Life Lessons: From saving bees to learning from Chernobyl




from Life Lessons: From saving bees to learning from Chernobyl
by Anasia D’mello
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Charles Towers-Clark, founder and CEO of IoT solution provider Podsystem, tells IoT Now’s Jeremy Cowan how he has learned from navigating complicated, centralised bureaucracies.

IoT Now: As a child what job did you want to have when you grew up?

Charles Towers-Clark: I didn’t have any idea. I thought of being various things, including an army officer (failed the hearing test), a furniture maker (not enough patience), and a social worker (not enough maturity to detach from other people’s issues). In the end, it wasn’t until I was running a company that I found what I enjoyed: leading people.

This enjoyment lasted until two years ago when I realised that I didn’t want to manage people, but instead let them lead themselves. People (including managers) are much happier and more productive when they aren’t being told what their working day looks like. So, it actually took me almost 50 years to find my passion, which I’m sure is a lot longer than most children.

IoT Now: If you had one business lesson to share with your younger self what would it be?

Charles T-C: Perhaps the most important business advice I could share with my younger self would be: don’t try and do everything yourself. Equally, you don’t have to have a partner to start a business. The right employees will get you far further than you could have dreamed – your job is to build the company culture, not do everything. However, make sure you spend a lot of time interviewing and getting to know people you will work with, and then trust them to do their job – and let them own their work.

IoT Now: Without naming and shaming, tell us about your worst ever boss

Charles T-C: Flippancy aside, I’ve had a few bosses over the years and none have been especially bad. I’m always in admiration of those who have to satisfy a boss’s whims and also meet the needs of a company (which often do not align). However, as I am the worst boss I’ve had to experience, here are some examples of my own ‘bad boss’ moments.

I try not to put too much distance between myself and my employees, as I want them to work with me, not for me.  However, my habit of leaning too far back in my chair and falling over makes it difficult to generate respect.
Accidentally deleting the company Google Drive was a sobering reminder that I shouldn’t meddle when my employees have everything under control.
I shamefully admit that I made someone cry after shouting at them over something unbelievably trivial (I let my frustration get the better of me).
My most valuable mistake was not firing somebody quickly enough when their poor attitude was demotivating everybody else.

IoT Now: Which Internet of Things (IoT) use case has recently fired your imagination?

Charles T-C: One of our clients, Arnia, monitors beehives to ascertain the health of the bee colony. They use temperature, vibration and pressure sensors in each hive, which provides measurements on their platform for a number of metrics. These include the Queen’s laying status, […]

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