Born: London, England
Education: Cambridge University, M.A., engineering
First professional job: Engineer in the research organization of the British Broadcasting Corporation
What has been your greatest business lesson?
I’ve never seen or been involved with a business that gets off the ground and up and running without hitting any roadblocks along the way. So, being willing to bounce back up again even under difficult circumstances and to convey that to the organization because the organization often knows when things aren’t going so well. So, being able to have that confidence and persistence and convey it to the organization is important.
The second one is make decisions. Then, if you look back on them, you want to look back on them to learn from them. No second-guessing. If things change, make a new decision and move on. But, sitting around making no decision is very bad. Spending all your time second-guessing yourself is equally as bad.
Byford on communication: There are very complex decisions that we make as a business. Somehow or another, you have to figure out how to get those decisions or those directions into a set of words that almost everybody, at least in the business, can get their arms around, so they can understand.
Then you need to make sure you are communicating those decisions, those directions, to the organization pretty much relentlessly. If you believe saying it once and walking away from it will do it, that’s a blunder.
Finding ways to get the message out enough times can be a real challenge, and it’s difficult to follow up on.
What Vocollect does: Vocollect supplies equipment and solutions that allow employees at warehouses and other distribution facilities to get voice-directed instructions from a central control. Each employee wears a headset that instructs him or her on what products to pull and where to take them next. When the employees are done with the task, they are assigned a new one via a voice over the headset. The headsets and voice instructions cut training time and increase productivity.