Adam Greenwood-Byrne was appointed CEO in March 2018 after successfully building RealVNC’s intellectual property licensing (OEM) business and transforming their end-user proposition to a SaaS model. Leading the business into Livingbridge’s 2021 investment has left RealVNC poised for its next stage of growth.
With a background in Mathematics and Computer Science, and a career spent growing IT companies from the ground up, Adam bridges the technical and commercial interests of the business. Seeing his role as building a world-class team that works together in harmony to deliver an excellent service, this has been an important attribute.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: I’m Adam Greenwood-Byrne, CEO of RealVNC headquartered in Cambridge, UK. RealVNC is a B2B SaaS business that delivers remote access & management solutions to the IT industry. You’ll have likely experienced our software if you’ve ever had an IT technician control your laptop remotely to fault-find from afar without having to travel to your office.
But it’s not just enterprise IT support, we’re also built-in set-top boxes, MRI scanners, and even combine harvesters through our OEM relationships! We’re proud of the immeasurable carbon that we’ve saved businesses over the last 25 years by enabling a generation to “work wherever works.”
If you were in an elevator with Warren Buffett, how would you describe your company, your services or products? What makes your company different from others? What is your company’s biggest strength?
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: RealVNC gives people the power to work wherever works for them. To control IT systems and devices that are thousands of miles away and would otherwise take days to reach. We enable them to teleport instantaneously to where the problem is, and use their specialist skills to resolve the issue or educate/collaborate with the user, rather than taking on the opportunity cost of traveling to them and increasing their carbon footprint.
It’s like giving them a superpower. Issues get solved faster, users have a better experience and ultimately we drive operational efficiency into IT and field service management teams. That means ROI: IT as a strategic profit center, not a cost center.
We put security and engineering rigor first – so our software is trusted by government agencies, banks, healthcare professionals and corporations with top-secret intellectual property such as silicon chip vendors. We don’t require your data to ever go through our servers (or even across the Internet), and so you can be assured of total privacy. Our biggest strength is agility and flexibility – pricing model, deployment model, terms of engagement. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle keeping talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are adapting to the current shift we see?
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: The game changer for me is being open and honest with your team. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being spun a yarn – and when we find ourselves in difficult times it can be tempting to try to paper over any cracks and show no signs of weakness. Many first-time CEOs believe that they have to have the answer to everything, put on a brave face, always fly the flag, be the biggest optimist in the room – and, to an extent, a version of those traits can be helpful.
But, believe me, there are no more powerful words from a CEO’s mouth than “I was wrong” or “I don’t know”. That earns respect, and then what keeps respect is what happens next… I’m in my role because of my ability to deal with uncertainty and the unknown – I don’t feel uncomfortable there. That may not be true of my team, and it’s my job not to brush the uncertainty under the carpet, but to help them to feel like they’re in safe hands under my leadership. In two words: generate fellowship.
I believe that happiness comes from feeling like you’re succeeding. The most important thing we can do for our team is to quantify what good looks like for them in their role, without a shadow of a doubt, and support them as they shoot for it. It’s only possible to succeed if the goal is well-defined and understood. And it’s therefore only possible to be happy in your role if this is the case.
What advice do you wish you received when you started your business journey and what do you intend on improving in the next quarter?
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: I think crossing the chasm from startup to scale-up is a more challenging journey than is widely documented. For me it’s when the business changes from needing and celebrating loyal generalists – people who can do a bit of everything and be moderately successful, to needing specialists who can be phenomenally successful in their field.
The key with those specialists is then to get them to work cross-functionally towards a common goal. That requires strong structure, clear communications, and confident management. And when those things are in place, the business is given the wings it needs to fly rather than having a glass ceiling set at the height of the smartest, most hard-working generalist.
This quarter we are really focussing on iteratively improving our go-to-market, and suffice it to say that we have some great specialists working on it!
Here is a two fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s the (true) story, in his own words, of a psychologist/psychotherapist who survived multiple concentration camps during WWII. He used his time at the camps to observe/study how/why some people survived despite the arduous work, malnourishment, mistreatment and squalor.
He looked for patterns. He himself survived because he had an unpublished body of work (which came to underpin the third school of Viennese Psychotherapy) that he had devoted his life to bringing to being. In fact his only manuscript was confiscated and destroyed upon entering the first camp. It’s a fascinating and thorough study of what drives us to achieve the seemingly unachievable.
His work is a masterpiece and a constant reminder of some very basic substantial principles of our being.
Christopher Hitchens, an American journalist, is quoted as saying that “everyone has a book in them” Have you written a book? If so, please share with us details about it. If you haven’t, what book would you like to write and how would you like it to benefit the readers?
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: No, as yet I have not published a book. Being of logical mind, I suspect I’d write the kind of book that I like to read. These tend to be books that leave me asking questions about the choices I made/am currently making. I once had the idea to write a book with the working title “The Cartographers”.
The idea came from a strong feeling as a teenager that my parents had their map set out for me and my life, and it was my only job to follow it. Go to a good school, get good grades, go to a great University, get a first class degree in a challenging subject, get a highly paid job in the City, buy 7 Armani suits and label them Monday to Sunday (!), meet a similarly high-achieving wife, marry, have beautiful children, a large house, big car etc.
I wanted to jump off the conveyor belt and, actually, starting my own business was the first time I did that. Like many young entrepreneurs I was asked in a deeply concerned voice “but what if you fail?”. So I created an environment where failure wasn’t an option, and I didn’t. I also wouldn’t want it to be a book about me (I’m not so self-obsessed), so I suspect I’d dress it up somewhat into a more compelling story!
In your experience, what tends to be the most underestimated part of running a company? Can you share an example?
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: I think that people vastly underestimate how much time is spent on the people aspect of a business, especially during the transition from startup to scale-up.
The reality of many CEOs’ daily schedules is that they spend a large proportion of their time hiring, a sometimes larger proportion of their time managing their team, and a lot of time therefore outside of “normal work hours” doing the deep work that they’re called upon to do – strategy, innovation, partnering,
M&A etc. (value creation). This is why it is vital to have the right team working for you, and a well-defined cadence and format in which they report to you. Without structure, your day becomes unmanageable very quickly.
It’s hard to resist the urge to try to be the first scaling business that made it “without all that red tape” (particularly in tech). But it’s a fallacy! It’s possible to have structure and order without bureaucracy defining your culture. It takes serious skill though.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Adam Greenwood-Byrne: I’m only allowed one? OK! I’d like to have the kind of X-ray vision that allows me to see every visitor to our website and their customer journey, every user of our software and how they use it, every utterance that comes from their lips whilst using it, every room in which a purchasing decision is made and how it’s made etc.
I think I’m describing a kind of omnipresence or some scary surveillance state! But my intentions are of the purest kind – to understand how people feel about evaluating, using, or buying our product and help our team to shape it accordingly. As a musician in my spare time, I know that my job is to put a smile on the audience’s face, or even bring a tear to their eye. Bottom line: I need them to feel something. I feel the same way about our users.
The difference is, I’m not in the room with them, and what data we have only gives us a thin slice of the picture and feels pretty clinical. The funny thing is, we are in many ways putting this into practice – and it’s called Customer Success!
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Adam Greenwood-Byrne for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Adam Greenwood-Byrne or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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