Q&A: 5 Minutes with Mick O’Connor, MD & Founder of HAELO

The driving force behind HAELO is our Founder and MD, Mick O’Connor. Mick has been the brains behind the operation since HAELO was founded in 2016, and since then has worked alongside the team to develop HAELO into the intuitive, user-focused leadership insight solution it is today.

We took five minutes with Mick to find out more about him, his plans for HAELO, and the book that is making a real difference to the way he does business.

Hi Mick! Can you tell us a bit about your professional background?

“I started out in the Clyde shipyards as an apprentice welder straight from school, followed by various roles in the engineering industry. I eventually successfully led business operations in Space, Defence, Aerospace, Aviation, Shipbuilding, Petrochemical, Construction, and Manufacturing, giving me a breadth of experience and insight into how organisations work and the challenges leaders face . Over my 30+ year’s experience, I’ve worked in many complex organisations where the sheer volume of operational activities often meant issues were uncovered too late, impacting on business governance and performance. This led to identifying the need for a platform like HAELO to make information accessible, transparent and insightful helping leaders better understand what’s going on in their business and assure delivery of results.”

Why did you start HAELO?

“It was driven by a very unpleasant business experience which rocked me to my core. Despite my experience, my effort, and  management controls I had put in place, an issue arose which had a significant effect on me, my team, and the business as a whole. This event made me question the traditional hierarchical approach to business management and in particular how information is captured and shared, leading to the creation of HAELO.”

How does HAELO differ from what’s already available?

“HAELO IO® helps leaders get to the heart of business performance simply and quickly. It is all about connecting people and putting  humans in the loop between data and decisions. There are many great tools on the market however, they largely rely on visualisation of collected data lacking the prerequisite context necessary for effective decision making. HAELO IO® aligns governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) activities to results creating  communication networks across entire organisations linking different functions, business units and operating regions. Whether strategic, tactical, operational or within an external supply chain when issues arise, decision makers are able to pinpoint where it occurred, why it occurred and actions to address it.”

How have you developed HAELO over the years to help meet the needs of today’s leaders?

“HAELO IO® began following a consulting project with QinetiQ. The project involved supporting their Engineering and Operations function transition to a matrix organisation. The HAELO Organisational Meshing® framework was used to provide structure and rigour however, it became clear the complexity of the organisation made it difficult to provide a coherent picture of what was going on. When the project ended, the architecture and minimum viable product version of the HAELO IO® app was developed and QinetiQ assisted user testing and ultimately became the first customer of the app in 2018. Since then, the app has gone through a series of iterations with the help of Thales, Briar Chemicals and Prestwick Spaceport where it is being used to manage the GRC aspects of the design and build programme.”

What tips would you give business leaders on navigating the changes of a post-covid landscape?

“COVID has been tough on us all for different reasons. From a business perspective, COVID has created opportunities particularly in the digital space where the necessity of remote working has hastened the adoption and use of digital technology. How many of us had heard of Zoom in January 2020? I would encourage business leaders to continue on the digital path be it enabling staff to work from home or accessing new markets; digital is a key source of competitive advantage.”

On a more personal level, what entrepreneurs do you look up to?

“There are many, but the standout for me is Jeff Bezos. I first heard of Amazon about 20 years ago and at that time there were real questions about the commercial viability of the Amazon business model. I admire his approach initially focusing on book sales as the beachhead market and scaling from there. I have no plans for HAELO to be an Amazon however, the importance of knowing your ‘why’ and focusing on your niche cannot be overstated.”

Are there any interesting books or podcasts you have been listening to lately?

“I’m currently reading and working through the Disciplined Entrepreneur by Bill Aulet. Bill is Professor of Practice at the MIT Sloan School of Management and MIT Sloan Executive Education and what a character he is. I had the privilege of spending a week with Bill and a number of other Scottish entrepreneurs where he walked us through the 24-Steps to a successful start-up. I’m in the process of applying the 24-steps to HAELO to ensure the business is built upon solid foundations and currently at step 8. It takes effort to apply each of the steps with sufficient rigour however, it’s giving me clarity and is making a difference to where I focus my attention and effort.”

Lastly, what’s next for HAELO?

“Taking a lead from Jeff Bezos, I’m concentrating on defining HAELO’s niche which is enterprise GRC (Governance, Risk Management and Compliance), an area I know very well. I’m receiving interest from regulated industries in particular cybersecurity and asset management and currently pursuing an interesting opportunity that could be a real game-changer. Once established I will look to expand into adjacent markets  e.g., Finance, Rail etc however taking tentative baby steps in the meantime.”

You can find out more about Mick and the rest of the HAELO team here.