Our MD Mick O’Connor takes on a new role with the Institute of Directors

In March this year, HAELO MD and Founder Mick O’Connor was appointed the Institute of Directors Chartered Director Ambassador for Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) was founded in 1903 and three years later awarded a Royal Charter to support, represent, and set standards for business leaders nationwide. It is the UK’s largest membership organisation for business leaders, providing informative events, professional development courses for self-improvement, networking, and expert advice.

We caught up with Mick to find out more about the role, and how this aligns with the work of HAELO.

Congratulations on your new role Mick! Can you tell us a bit more about what this involves?

IoD Ambassadors enable greater connectivity with local IoD Members guiding peer-to-peer discussion and development while giving a local voice and presence to the Institute. Ambassadors encourage proactive engagement between members and their local Branch and lead on a sector or portfolio area, which best aligns with their core personal and professional expertise e.g., Sustainability, Digital or Education; in my case Chartered Director (CDir).  

As CDir Ambassador it is my role, together with committee colleagues, to raise professional standards and encourage members to embark on becoming a CDir. CDir is the professional qualification for directors and recognises the high standards and capabilities that are needed for ensuring the profession of ‘director‘ is recognised and understood and placed at the heart of organisational life. CDir is not about post nominals and a fancy certificate it is about raising boardroom standards particularly how directors provide direction and governance.

I’ve been a Chartered Director since 2008. I don’t have all the answers however, I’ve learned a lot since completing the Diploma in Company Direction in 2004 and I’m keen to help by sharing my experiences. Connecting directors and learning from one another is what the role of Ambassador is all about.” 

What attracted you to this role?

I first became a director in 2002 and since then developed a passion for promoting professional standards. The role of a company director is varied however, acting with integrity is at its core. I believe directors should not only possess technical skills e.g., finance, strategy but also the behavioural meta-skills necessary to lead and inspire others. The board and its directors set the tone for the organisation and casts an exceptionally long shadow if behaviours are inconsistent with company values.

How does it integrate with the work you are doing at HAELO?

It fits like a glove! HAELO is in the Governance, Risk and Compliance, GRC, business, I’ve spent the past five years working with various organisations improving how they manage GRC specialising particularly on unravelling organisational complexity and improving sense-making. GRC is often considered three separate subjects however, they are intrinsically linked working in concert to assure the health and prosperity of the enterprise. Governance is about alignment i.e., verifying arrangements e.g., people, processes and systems are in place to deliver the business outcomes. Risk is about safeguarding the governance arrangements and detecting and responding effectively to environmental changes be it threat or opportunity. Finally, Compliance is about validation and ensuring all the governance arrangements are in place and operating as intended. It’s important to stress GRC is not only about assuring legislative and regulatory compliance it’s a holistic approach covering every aspect of the enterprise from business administration to business delivery.  

What do you enjoy most about this role so far?

“Getting to know the other committee members. We all bring different experiences and strengths however, our common bond is creating economic prosperity for Glasgow and the West of Scotland and all of Scotland for that matter. I know the chair, John Anderson (Head of SME Engagement at Strathclyde Business School), very well and I’m getting to know the other members, they are a great bunch. We have identified several key focus areas including Education, Digital, Life Sciences and Sustainability and have appointed Ambassadors for each.”

Any tips for entrepreneurs?

The biggest challenge for executive directors is striking the balance between working ‘in’ and working ‘on’ the business, this is particularly difficult for directors of SME’s which lack the breadth and depth enjoyed by larger organisations. I know all too well how easy it is to get caught up in day-day operations and be at the thick end of thin things. It is important directors set aside and jealously guard time to focus attention and effort on directing and governing activities as this will ultimately determine success, as CDir Ambassador this is where I can help.


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

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-focussed 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 how HAELO is putting insight and foresight into plain sight here.