A company’s culture is often determined by top management and is something three6five Network Technologies CEO Tyrone Carroll takes seriously. “You must have the right people or else any culture is doomed,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “Employees have to buy into it. And how you do that is by first laying out the culture, then living and breathing it by example. And like all things, this requires repetition, education and communication.”
Established in South Africa in 2009, provides communication solutions including professional network services, system integration, communication hardware, cloud networking and cybersecurity services. It has 578 customers in 30 countries across four continents including the UK and the US.
Secrets to success in business
In order for a business to succeed, Tyrone says, owners and CEOs must empower their “team members” to take ownership. “When you build a company from scratch, you become very controlling – you have a finger in every pie,” he explains. “But as the company grows, you’ve got to learn to step back. That’s been a massive growth challenge, but something I believe I’m mastering: to step back, trust the management structures you’ve built, the people you’ve trained, and take the business to the next level.
“Many of our leaders come through the ranks; they’ve grown with the company. And one interesting fact I only realised the other day is that of our 19 middle management team leaders, eight are women, which is, I think, a nice achievement.”
Tyrone adds that success also requires hard work, focus and dedication. “Sort out problems as they occur, do not let them fester,” he advises. “Success is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Very few businesses are successful in their first year or two; it’s about endurance and it’s about the people. Find the right people, train and mould them correctly, and you can achieve anything.”
“Find the right people, train and mould them correctly, and you can achieve anything.”
three6five’s culture is based around quality, excellence and passion. “We are always looking at how we can improve,” Tyrone continues. “A fundamental part of our culture is our unwillingness to bury our heads in the sand and ignore a customer’s problem. If things go wrong, as they often do in IT, we work on it with the customer. To this day, I can honestly say there hasn’t been a single customer’s technical problem that we as a company have not been able to fix. Sometimes it may take a bit longer than hoped for, but we always solve the problem.”
Handling responsibilities and challenges
The idea of ownership and responsibility is something Tyrone wants to encourage in all his team members. “Especially with the millennials, who seem to think everything is theirs for the taking,” Tyrone continues. “We have to instil the culture that success isn’t there for the taking: you have to earn it.”
One of the biggest challenges the company faces is worker retention in a ‘skill-starved market’. To overcome this, three6five uses a team member shareholder scheme. “About 15% of our team members are shareholders in the company,” Tyrone says. “So there is lots of opportunity to grow. You’ve got to make the team understand that this is more than just a job; it is a passion. And it’s they who can make it succeed or fail, not just the founders.”
“You’ve got to make the team understand that this is more than just a job; it is a passion. And it’s they who can make it succeed or fail.”
It’s not only keeping the right team members that’s a challenge, but finding the right people to begin with. “For instance, there are lots of folks who say they can sell,” Tyrone continues. “But few have the capability and endurance to really build a relationship with customers, sell them solutions and grow the business. It’s something we battled with for many years. But we’re at the point now where we’re starting to make some headway.”
Tyrone practises what he preaches, with a hands-on approach to keeping his team aligned with the company’s core values. “To use a rugby analogy, I’m not outside the scrum waiting for the ball to appear; I’m in the scrum with the guys, working that ball,” he says. “I’m sensing the challenges within the team, trying to resolve and then lead by example. Sometimes you make mistakes and don’t set the right example, but you are always aware of that and you work on it.
“I’m passionately involved in what we are and what we do. I spend lots of time with customers, and lots of time with our team members. We have one-on-ones, where I spend half an hour with each team member every one to three months to check how the business is going, how their career is going, and how they think we can make three6five a better company.”
Learning from history
Tyrone is a big fan of history and believes business leaders can learn from it.
“I’ve always been into books and reading; I have a huge library of hundreds of books,” he says. “History repeats itself. We can learn from the past but this is too often forgotten by younger generations. The world has changed, things happen faster, but the human condition and needs have not changed.
“As a business leader, you can learn from great historical leaders: how they handled situations, their strengths and tactics, and of course the mistakes they made and how they corrected them.”
The future of the business
Tyrone is optimistic about the future of the business. “We believe the outlook is excellent; we’ve survived and grown in difficult times – this makes you a better company if you pull through,” he says. “You adapt, develop and streamline. And we’re always working on learning and growing. We never sit back on our laurels and think we’re the best.”
As the IT networking sector continues into the cloud and virtualisation, three6five’s main focus will be on network cloud services, network function virtualisation, cybersecurity, network optimisation and the Internet of Things.
“We can see how these things are starting to affect and change our industry and we’ve been gearing up in this area for the past year and a half to two years across this technology space. We’re very well positioned to deliver on the new trends in IT networking. It will be challenging, but also very exciting.”