Getting to Know You: Kevin Fortune

Kevin Fortune talks to Business Matters on who he admires in business what inspired him to found his IT support company.

What do you currently do?

I am the Founder and Managing Director of Sussed It – a leading IT support business for SMEs and entrepreneurs across the UK.

Essentially we try to ‘make the complicated simple’ within the world of technology, by providing personalized IT support to businesses and solving common problems with the minimum of fuss.

What is your inspiration in business?

Wanting only the very best quality of life: for myself, for the people I work with and for my customers is what gets me out of bed each and every morning.

You only live once after all so it’s much better to try and positively control your own destiny and quality of life if you possibly can. And in the 21st century I truly believe that work should not be about commuting and spending time in office buildings.

It shouldn’t also be about call centres and finger pointing. The technology exists to allow us to work from anywhere – and to personalize the experience at the same time – so why not embrace it? So I’m inspired to help change the status quo I guess. I also want Sussed It to be the best customer service company in the world. This is what guides and motivates us every single day we go to work for our customers.

Who do you admire?

It’s an easy and somewhat obvious answer, but it’s true: Steve Jobs without a shadow of a doubt. I could spend hours explaining why. But for me his ‘bicycle of the mind’ idea says it all. Genius.

Beyond Jobs I also have a lot of admiration for Guy Kawasaki and his book ‘The Art of the Start’. He basically said that you only start a business to right a wrong: in other words there is something in the world that needs fixing.

But technology progresses unchecked, and unlike nature, it’s commercially driven so we’ve been brain washed into the mentality of replace instead of repair.

Do you really need that new iPhone or is your current one actually fine? Over the last 10 years IT has changed irrevocably – it’s come out of the office and really become part of everyday life. The iPod, social networking, iPhones and iPads. It’s become more consumer-driven. The barriers to using the devices are slowly melting away.

But there’s still an over whelming amount of choice out there and you can easily get lost. I admire Kawasaki for telling it how it is and also for keeping his message very simple. It helps to focus the mind on a daily basis.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?

Absolutely. I think most people who run their own business – or are in a position of seniority in someone else’s business – would admit they have been guilty at one time or another of making mistakes. For me something I’ve learned is never to get into bed too quickly with people – whether that’s a supplier, a new member of staff or partner.

It is never a good idea (both socially and in business) to jump into something feet first: although it might seem fun initially, ultimately you need to check people out first to make sure you are a good fit for each other, that your wants and goals are similar.

This is why a lot of businesses are setup by friends. The hardest part is to make a separation; you have to put things in place to make sure you plan for eventualities. In case situations change or you fall out. I’ve been bitten before and learned the hard way.

It’s a tricky balance. But the other side is having people around you to keep you in check. Nobody wants to be surrounded by YES men or they’ll let you steer into an ice burg.

What defines your way of doing business?

It’s pretty straight forward and obvious really, we just try to nail the basics. Before we are an IT company we are a customer service company. We endeavor to give good service, do what we say we will do when we say we will do it.

We also explain things clearly, give down-to-earth advice based on the real world and really try to focus on what people want to achieve. You can’t start with the technology first and push people into its way of working. It has to be the other way around.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

It can be very lonely. Only others that have started businesses can truly understand and it’s vital to remember that those who are in regular full time jobs can’t necessarily see or empathize with your point of view. It’s like moving out of your parents’ house all over again as a teenager. You need to start making steps on your own two feet. Join some local clubs for entrepreneurs in your area – you’ll meet others who you can share experiences with and help keep you motivated. They will be going through the same things, even if they’re running different businesses – business basics often overlap such as finding a good accountant, lawyer, PR, or marketing agency. These things can be done cheaply if you look around and personal referral is always the best bet.

Also it’s crucial not to get too hung up on having everything perfect from day one. Just get things done and build your own momentum. I made the mistake at looking at long established companies and comparing myself against them directly, which is crazy and just demotivates you. If you can’t fly you must at least try to run but whatever you do, keep going.

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