CEO of Skore, Craig Willis, tells The Industry Leaders how he went from electronic engineering to International Politics. It's probably not a career path that many would consider, but Craig reveals why it turned out to be a great decision.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I started my career in electronic engineering before moving into the internet boom of the late 1990s. It was such an exciting time, but after the '.com' bubble burst, it felt like things started to stagnate, so I pursued other interests and gave up work to study International Politics.
I fell in love with trying to understand complex human systems, and it was a no-brainer to combine this with my tech background. Since then, I have been obsessed with making technology work for people and not the other way round.
What kind of work does your role involve?
As the CEO of Skore, I spend a lot of my time preempting what the next big challenges will be for organisations. There is so much great tech available, so many new methodologies for growing businesses, and yet they too often fail to make the impact they promise.
Our goal at Skore is to massively shorten the time it takes businesses to get value from their key processes. Much of my time is spent with customers and industry leaders to remove complexity from their businesses.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Process Improvement (PI) is a fascinating space to be in, I'd never heard of it early in my career, and most people I speak to today still don't really know what it is. Yet, applying PI well within a business can have a transformational effect.
It has its roots in manufacturing and is still primarily conducted using traditional tools and techniques. This presents a massive opportunity for companies like Skore to bring it into the 21st century and make it accessible to more people and more businesses.
The future of work is exciting.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
When Skore was still at the concept stage, I met with a CIO of a large retailer, and he said something that has become the centre of almost everything we do. "As a C-level exec, I have limited time and attention. You need to describe the problem and the solution in one sentence. I don't want to read the report, but I want to know you did it."
However complex a problem or situation, you need to break it down into something that your audience can understand quickly. That's the lesson we live by.
What's the best way to support aspiring leaders in your field?
I would never have got where I am today without the support of a whole network of family, friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers and many more. Investing time, listening to others and helping them pays back dividends by the bucket load in future.
We work with many consultants in our business, some from larger companies, but many are small businesses themselves. We support these through our community, connecting them to others or our customers. We also promote them through social media as it works both ways; it exposes them to our networks and us to theirs.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
Keeping up with any industry is hard, especially around technology. Innovations are coming out all the time, and even the leading publications can't keep up with everything. Again we lean heavily on our community, someone is always learning something new, and we encourage them to share. We run regular networking and idea-sharing events, which often throw up new things.
You have to listen to what customers and prospects are saying. What new ideas are they thinking about or looking at? If there's a problem to solve, someone will be trying to solve it.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
This is more of a personal challenge, but the way we approached it would be the same for a similar situation in the business.
About ten years ago, I was seconded, along with my family, to North America. Due to a change in the company, my right to work and my family's right to stay was invalidated, and we had to return to the UK within hours, leaving everything we owned behind.
To make things worse, on arrival in the UK, we had missed the annual deadline for a new visa application and had nowhere to live. This left my wife and I in a 12-month limbo with a small child, unsure what would happen. The solution was to lay out the options as a simple process; how would it play out if we pursued a visa or decided to relocate back to the UK immediately. It made the decision easy and took away the uncertainty despite taking over six months to finally resolve.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I would share a good deal of it with my family. We don't live very close together, so visiting family or visiting us always requires considerable planning. If we could use the money to make that easier, we could see each other a lot more often.
We have some charities that we're close to, so they would certainly get a benefit. Ultimately, having been on this journey myself, I would be keen to invest in other businesses to help them grow and learn from my experiences.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Cooking. When I finish work most days, I go straight to the kitchen. Cooking brings together the structure of the process with creativity to create something to enjoy with the family.
I find it's the perfect barrier between work and relaxing. I can completely switch off from work, and once I've eaten, I'm ready to relax or do something that's not about work.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
To be a bit more open, I think. There are a lot of incredibly capable people in Process Improvement. But there is still too much focus on doing things the way they have always been done. There's not enough innovation, and for this reason, other technologies tend to take over.
Many people are innovating, and it would be great to see more of these ideas finding their way into the mainstream.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Gawande is a surgeon, and his book shows us how even the most complicated work can be done more consistently and to a higher standard by ensuring all participants have a basic common understanding.
Norman's book shows us that what might seem obvious to us is not necessarily apparent to anyone else. It encourages you to consider different perspectives in how you design something. It tends to focus on physical objects, but the principles are the same for anything.
How should people connect with you?
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