How I got where I am today: Paul Talbot
Published: 28 Nov 2014
What did you want to be when you were young?
While living in rural Somerset, job opportunities were related to working in the local factory or farm. I was interested in sport and socialising and not really focused on a career. I moved to the West Midlands due to ill health in my family just as I was finishing education. I had a choice to make: to go to college or get a job.
What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
I worked as a clerical officer in an unemployment-benefit office and got into IT when I joined the WH Smith Group as data-entry clerk. I soon got the IT bug as opportunities within the group allowed for fantastic personal development.
I was there for 15 years and eventually became head of IT. I joined Computer Associates as a business technologist before being approached by IBM. In 2000, I left to join my first managed-service venture, where I met adept4’s chief executive officer, Peter Birkett. Adept4lower case ‘a’ is correct was founded in 2007 and today we have 55 staff working in Aberdeen, Daresbury, Runcorn, London and Bracknell. We are focused on passing on our experience to the next generation of talent.
Who's been your greatest influence?
I’ve been influenced by many people. From a chairman who told me I didn’t need a university degree to the security guard who told me his life story every day for 15 years.
What advice have you ignored?
None. All advice is meant to help. The trick is to take the advice and decide if it is appropriate for you and your position.
I think not leaving the corporate life sooner. Also, I ran up a £1million telecoms bill when I first rolled out EPOS tills to a retail outfit. Explaining that error to the board was interesting and definitely character building.
Best achievement so far?
Being married for 29 years and my three children, two of whom are self-employed and doing fantastic in their own careers and the third is heading to university to become a physiotherapist.
What do you want to achieve in the rest of your career?
I want to continue to succeed and develop the younger generation, who I call the Nintendo generation. Most of all, to continue to be happy.
What's your idea of the perfect retirement?
I purchased an old dairy farm in 2005 and I run it as a smallholding with pigs, sheep and poultry. Having the ability to do it full time would be nice. Ideally I’d like to combine this with travelling the world. My wife and I turn 50 next year and we plan to go backpacking, something we did not have the opportunity to do in our formative years.
What would your autobiography be called?
The Boy from the West Country Did All Right.
What would you name some of the chapters?
“Never sit back – make it happen.”
“Listen to the customer – they will tell you everything you need to sell them.”
“The kids will show you how to use technology – watch and learn.”
What has motivated you?
I’m motivated by success and that feeling of closing the deal. Also, I love delivering new products and services and seeing innovation make a difference.
What's the best way to motivate others?
I try to lead by example, understand employees’ aspirations and mentor them to perform well in their jobs.
Your favourite stress-buster?
I love feeding the pigs, travelling and spinning classes at the gym.
Accepting the status quo. For me, change is good and should be embraced.
Is the “career for life" a thing of the past?
Life is a career. None of us have a crystal ball, but for me knowing business and understanding technology provides me with a fantastic opportunity to decide what I do. There will always be work for people who know technology and business. These people can offer a great insight irrespective of sector or market place.
Is there a time in your career you miss most?
I loved those heady days of retail innovation in the 1980s. This included the first network, the first mainframe and the first laptop computer. It was great seeing the technology industry explode.
What's your dream job?
I already have it. I recently had a health scare, which puts things into perspective, but my role allowed me to work from home and continue to be involved without travel or diluting my input to the business.