Newcastle Systems CEO On Being An “Orchestra Conductor”

John O'Kelly, CEO of Newcastle Systems
John O’Kelly talks about how he’s grown Newcastle Systems from the basement of his home to where it is today and the challenges of having a product that doesn’t have brand recognition.

And, you know, so, yes. My background is in marketing, but I think we’ve got a really [impressive] group. My management team is full of really great people, which is very exciting. We hired a VP of sales and marketing about a-year-and-a-half ago. And this guy comes to us with some really great experience that we did not have before. So to me, my job is really more like a conductor in an orchestra, just trying to make sure that all the different components are in place and that we’ve got a strong background of people who are supporting the operations. My job, as I see it, is just to set the overall plan for short-term and the long-term. The management team and our crew basically puts their fingerprints on that and carry it out.

I want to hire people that I feel can fit into the culture that we have and that buy into where we’re trying to get to.

What advice do you have to your fellow CEOs?

It comes back to not just listening to the customer, but going out of your way to listen to the customer. You can say, “Well, you know, we encourage feedback.” But if you really don’t go out of your way to understand what the pulse of the customer is, then how do you really know what kind of a job you’re doing? You don’t. And for me, that’s always been a validation of, “Are we doing a good job?” I always say that if you listen to the customer, the customer will tell you what direction to go in.

I mean for strategic processes, you may decide, “Well, we don’t want to go with the robots or whatever.” And that’s fine. But if you do listen to the customer, they will tell you what direction you need to go in or what you should go in. For me, that’s critical. Anything else is secondary to that because, if you take care of the customer, everything else falls into place.

[Another piece of advice] is to make sure that you have a clearly identified, your goals for the year, in the short-term and on the medium-term. And just making sure that you are regularly monitoring them. We do this on a monthly and quarterly basis with the management team and make sure that those priorities are being assessed and stuck to.

Read more: Fjuri’s Thom Gruhler On What CEOs Need To Know About Marketing


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