This year Procept celebrates it’s 13 year anniversary! To celebrate we interviewed our founders Aaron Maher & Adrian Crouch on why they started the business, what they have learnt along the way, and what advice they have for others.
1. What are 3 things you have learned since starting Procept?
Aaron: Success is hard work, needs time, and requires a fantastic team to support you as the business grows. And of course, a sprinkling of luck. We have such a great team today spanning Australia and North America – they keep on achieving great results for our customers and really embrace what we’re trying to achieve as a business.
When we started Procept in 2006, we just wanted to create great products and have a modest business – we now have an international group of businesses which are all achieving great things – it has totally exceeded our expectations.
1. Having complementary skills within a leadership team is critical to effective decision making – it is one of the main things I think we have got right at Procept.
2. One of the hardest things to do is to ensure that as business founders we grow just as the business grows. Equivalently, that you are honest about your capabilities and you bring in others to fill gaps.
3. That the things that help you to grow in the early stages of the business cannot be relied on to ensure growth as the business matures.
2. Did you always have an interest in Product Development/building business?
Aaron: I’ve always had a passion for electronics, ever since I was 8 years old. After school, I would be down at the local Dick Smith shop trying to decide the next electronics kit to buy. When I wasn’t building electronics, I was helping my father on the family farm or in the family construction business. My passion for the business came later in life when I start to read biographies of successful business people and I took an interest in the financial markets and is the reason I completed bachelor’s degrees in Business and Engineering.
Adrian: Aaron and I have similar stories here. I started learning software programming when I was at Primary School in Geelong. The school had 2 BBC computers and I remember writing programs in Basic. My best friend’s father was involved in computer repair so he also got me interested in electronics and Dick Smith kits… My first kit was a meowing cat sound effect generator!
3. What were you doing before Procept?
Aaron: I worked for Holden as a test engineer while studying my engineering degree and then was lucky enough to be selected for Ericsson’s graduate program. I can still remember the graduate test program – that was two days of hard work. Ericsson provided a great opportunity to move around the business, I started in engineering, building telecommunications networks and then moved into the marketing team as the marketing manager for the Asian Pacific region – that was lots of fun – we had some great success.
Adrian: I joined Ericsson straight out of uni and worked in a number of different parts of the business before moving to Sweden where I was involved in the development of internet radios and internet tablets for the company. During the telecoms downturn around 2000, I spent a year and a half helping a friend establish a Bluetooth headset company before re-joining Ericsson in Sydney in the marketing department (which is where Aaron and my paths crossed).
4. How did you know you would be the right fit as business partners?
Aaron: Do you ever know? We didn’t even know the business we wanted to start, all we knew was we had the same passion for electronics and product development. And over a beer in 2005, we decided to start a business together.
In hindsight, it was a perfect match, Adrian is very creative, has a great ability to understand customer needs and knows what it takes to make a great product, I have a passion for business, I’m very process driven and have a razor focus on detail – probably to the frustration of many in the team. Ha. It’s a great combination only made better by other team members.
Adrian: The fact we were happy to spend hours and hours working through the most tedious of details planning the company was probably enough of an indication. What was already apparent to me from our time together in the marketing department at Ericsson was that Aaron was experienced, reliable and motivated to do something new. As a result, when we discovered we had a similar passion for product development, it made the decision to start a new business together very easy.
5. What do you think makes a good business partner? Is there a winning combination?
Aaron: I don’t believe there is any one thing that defines a good business partner – all I know is you need to be able to openly and honestly communicate, listen to each other’s point of view and acknowledge you both have different skills to contribute – and of course, be able to celebrate success! As the word suggests, it is a partnership, you will see this person more than your partner and family, so you need to have a good working relationship, be respectful, listen to each other and work through any issues.
Adrian: As Aaron says, honest and transparent communication is key. Complementary skills are what makes the partnership productive and it also introduces constructive conflict which almost always delivers more effective decision making.
6. Why Procept? Where did the name come from?
Aaron: Good question. You know, we probably spent way too much time on the name instead of going out and getting sales. From memory, and Adrian might have a different recollection, I think it come from “professional” and “concept” – we still have all the logos on the network drive – some of them are hilarious.
7. Reflecting back on the last 13 years, did you really know what you were getting yourselves into?
Aaron: That’s a big NO. I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re getting themselves into when they start a business and that is probably a good thing. The saying “overnight success that took a decade” rings true. If you knew the path ahead you probably wouldn’t do it – and that would be a mistake. So many great businesses have been created through hardship and perseverance. For those budding entrepreneurs out there, what does it take? – bloody hard work, long hours, disappointments and then after many years’ success.
8. What has been the most challenging aspect of growing your own company?
Adrian: Being responsible for so many other people is never easy and is probably the most challenging aspect. That said, it is also probably the most rewarding in that you see how the business is able to support them personally and professionally. The other challenge I would say is staying open to change and challenging norms (even within a small business). It is the only way to keep a business like ours on its toes and punching above its weight (sorry for the clichés…).
9. What is your favourite part about what you do?
Aaron: Growing something from scratch.
Adrian: The awesome diversity of projects that we get involved in and the new problems that we have to solve on a daily basis. At the end of the day, as an engineer, I simply love the opportunity to learn, play and solve anything associated with technology that is tied in with solving a real-world problem.
10. If you could change one thing or do something differently, what would it be?
Adrian: There are a few…! But seriously, it is really important to learn from mistakes. All businesses make them but only those who really learn from and change, as a result, will be sustainable. This is something we’ve done really well and continue to work on.
11. What does the future hold for Procept?
Aaron: Who knows but whatever happens it will be because of our amazing team and our passion for helping our customers grow their business through great products.