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My Thirty Years with Team

As Team celebrates its 30th birthday, our founder Tony Maher looks at our changing industry.

I was recently casually comparing the specifications for some tablets. I’d been thinking at the time about Team’s upcoming 30th birthday celebrations, and it struck me how far we’ve come as an industry in that time. It amazes me what power those tablets have, yet they weigh less than a kilogram. When I look at current technology developments, it looks like the next 30 years will be just as staggering.

It was in 1987 that I began the ‘third stage’ of my IT career. I started Team Software – now called Team Computing, because it does so much more than software! I could regale you with tales of the power, performance, size and cost of the computers and software we sold and installed then, but mostly you’ve heard one version or another of these stories before. Suffice to say, most of our homes today would challenge the computing power of a corporate head office back then.

But humour me briefly while I take a trip down memory lane. I started in IT in about 1970 when computers really were very large, and did very little, very slowly sometimes! Voyager 1 was launched in 1977 with ‘less computing power than a mobile phone’, I read recently. And this was the cutting edge!

Until 1984, I worked in larger company IT departments. Career paths for us were simple: computer operator, computer programmer or analyst. I’d guess there are many hundreds of IT careers now. I started Team’s predecessor, Computercorp, in 1983. We provided IT consulting to businesses with, say, 50 to 500 employees.

It was called consulting because the most advanced of these Companies had telex machines, ‘word processor’ machines and leased fax machines from about 1990. Their management, understandably, knew nothing about computers or what they could do. So people like me told them. The more clearly we expressed what these computers could do for their business, the more likely they were to choose us to make it happen. That simple rule still applies today, albeit in far more complex environments.

It was easy to start and run a computer company between 1983 and 2000. The industry was growing so quickly that finding good, qualified people was often more difficult than finding clients. For the first few years, my ‘skills’ at managing a company were so average (read non-existent), and I made so many business mistakes, the Company grew initially much more slowly than our industry.

My one great idea was to get the best people, look after them really well, and watch them achieve the miracles! It still works. Thanks to them, our growth was a ten year rate of about 30% a year, every year. Who wouldn’t love to have their industry increasing in size by more than 50% every year for about 20 years?!

Then, there was the double-bonus of Y2K and GST coming up to the year 2000. Anyone who thinks ‘Y2K’ was a con wasn’t in the back rooms, feverishly cleaning up the problems. We were all working so hard, and for such long hours, we didn’t even have a spare moment to spend what we earned. We even brought in people from other countries to help – and at huge costs to us. But we squirreled away the profits. I had finally learned a little about business. I knew in 2000 that this unique upsurge of companies replacing their computers and software and/or upgrading their systems would mean they would not want to spend a cent for the first 5 years of the new millennium.

But the quieter times lasted even longer than that! In that time of hiatus and ever since, the computer industry was changing into something completely different. IBM called it a paradigm shift. Most profit margins disappeared from hardware, fewer companies upgraded software, choosing to replace it with highly customisable products. They even adapted their business model for these products. And all these very useful ‘ancillary’ products appeared. Too many to name let alone describe!

By then, I knew Team needed reinvention and I knew my ‘tricks’ were too dated to achieve this – apart from my having no idea what IT was any more, or where it was headed. It was time for me to step aside for someone who understood business in a new millennium, and could help our customers to navigate this entirely new IT world. Investing in great people paid off yet again, and I had the perfect replacement already in the Company. Peter Sanderson took over seamlessly.

Team is once again at the forefront of its industry – competent and qualified in the business of Information Technology, and structured to stay that way with the right people, strategies and products. I think the business has continued to flourish, even through the tough years, because of investment in people and building trusted relationships with customers.

I believe my career in IT spanned the most explosive time the industry will ever know – even though I am aware it is still changing exponentially seemingly every year. It is gratifying to have had such a terrific time, and at the same time help build a company with as many successful iterations. Team is now achieving new successes in industry segments that didn’t even exist a few years ago – let alone when I filled in my first coding sheet!

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