Kainos CEO Brendan Mooney shares his advice on how to succeed in business and a list of his personal recommendations.
In terms of pitching and getting your point across effectively in business, what are your tips?
The anticipation is always much worse than the reality, but the reality is that most people are quite accommodating. We’re not meant to be actors on a stage.
We’re meant to convey an opportunity or a challenge. The big thing is getting up in front of a roomful of people and explaining what’s going on. That’s a fear I think we all have from an early age. Some of us get rid of it more quickly than others.
Everything is made much easier knowing that any promise you make to a customer is going to be backed up by your colleagues and the organisation.
What are the biggest lessons you have learnt over the years?
Success doesn’t really give you much of a lesson. Mistakes help to educate you quickly, but you need to prepare in the sense of thinking about what could go wrong. Carrying out a “pre-mortem” and thinking about the scenarios you might confront is always a half-hour well-spent.
Sometimes you get clients who will ask “that question” or a project that is more challenging than others. Thinking those things through in advance can help to clarify your thinking and allow you to reassure a client or colleague.
Who have your mentors been over the years?
The founding MD of Kainos, Frank Graham, has been a great help to me the whole way through my career. He was on the Kainos board right up until we went public in July 2015. He and I have a friendship going back 26 of 27 years.
Our current Chairman, John Lillywhite, was involved in setting up Kainos in 1986. He has always been a real source of advice, guidance and support. The support aspect is important, because often as CEO, you’re thought of as knowing everything and having all the answers. That’s never the case.
I’ve also used professional coaches starting as CEO, and in the last four or five years, to advance my thinking and be clear about what I’d like to do in my time at Kainos.
Has upskilling and professional development played an important part in your career?
I have done a number of executive education programmes over the years. It’s great to get out of the office and spend time with people who have different perspectives. If I look at our decision to become a public company, that started off on an executive education programme run by Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.
I am very jealous of my time away from family and away from the office and I’m a little bit impatient about my learning. I like to see things move quite quickly, so I like to be in a room where at least three-quarters of the people there are much better and have much more impressive organisations than mine. I think that’s really important.
You learn so much from your peer group and I want to see that peer group be ambitious about their options as well. Every year to eighteen months, I try to do something like that.
With regards more personal recommendations – what do you like in terms of music, reading and films?
My musical taste is slightly arcane. I made my musical choices in the late seventies, so punk is a theme and, more recently, rap. Not music you can play in the car with the kids. It’s very simple. It’s about noise and rhythm rather than meaningful lyrics.
This morning, I had NWA on and an Irish-American punk band called Flogging Molly. A Boston band called Dropkick Murphy’s is on my playlist as well.
I tend to read a lot of science fiction. It intrigues me, because it removes some of the constraints that fiction in the contemporary setting has and it tends to be pretty lightweight and easy to read. I read a book every week or a week-and-a-half.