piece about him as well.
What tools do you utilise that benefit your customers or that make running your business easier or more profitable?
We use a number of technologies – both for ourselves and for our clients. A lot of it is cloud-based. The days are gone where if you wanted an accounting application or a CRM you’d have to buy a server and have it sitting in the corner. We’ve introduced cloud-based accounting and CRM systems to manage our sales pipeline and our relationships with customers. Our sales proposals are all online, and are accepted online. Our project management and helpdesk solutions are all tools we use. As a business owner I have access to all of them. I don’t need access to all but the great thing is they link to each other, which allows me, as a business owner, to get a full 360-degree view of the business.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
We all attend industry seminars; that’s a great chance to meet people and talk to them about where their requirements lie. The first question we ask is “What are the difficulties in your business or current technology set and how can we help?” What we do is quite broad and clients seem to be very impressed with the scope of services and solutions that we provide.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Skillsets. The biggest challenge when you run a small business and deliver solutions to the SME market is that you need IT professionals who are all-rounders and can put their hand to anything. It’s a struggle to get people like that. The key for me is finding someone who is just as comfortable talking about business solutions and issues as they are about IT.
What do you think the biggest challenge to businesses in Ireland is at the moment?
I would say there is an appetite for people to grow businesses again and to start spending and investing in IT and business solutions. The real fear is predicting the right time to reinvest in your business. It is a fear of what’s around the corner, could we be back in trouble again, is it a false growth bubble? We’re seeing a lot more businesses that are looking at IT and might go down the financing route as well. It’s just a practical way around writing a big cheque up front.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
The whole area of business development. I love chatting to people, talking about their businesses and finding out what we can potentially do for them as an IT company. It’s something I do across both businesses, something I enjoy, and it adds real value.
What has been the best reward in running your own business?
I would say getting people on board who buy into the whole concept of what we do and, from a staffing point of view, that they stay on. From a branding point of view, it’s the recognition of the name and brand. It’s something I came up with all those years ago. Eamon Moore Information Technology is where E-MIT comes from. It’s a great reward to see that E-MIT is now a recognised brand in the IT industry.
What was the main catalyst for growth?
It was a natural progression for me to want to grow the business. When you’re working on your own, sometimes that growth phase is quite difficult to move into because you’re doing everything. The story behind it is that I was in Las Vegas with my now wife, and one of our clients rang me on the mobile; they had a difficulty with their server. I had to resolve the issue from the business centre in the hotel in Las Vegas. I had to leave my wife on her own for a number of hours and she said “Something has to change here … you’re going to need to take on some staff.” I said “You’re right” and that was the catalyst to take on staff.
How did you scale/grow your business?
When tough times hit, outsourcing became quite popular. A lot of people at that time realised the importance of IT but had to let resources go as well so there was a good fit there for what we did: IT managers and IT consultants. As a strategy, I identified key sectors and particularly potential partners in those sectors that deliver other relevant IT or software solutions. Our services complement what they do and these partnerships have proven to be a key part of our growth strategy.
What obstacles to growth have you faced in the past?
Recently our relocation to bigger premises and finding office space. We wanted somewhere that had access to Dublin city centre, the M50 and M1, and we identified an area up here in Northwood. NAMA was involved in a lot of the office transactions and that proved difficult. We wanted a relatively new office campus with parking spaces that was fairly close to the major motorways. The choice wasn’t as big as we thought.
How do you get ideas to further your business?
From a strategic point of view, I tend to look abroad and at other markets. We have regular meetings with our clients and partners to get information from them about what’s coming down the line: about their business, their industry, regulations. Sometimes they don’t marry that with technology, and technology could be something that could help them. The biggest resource I have is my team here; it sees everything first hand and is a wealth of knowledge.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
I have had some success to date but I don’t want to stop there. I want to continue to grow. It’s something I always wanted to do. I love being in business and everything it brings.
What’s your vision for the future?
We have a target to double our staff within the next three years and to become known for innovative technologies and solutions. My vision for the future is to turn E-MIT from an IT company into a technology company.
Do you have a mentor; do you find this has positively impacted on your success?
I identified, early on, people who would have skills in certain areas of business – finance, sales, marketing – people who have been there, done that. I’m lucky enough to have mentors in a number of areas whom I can meet on a regular basis and who advise me.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
I was at an event run by An Post called Grow Your Business. I was having a chat with one of the speakers, Executive Chairman of Target McConnells advertising agency, Gary Browne. He said: “Don’t call yourself an entrepreneur, let other people do that.”
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
Go for it would be the first thing. If you have an idea, concept or business model, talk to the right people about it. It’s a big leap. You can have a team of six or seven people without having a staff of six or seven people. Have the right people around you. That is what will lead to success for you.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
There’s one that my dad always says: “100% of nothing is still nothing”. It’s about taking care of everyone around you and working as a team to achieve success.
What, if anything, would you do differently?
Plenty, I would say. But I wouldn’t change it at all. Those mistakes I made were a key part of the learning process.
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