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How I got here… Paul Collins, MEA general manager, Acer

How I got here… Paul Collins, MEA general manager, Acer

Collins started his IT career with Panasonic Business Systems selling printers and the very first laptops back in the 1990s

Education

I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in high school I was more interested in the arts than academics, but after much deliberation I decided on a future in law. After studying law for a number of years, I knew that a career in the courtroom was never going to be for me. I’ve always felt a calling to the art of influence and persuasion and in 2003 I launched The Influence Academy – a think-tank on the subject driving though leadership, consulting and training. I have continued my studies and I am currently in the process of writing a ‘how to’ guide for graduates.

My start

I started in the IT industry at Panasonic Business Systems, selling printers and the very first laptops in 1990. My dream was always to work for a vendor in the emerging IT industry and moved to Philips. After a couple of mergers, I ended up working with HP, running the server business unit for six years. In 2005, I decided to spread my entrepreneurial wings and bought a construction company in South Africa. Eventually, after five years, the call of IT was too great and I sold the business and joined Lenovo before joining Acer in 2014.

Highs and lows

I truly believe hardships and failures are far better teachers than any successes can ever be. I have never learned anything from any business success I have achieved. The reason is that generally the path taken to realise that goal is rarely replicable. Your competitors, market conditions and customers are never constant and as such I find it wasteful to do anything more than enjoy the successes. Hardships, however, are invaluable, I’ve been able to learn, grow and improve from previous mistakes.

My approach

I am a strong believer in activities being managed correctly and people given clear direction. New managers often feel that they know how jobs should be done and end up micro managing people. This is destructive, time consuming and frankly not smart. I look for a talented workforce with a specific skill set. In my current role my focus is to set the strategy and direction, remove roadblocks and review progress and let the natural talents of a fantastically diverse workforce do the rest.

Dos and don’ts

One of my main mantras, popularly accredited to Albert Einstein is: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. I have generalised that somewhat to drive continuous innovation from everyone that has worked with me at Acer. Leaders must instil a culture that allows all staff to suggest improvements on everything from how they do their tasks to strategies and directions. As for don’ts, probably one of the most important is don’t stop communicating. It’s surprising how many managers don’t talk to staff and more importantly don’t listen to them. Opening your door and having meaningful discussions can change your business.

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