Meet the MD: Mark Braund of RedstoneConnect
RedstoneConnect CEO Mark Braund gives us an insight into his career so far and talks us through growing a successful software solutions business.
What is it the company does?
RedstoneConnect is actively directing the future of the Smart World, through providing the software and strategies to bring people and buildings together in a meaningful way. Our Smart Buildings software ultimately delivers great employee experiences by facilitating wayfinding, as well as meeting room booking and desk management, whilst simultaneously delivering financial and environmental savings for companies.
What does your role involve?
As CEO my primary function is to work with my colleagues to define and execute RedstoneConnect’s business strategy. When I first joined the company two years ago this meant leading the teams’ effort to stabilise the business. Now that we have successfully refinanced and restructured the company my role revolves around looking at how we can grow, through developing the software that gives Smart Buildings meaning.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
My first role was as an officer in the merchant navy. Whilst this might seem a far cry away from my current position in commercial business, it was instrumental in shaping me into the person I am today. Working a minimum of 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for seven months at a time, increased my capacity for work and instilled a great sense of work ethic in me.
After leaving the navy I moved into commercial sales and marketing, working at IBM for 13 years, a key time in my career where I learned a wealth of skills that I still implement today. While holding this position, I started a recruitment firm with my wife, which we grew into a £10m business based across 10 different sites. It was after this time that I took my first business transformation role where I lead the development of a company worth US$20m into a US$200m market leader. Working alongside a series of great teams, I have repeated this process several times over the past 20 years and am currently undertaking a similar project at RedstoneConnect.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think it’s a combination of factors – remove your ego, have empathy, and make a conscious effort to understand other people’s perspectives before making a decision. The best leaders are those who can identify talent, encourage them to speak up (regardless of their level of seniority) and then help them to execute their decision if it’s a strong one, all of which incentivise them to perform.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
My biggest challenge came when I first joined RedstoneConnect. The company was in financial distress, lacked direction, and there was no inter-company integration. Our employees didn’t know what was going on, making it impossible for them to collaborate on achieving a common goal. In order to combat this, I had to direct my efforts into helping everyone understand the issues we faced with clarity, and then using them as a foundation to grow from. While this was a challenging period in our transformation it’s one of the processes I enjoy the most, and I have been thrilled with the results.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Spending time with family is a great way to unwind after a hard week at work, but, as with anything, prevention is better than a cure. When faced with a difficult, pressurised decision it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand, but this will only cause more stress in the long-term. I always tackle the most challenging tasks on my to-do list first to keep stress at bay.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was seven years old in 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, and Neil Armstrong made one of the most iconic statements of the century. I was completely captivated and became consumed by the dream of becoming an astronaut. Sadly, I was short-sighted, but still had the chance to live out my exploratory dreams by joining the merchant navy.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Hate is a strong word, but I have a decisive dislike of leaders who are unable to relinquish control. Making an individual accountable for a decision they haven’t made themselves can only create problems. I’ve made every effort to prevent this at RedstoneConnect – I always challenge my colleagues’ decisions, to check they have strength in their own conviction, before allowing them to follow their own path.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The market has started to recognise the potential impact of Smart Buildings in engaging employees, aiding productivity, creating additional space and optimising energy efficiency. This means the time is ripe for RedstoneConnect. In five years, I envision that the business will be 15, if not 20, times bigger than it is today, with a significant international presence, as enabled by our existing, strong, customer base. As time goes by the technology will also become increasingly affordable meaning it will become ubiquitous in companies big and small.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Check your ego at the door and recognise that you only deliver if your team delivers. As a leader you should focus on how to help your team members be better, just focusing on your own performance isn’t enough.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
At the start of my career I believed that I had to be better than everyone else to get where I wanted to be. Whilst I still think that hunger to be the best you can be is crucial, I’ve learnt that great leaders are actually those that can acknowledge gaps in their own capabilities and hire people with the specialist skills to optimise their business’ success.
Originally featured on Business Quarter Live