Spotlight on Mike Smith
‘We help people make better decisions, faster’
A background into you and your business?
No one grows up thinking they want to work in a Contact Centre. It’s like greatness - some are born to it, but most have it thrust upon them. However, over time it became an industry I grew to love. If you can think of a job that might exist in a Contact Centre, I have probably had a go at it - some with more success than others! I have met a lot of great people along the way and learnt a lot about business, and life as well.
One of the most challenging roles you can face as a leader in this industry is having to facilitate the closing down of a Contact Centre - a task I’ve taken on a few times. After the last exit I managed, I was subsequently given a job running the MI and incentive functions. As a naturally analytical type, it was a good fit and I have spent the last decade leading strategy in various Blue Chip Contact Centres.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I have always had an interest in technology, analytics and automation. Throughout my career, I’ve championed this approach, and the value they bring in allowing effective and fast decision making, as well as operational efficiencies. From new ways of measuring and reporting on human behaviour, new technologies to democratise it, introducing the automation of simple planning decisions or to aid both CX and EX, the value of a data-driven approach is endless.
One of the most interesting people I met along the way was Jimmy Hosang. I first met him at Direct Line Group in 2010 where he was working across their analytics. Although as the Head of a large transformation programme I was probably the 'dream killer' to his guerilla agile approach, we formed a bond and stayed in touch when we went our separate ways. Over the subsequent years, I regularly reached out to Jimmy to challenge both mine and my team’s thinking. So, when he told me he was setting up TMAC with Sean Northam, an Industry Leading transformation specialist, it was a natural step for me to come on board after my latest Blue Chip cycle was completed. They might argue as COO I am still their ‘dream killer!’
Together with George Hartshorn, Rooz Jalali and Michael Migliore in the roles of CIO, CTO and CMO respectively, throughout 2020 we worked with clients in various sectors, including those within the FTSE 100 and 250. We’ve developed affordable market-leading products, powered by AI and Machine Learning, to empower our clients to make better, faster and more valuable decisions. We also grew from 1 employee to 15 during this year – this growth during the challenges of a pandemic is a testament to the tenacity and passion our team has, as well as demonstrating we practice what we preach when it comes to accelerated ways of working!
Personally, my biggest challenge was a health one – I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia in 2004. For a few years, it was incredibly difficult to consistently ensure I was stepping out of my comfort zone, or pushing myself too hard. I was very lucky that there were new drugs on the market at the time that allowed me to stabilise pretty quickly. I guess like a lot of people with a health condition, you don’t want to be defined by it, so it is something I rarely raise preemptively, but I think if the purpose of these blogs is to show that the path is not a straight line there’s value in calling it out. Ultimately the experience has taught me not to sweat the small stuff and ensured a conscious effort of work/life balance that I sometimes struggled to achieve before this.
The effect of Covid-19
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the Contact Centre industry. I have spoken at length on this on webinars and contributed to some white papers, which you can find here. In terms of TMAC, Covid-19 did definitely slow down sales cycles while the industry adjusted, especially when it came to adapting around a work from home model. Now that it is up and running our affordable products and consultancy around CX and EX are more relevant than ever.
Culturally, we have worked hard to keep our employees at TMAC engaged across such rapid team growth during a pandemic. Our focus has always been on recruiting for talent, not geography, so to some extent, the pandemic hasn’t really affected our approach. As we continue to grow, it is increasingly important that we keep our identity, culture and engagement. A key component in ensuring this is developing a set of core Brand and Employee Values.
We are also acutely aware of how challenging the pandemic has been on the job market, which is why we partnered up with House Hack to launch our first internship scheme. It’s harder than ever for students to gain meaningful work experience - we wanted to ensure that future thought-leaders in the Digital and AI space were still being given the same opportunities as they would in a more normal circumstances.
We have a multi-year plan for TMAC and it now feels hugely different to what it did a year ago. We’ve secured a sizeable investment to underpin our growth, our products are hitting the market, our team is expanding and we are now onboarding additional clients in banking, insurance and media. Our growth is driven by the appetite for a different type of AI company: affordable, fast, people-driven and proudly different.