Ergo is a consultative IT services partner to corporate and enterprise organisations who aspire to leverage technology to deliver real business advantage.
Having co-founded the company 20 years ago, John Purdy has made Ergo one of Ireland’s most successful IT companies, transitioning the firm from focusing on the sale of IT commodities to providing software solutions and IT infrastructure services to multinational customers.
A graduate of Cranford University, London, he has qualifications in strategic management and marketing and is a member of the Irish Management Institute. John is also a member of HPs Print Advisory Council and was a participant in the Enterprise Ireland/Irish Software Association Leadership for Growth program in Stanford University. Recognising his outstanding contribution and achievements in Ireland’s ICT industry, John was awarded the title of ‘Person of the Year’ at the 2011 ICT Excellence Awards.
Headquartered in Dublin with over 200 employees, leading IT services company, Ergo, offers IT solutions from cloud and managed services to software and infrastructure solutions. The company has a team of highly skilled technical consultants and IT experts that help clients adapt to change, using the latest technologies to stay lean and competitive.
A HP Gold Specialist and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Ergo provides its clients with expertise around best-of-breed products. The company has become a strategic IT partner to leading organisations such as the GAA, Primark, eircom, Mercury Engineering and Laya Healthcare.
June 2013 saw Ergo celebrate 20 years in business. Since it was founded, Ergo has grown from three to over 200 employees, with turnover rising from IR£300,000 in 1993 to €24.5m in 2013.
In 2013, Microsoft awarded Ergo Microsoft Country Partner of the Year for the third time in the last four years, for demonstrating the highest level of excellence, superior technical ability and innovation in the deployment of market-leading Microsoft-based solutions. In March 2014, Ergo was also awarded Gold Standard in the Deloitte Best Managed Company awards.
With a focus on research into new products and services, 2013 saw Ergo’s first product, FlowForma, an enterprise forms management tool with business process functionality being developed, productised, launched in Ireland and exported to the UK.
Over the last five years, Ergo has also accelerated its cloud and managed services practice, carving out an important role in next-generation ICT service delivery. Given this focus, Ergo were delighted to be awarded the title of Managed Services Company of the Year at the ICT Excellence Awards 2013. Ergo was also listed as a best workplace in the 2014 Great Place to Work awards for the fourth year in a row.
– ENTREPRENEURIAL INSIGHTS –
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?
I wasn’t content working in an organisation which was happy to settle for good enough, who were not prepared to drive innovation and who lived on past successes. I wanted to shape something which was truly customer centric, where innovation was actively encouraged.
How did you secure your first investment?
Other than working capital finance, the business has been self-funded. The only exception to this was when we separated Fenergo from Ergo in September 2012.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
Summer 2012. We had invested heavily in building a software product for the corporate banking market to deal with the challenges of client on boarding, securitisation and compliance. We were making good progress but we needed more investment. We were concerned that continuing to fund the business would put the overall business at risk. We brought in external private equity, and just as importantly, we brought in people who had gone on a similar journey before with a positive outcome. Whilst we diluted our shareholding, the business flourished. In September 2013, we brought in additional funds from Investec, increasing the valuation by five and a half times the valuation in September 2013. The spinoff company, Fenergo, now employs 80 people in Ireland & the UK. Recently it opened an office in Boston and is forecasting sales this year of €12 million.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
There are many. Winning our first managed service deal with Microsoft in 1998. In 2001, winning the contract to build the retail banking solution for Bank of Scotland and winning our first off island deal with Primark in 2008, managing print across all of their European sites.
Were there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution? I was having lunch in a coffee shop in Dame Street, 22 years ago, I read an article in the Irish Times and I decided there and then that I was going to do it.
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Scale, ROCE, trading off the island, increasing the value of our recurring contracts, serving and becoming the trusted provider of choice for more enterprise customers.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
Celebrating 20 years in business last year and making payroll for 240 months. I’m also proud of growing a business from my back bedroom to a business employing more than 200 people, serving customers in countries across the globe.
What were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
Best: Ego is the biggest reason businesses fail.
Worst: The risk is not worth the upside.
What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?
- Surround yourself with the best people you can.
- Measure everything.
- Stay close to the customer.
- Never accept the status quo.
- There are two 8 o’clocks in the same day – use them.
Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?
From a very early age, I had a strong work ethic. I was always looking for ways to make money; chopping wood and selling it as fire kindle etc.
Has anyone acted as a mentor to you?
Ergo’s co-founder Tim Sheehy was a great mentor and supporter.
Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?
Possibly. I have an absolute desire to be better, to improve and grow. Not just for me, but for the company. I am never finished. I want to push for more. I am far less important than the team. The company is the most important component. I am only one member of the team.
How do you generate new ideas to stay ahead of the curve?
I talk a lot to customers, drinking a lot of coffee. I try to look for gaps not fulfilled by others. I debate issues with my leadership team. I take guidance from our subject matter experts and I listen to our key vendors. Innovation comes from all sources. As I often say, ‘There is no monopoly on good ideas.’
When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?
Hunger to succeed and technical ability that raises the game. I’m also interested in people who are better than me and have the ability to lead. Most importantly, I look for people who can understand and empathise with the customer.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
Absolutely. It is definitely evident. The kind of projects we are doing and that are in the pipeline are all progressive and not defensive. There is a distinct shift in focus from cost cutting measures to projects which deliver real business advantage, be that improved customer service, growth, competitive advantage or increased agility.
What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Single minded determination.
- Self-belief without arrogance.
- The ability to rise above the challenges and drive the plan.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. There needs to be a compelling business case. It needs to conform to show a level of due diligence, not just a gut feeling (although this is also important).
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage?
Our ability to read the changes in an ever changing competitive market, understanding what customers see as valuable and what has become commoditised.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?
Outside of family, the business consumes my life. Historically, my personal finances have taken second place.
How do you recharge your batteries?
I run (slowly) a couple times a week to try stay reasonably fit and to organise my thoughts. I am reasonably disciplined at taking holidays. I take a week at Easter and two weeks in the Summer, normally in the West of Ireland, and a week at Christmas.