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Innovating Within the Tech Landscape: Meet Mike Tobin

Today I’m interviewing Mike Tobin, former CEO of Telecity. Mike has over 30 years of experience as a tech entrepreneur and he’s now working with a number of businesses across multiple continents.

He’s also got significant charitable interests. In 2016 Mike raised over £100k running 40 marathons in 40 consecutive days. He’s now preparing for an unaided trek across Antarctica planned for next year. On top of that, he’s started a podcast with his son and written two books.

On today’s podcast:

  • Why it’s important to have realistic performance expectations
  • Keeping up with the times is not optional, it’s essential
  • Mike’s involvement in charity projects
  • Why fear is an irrational emotion
  • Having a vision is more important than planning on a strategy
  • Work-life balance just doesn’t exist

Links:

Resetting expectations and keeping up with the times

Mike gets a kick out of creating value. The thing he gets the most enjoyment out of is taking a business, creating significant multiples of value on top and then selling it.

One of the most common problems Mike sees is companies going public way too early. They go public despite not having the critical mass to attract today’s investment community, and therefore they end up having really poor liquidity in the stock.

He advises companies to manage and reset their expectations because what ultimately counts is the performance relative to the expectations. By mismanaging their performance expectations, many recently listed companies face liquidity and stock price interest challenges.

He emphasises the fact that businesses that are very comfortable doing their thing for a while don’t often realize that one has to innovate in order to survive.

Up until five years ago, technology was about “How do I do this faster, cheaper, easier?” Now it’s all about “How do I not need to do that again?” It’s a very different approach. It’s not trying to extract a little bit more efficiency or margin, instead it’s saying “I just want to kill off that need”.

Giving back and getting things into perspective

The major three tech trends Mike sees are:

  • The Internet of Things. It will be incredibly prolific over the next decade.
  • Big data
  • AI

He’s incredibly passionate about giving back, and so he became involved in a number of charity projects for homeless children in the UK. In his opinion, we can’t expect children to grow up and have a positive contribution to society when they start off with such challenges. He feels that fixing this is the bare minimum he can try and do.

Mike believes that fear is an irrational emotion. Either we can do something to change our position, or we can’t. If we can, we should do it. If we can’t, we shouldn’t worry about it. It’s so easy once we get things into perspective.

Books he’s written and his personal recommendation

Mike wrote two books:

  • A business book called Forget Strategy. Get Results.: Radical Management Attitudes That Will Deliver Outstanding Success. We’re on an exponential change curve, and technology is driving it. Mike believes that having a vision is more important than planning on a strategy. If you have a vision, how you get there is less defined than what you actually want to achieve, and this is important because:
    • You can articulate what you want to achieve across your community very easily. People will understand how they can personally contribute to your vision.
    • As things change around you, you don’t have to go back to a manual. You can just say “I know where I want to be, I just need to tweak how I get there”.
  • A completely different book called Live, Love, Work, Prosper: A fresh approach to integrating life and work about why work-life balance just doesn’t exist. You need to find an integrated view of life. People see technology as an inhibitor to having a proper work-life balance. Mike’s book is about using technology in order to be liberated rather than locked down.

The one book he’s given to every employee that he’s ever had is Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson.

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