Tom O’ Connor, CEO of Version 1

The Version 1 Difference: It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since I took up the role of CEO of Version 1. I used to joke with our former CEO Justin Keatinge that the CEO position in Version 1 was the easiest job in the company – but as I moved from the ‘hypothetical to the immediate’ – it became a daunting proposition to take on the responsibility of a rapidly growing company.

Most times when a CEO hands over the reins, there’s a negative reason – something isn’t working, plans aren’t being delivered on. That was not the case with taking up my new role and that’s what was really unusual about the situation I found myself in; I didn’t have to come in with an agenda of ‘making Version 1 great again’, or a huge transformation programme to restore us to health.

For me it was more of a case of ‘Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress’.

Preserving the Core meant that lots of things did not change during the past year. Our core values, our Mission and our relentless focus on Customer Success, Empowered Employees and building a Strong Organisation are constants that I have been unwavering in preserving and they will be here long after I’ve passed on the reins to my successor.

But no CEO can sit back and rely on what has brought you success in the past to do the same in the future, past performance being no guarantee… and all that. So inevitably there has been change, but only change that has stimulated progress.

One part of this process was to refresh our brand and to modernise our visual identity. If you are anything like me, however, when you hear the words ‘branding’ – the levels of cynicism in you rise too. Usually a ‘rebrand’ or ‘relaunch’ implies something has gone wrong, that a company needs to change in order to differentiate their brand. This isn’t the case for Version 1, we are not ‘rebranding’ and we don’t intend to change anything about ourselves.

EBay Founder Scott Cook said “A brand is not what we tell the customer it is, it’s what the customers tell each other it is.” There has been something that our customers have been talking about for a long time when we are not in the room, our difference.

So, what makes Version 1 different? Why aren’t we the same as everyone else?

I spoke to a customer recently, they encountered a problem on one of their projects which we were not involved with. One of our consultants was accidently copied on an email that they sent around to their internal team looking for a solution to a problem.

Within a few hours, the Version 1 consultant responded with a detailed analysis of the question, some serious value add, probably saving them days in the process of trying to work something out.

Our customer said: “That’s why you’re different. 99% of companies would treat that as an excuse for a salesman to call to set up the contract for the business before helping.”

That never crossed our consultant’s mind though, they just genuinely wanted to make a real difference to the customer’s business.  I really believe it’s what is at the heart of Version 1; our core values and our Mission to make a real difference to our customers’ businesses, along with our balanced approach to achieving success that makes us different, and more importantly, our customers agree.

I firmly believe we have built something special in Version 1, a uniqueness based on a Version 1 way of doing things that helps differentiate us. Most services companies struggle to answer the question ‘what’s unique about you’, we don’t, and I believe we have truly created something special over the past 20 years and our brand refresh has been focused on reflecting what has made us great to date: The Version 1 Difference.

Our balanced approach to achieving success has been 20 years in the making and our relentless focus on preserving it is why we still have customers with us from when we first opened our doors.

What is the Version 1 Difference? It is Strength in Balance.

For the past 20 years we have worked hard to deliver on three commitments:

  1. To make a real difference for our customers.
  2. To build an empowering culture for our people.
  3. To grow a strong organisation for the future.

Those looking for a short term result or an easier road might sacrifice one commitment for another, but at Version 1 we never have, and never will. We know that our greatest strength is balance across all three commitments; our customers, people and organisation.

Customer Success to us means making a real difference through long-term, outcome-focused relationships – success that fulfils our people and fuels our growth. Our success in this area is measured by how many of our customers repeat their business with us; our 98% customer retention rate.

We are a people business at Version 1 and in order to achieve Customer Success, we build an empowering culture for our people, deliberately selecting, empowering and trusting people who are wired to deliver Customer Success – an empowerment that drives customer loyalty and organisational strength; The Version 1 Difference.

Strong financial performance enables us to invest in our organisation, our people and innovation. This leads to operational excellence for our organisation and success for our customers as we have the strength, scale and resources to deliver Customer Success.

Our Mission is to prove that IT can make a real difference to our customers’ businesses. It is not just about delivering IT solutions; it is about delivering real benefits in each and every customer interaction and ultimately transforming our customers’ business.

Our business is the glue that holds the economy together, managing huge numbers of day-to-day interactions such as providing insurance quotes, handling EU payments to farmers and processing motor tax payments. We develop systems that allow these kinds of processes to happen quickly and accurately.

As we enter the next phase of our growth, not just in the UK and Ireland, but across Europe too, it is my responsibility to ensure that we never lose sight of our Mission – but we still need change to stimulate progress. One of our core values is ‘Drive’ – we can never just sit back and relax. We will never be happy with ‘good enough’ and our sights are set on our next big goal, our vision for success.

Our Vision is to be World Leaders in Customer Success by 2021. With that vision established and a refreshed brand incorporating The Version 1 Difference in place I am truly proud to lead a team of really excellent people through our next phase of growth.