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HP Q&A: How things have changed

We recently sat down with George Brasher, the Managing Director for UK and Ireland at HP, to discuss his approach to business and how the company has changed since the split from HP Enterprise.

People may think they know HP, but can you describe what the company does in your own words?

We’re actually a very young company – less than a year old, and the world’s largest start up! HP, as was, separated in November 2015 into two listed Fortune 100 companies; HP Inc. (HP), the personal systems and printing company, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the server, software, network and servicing company.

HP is the global market leader in the printing and commercial PC markets, and in the UK we’re also number one in the consumer PC market, as well as in inkjet hardware and laser hardware. What that means in reality is that we develop technology to improve peoples’ lives, both at work and at home.

Has your role changed since the company separation?

Before the company separated, I was Vice President and General Manager of the Printing and Personal Systems business in the UK & Ireland. On separation, I took on my current role as Managing Director. I still need to run the business as before, but another significant part of my work is to explain who we are now to the outside world and to give our fantastic teams a greater and renewed energy, focus and drive to succeed.

I’ve been with HP for over 20 years and held various roles in several markets, but this is truly my most rewarding and exciting role yet.

How has the company changed since the separation?

The main advantage of the separation is that while we still have the scale and strength of a Fortune 100 company, we now have the speed and flexibility of a start-up. We can move faster and are more focused, with the freedom to invest in our own technologies. This means the speed of innovation coming out of the business now is mind blowing. 

Not only are our devices the best they’ve ever been, but we’re innovating into whole new categories. This includes immersive computing with HP Sprout, and our three in one device, the HP X3. We’ve also announced our upcoming, market-leading 3D technology which is faster and more cost effective than anything else in the commercial space. We are both reinventing the market and reinventing what we bring to it. That is pretty exciting!

What do you value most about your company?

Above all, I value the inventive spirit that has always been at the heart of HP, but now feels bigger and better than ever. It drives everything the company does. HP’s founders wanted to change the world by developing technology to improve peoples’ lives. This is still what inspires me to come to work every day. And we’re not just happy with inventing something once, we want to know how we can keep making it even better as the needs and demands of our customers change and evolve. We need to keep reinventing to keep up and we have everything in place to do just that.

What is your approach to business?

I live by the motto: ‘You don’t get what you deserve in life; you get what you fight for.’ This approach forms the foundation to my life – both in and outside the office. More broadly, there are a few key things that define my way of doing business.

First, in testimony to the spirit of HP, I focus on driving reinvention and innovation, and I expect the same from my teams. Everyone has a role to play in pushing forward positive change, and I believe that innovation is a culture that should be lived every day, by everyone. I also believe steadfastly in the modern business mantra around customer-centricity, as this is the absolute key to success. We recently launched a Device as a Service offering that combines hardware and services into a single contract with one monthly payment. This helps our customers improve their cash flow, preserve capital to invest in other priorities, and deliver a predictable and consistent IT budget.

Helping our customers get access to the devices and services they need to drive growth and opportunity, and to be able to scale up or adapt these as their business needs change, is a huge differentiator and opportunity for us, and a big win for them.

Strong partnerships are also critical, both internal and external. No one individual should do it alone – innovation, business success, customer and partner relationships are all best fostered together. I believe in having clear data, insights and information to run the business. Data keeps me honest, and while there are so many important, less tangible aspects to managing a business, constant measurement is vital. Being able to see how the business is running allows me to make better decisions for my team, my customers and the broader company, all while keeping stakeholders happy.

Finally – and critically important – I believe that teams, not individuals, are the reasons businesses win. Any time you see an organisation that is successful it is because you have a group of committed individuals who support each other serving customers and winning in the market.

Who do you admire most?

My Dad is definitely the first person who comes to mind. He was a pediatrician in my home town for 40 years. He taught me that integrity is your most important asset, along with the importance of listening, helping folks get to the right solution and treating them with respect.

What are important causes to you? I have a couple. I believe we have a clear responsibility to help the next generation. This is a cause that’s important to me personally as a father, and professionally too, given HP’s focus on education. The STEM worker shortfall is estimated to hit 40,000 annually in the UK according to the Social Market Foundation, and with an increasing number of jobs being created to meet the shifting demands of the digital economy, this gap is only going to widen.

We have a responsibility to partner with teachers, government, parents, pupils and other industry leaders to enhance digital learning and close the skills gap. Schools are struggling with ever tighter ICT budgets and we need to help them maximise their IT investment and give them access to the latest and best devices, software and training. Because of this, we spearheaded the Digital Schools of Distinction programme. Working alongside Government and industry, it recognises and rewards schools that fully embrace the use of technology in education. It’s already operating successfully in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and is rolling out to Scotland in the near future. In the three years since launch, 2,394 primary schools have registered and 300 have won the accreditation. It demonstrates a huge appetite to improve schools’ use of technology.

Sustainability is another cause close to my heart and one every business must make a clear priority. I am very proud to say that it’s an integral part of our business model at HP. As one example of many, we operate a closed-loop recycling process, diverting millions of pounds of plastic from landfills, and our Planet Partners programme has helped recover 3.3 billion pounds of product and recycle 682 million+ cartridges over the past 25 years. We also work hard to ensure a sustainable future by putting circular economy principles into action across our value chain. 

Any final words of advice?

To anyone starting out in the industry I’d like to offer a few words of encouragement. First, try lots of different things in your career and be open to opportunities as they arise. That way you’ll be able to work out what you are best at and find the right path.

Second, be brave. It’s easy to hold yourself back from taking a calculated risk but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

 Image source: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

Desire worked at ITProPortal right at the beginning and was instrumental in turning it into the leading publication we all know and love today. He then moved on to be the Editor of TechRadarPro - a position he still holds - and has recently been reunited with ITProPortal since Future Publishing's acquisition of Net Communities.