Elizabeth Vega, CEO of multi award winning independent IT consultancy Informed Solutions, shares her personal experience of growing her company from start-up 23 years ago
I’m often asked why, at a relatively young age, I swapped the security and prestige of main stream corporate consultancy for the vagaries and uncertainties that come with starting up your own business.
Perhaps it’s the passage of time, but looking back, I’m a little less clear. There was the bullish confidence of youth, a growing awareness of the career limitations for a woman in multinational IT companies at that time, and my passionate belief that there was a different and better way to do things. Any one of these may have finally tipped the balance but the rest, as they say, is history.
From a background of very heavy technical innovation projects with high profile clients like Reuters, I made a conscious decision to create a fresh new business with a clear and concise set of corporate values. Informed Solutions was started in 1992 and the ethos behind the business is to offer meaningful technology investment to clients, adding commercial value to both their top and bottom line.
The principles behind our name reflect our intention to provide clients with the ability to make informed decisions on the plethora of data they hold and collect, using digital enterprise solutions and cutting edge technology. We then push a stage further by empowering those organisations to monitor and benchmark their operations, as a means of supporting continual business improvement.
Starting in 1992 in the depths of a recession, our business model was created to operate effectively within difficult trading conditions. The Company’s management systems are lean, responsive and scalable and designed to serve a market that is challenging and demanding. This made us as close to recession-proof as possible and pretty much ensured that the only way was up, despite poor economic conditions.
A lot of the success and robust strength of our business is down to the fact that as well as investing in talent development and high technical competence, we offer genuine innovation, even during recession. If you are required to cut back your budgets, you need to do things better and more cost effectively. Innovation is not just gizmos and gadgets, it’s a fresh and insightful way of doing something better by thinking outside the box.
Another key principle is that we do business ethically, treating both our staff and suppliers with respect and honesty. Because of this, not in spite of it, it’s possible to be commercially successful in even the toughest of times because those you work alongside support you.
These are the points of reference for the corporate culture of Informed Solutions, and are the reason I started the business in 1992. It would have been easy to carry on my personal journey with one of the large corporations and consulting groups that I was working, but I felt passionate about those values and wanted to take the chance on presenting clients with a business offer built on those values.
There was a pivotal shift early on in our growth where we became regarded as trusted advisers, underpinned by the three cornerstones we aspire to; innovation, excellence and integrity. Our uncompromising commitment to integrity has kept our clients loyal and supportive over the bad times and ensured that both clients’ and our own businesses work well together.
Innovation is also becoming an increasingly important requirement from clients confronting the fact they have systematically under-invested in the last 4 years and need to catch up with a recovery which now seems to be accelerating.
I believe that a number of key factors have contributed to our success. Firstly talent management – taking the time to pick the right people who share the same values, cultural fit and team working ethos. We nurture and develop them and together, they and the Company grow and achieve success; together we are stronger and better.
A major investment for us has been to sign up to key international standards of best practice, and our corporate governance benefits from running all the relevant management systems. For example, we are one of the very few mid-sized companies accredited up to international information security standard (ISO Security 27001). We also have very high levels of professional indemnity cover to take on large and high risk projects, so clients know that we have been carefully vetted by insurers and can trust our capabilities.
We’ve also invested heavily to get onto key government frameworks which enable us to compete for significant contracts. In real terms we are often the only SME alongside all the big household names – which inevitably means we stand out and warrant a closer look. We have repeated this process as part of the expansion of our operations in Australia, where we have been awarded places on the key equivalent Australian Government frameworks.
But despite our achievements, we remain extremely proud to be a mid-tier company. It hasn’t been easy growing the business in recent years but as a successful and growing SME we can attract and retain great talent. Training and nurturing staff is still assigned to our senior people, a characteristic of mid-tier businesses that we have ensured stays firmly in place. It makes for an inclusive experience for the whole company. Our people are our greatest strength and are the keystone to the successes that we’ve had to date and will work to have in the future.