C-suite career advice: Rob Steele, iplicit

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? “Work hard, stay honest, respect your team, and make sure your workforce – including yourself – are always accountable.”


Name: Rob Steele

Company: iplicit Ltd

Job Title: CEO

Location: London/Bournemouth

Rob Steele was co-founder of Exchequer Software which was acquired by IRIS in 2005. In 2018 he joined start-up iplicit – the award-winning mid-range cloud accounting software which sits squarely between Xero and NetSuite.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Focus on your people, delegate properly and the success will come.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? “Don’t borrow money!” In my first business, we stuck religiously to this and were self-funded – we were never overdrawn, didn’t take out loans or have any investment. However, this severely limited our growth potential, and what took 20 years could’ve been done in 10 or less with funding.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Innovate, offer real value, and never forget to put the customer’s needs first.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? I started out wanting to be an architect, but the training was too long and I needed to begin earning money straight out of school. Whilst serving my apprenticeship, I stumbled across a guy at college who was into programming, and we decided we could probably make some money together.

What was your first job in IT/tech? My first job was my own business – it started in 1986 with my college friend, Eduardo Loigorri, from his parent’s garage. We developed bespoke business software for the Amstrad PCW (CPM) and then PC.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? That you have to be a ‘techy’. I have never considered myself to be at all technical, and yet I’ve somehow managed to run two great software businesses.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Work hard, stay honest, respect your team, and make sure your workforce – including yourself – are always accountable.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I never really had career ambitions as such, and I was pretty much self-employed from day one. My business goals were always about making a real difference to SMEs – by providing innovate software solutions – whilst becoming financially independent.

Having achieved both those goals with Exchequer Software, my goals with iplicit are now more about disrupting the same industry which has once again failed to deliver adequate solutions for organisations moving their finance systems to the cloud.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I have a great work/life balance. Since I joined the business, I’ve also tried to ensure that this is an important part of the culture at iplicit.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I wouldn’t change a thing. Yes, I could’ve achieved more success in a shorter timeframe in my first journey, but that’s all part of learning.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I’m not a techy, so I wouldn’t have a clue! Ask my CTO – I’m going to guess he’d favour the bootcamp.

How important are specific certifications? To me they’re not half as important as attitude and work ethic.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Honesty, accountability, and determination to succeed.

What would put you off a candidate? Blagging, tardiness, lack of energy and enthusiasm.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Most candidates try too hard and are not always true to themselves in interviews. It’s easy to say, harder to do, but they really need to relax and be themselves – it’s all about forgetting the script and letting their true personality shine.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Well, that depends on the role, but for my position I would say it’s a combination of business and people skills – I’m still working on both!