David Walsh 0:00
Our very first vision statement as opposed to mission statement, the vision statement was to become the global leader in remote video surveillance. Now, it was a scary goal for two lads with no money. Right but that was it.
Finola Howard 0:13
That's David Walsh, one of Ireland's most renowned entrepreneurs prior to founding Halo Care in 2020, he co founded NetWatch and grew it from a small startup to a truly global organization, employing 560 staff and serving over 250,000 customers across four continents. And in this episode of your truth shared, we explore David's journey from agriculture initially to security and now to elder care. We also discuss what it's like to step back from the company you built from the ground up and start again with a new endeavor. He doesn't disappoint. I'm Finola Howard, intuitive marketer, your host and founder of How Great Marketing Works. I believe that every business has a story to tell, because that's how the market decides whether to buy or not. And your story has to resonate with who you are, and with the people you want to serve. And this podcast is about helping you reach the market in a way that feels right to you. So if you're an entrepreneur with a dream you want to make real, then this is the podcast for you. Because great marketing is your truth shared. Welcome, David. I'm delighted to have you with us.
David Walsh 1:31
Delighted to be here, Finola, great to see you again.
Finola Howard 1:33
Yeah. It's been a long time we were on the Carlow Chamber of Commerce together, I think maybe about 13 years ago,
David Walsh 1:41
something like that. We took it over during the tough time, just at the start of the recession 2008 / 2009. So we like challenges.
Finola Howard 1:49
Indeed, indeed, we do. So fantastic. What I would love to do to start with because as I look at your profile, there seems to me to be a little piece of a thread that runs through your career. And I know that you started out interestingly, as a bovine embryologist as I look back, and then went on to Keenans, and 13 years with Keenans, but I would like to hear from you how that thread of working in agriculture and with cattle to netwatch to which is a security company to now Halo care, which is about eldercare. So I'd love to hear this journey from you if you don't mind sharing with us.
Unknown Speaker 2:33
No, fantastic. Well, my journey started in Kerry, I grew up in Kerry, in a small family farm, there was 11 of us growing up in this little farm cottage. And we genuinely believed that we were the luckiest people on the planet. And there's no doubt that came from my parents and something that stuck with me for life in terms of having a positive attitude. And my mother, in particular was miles ahead of her time she she understood the whole concept of visualization back when nobody knew what it was. And she was, yeah, she used to always say to us as kids, if you want to achieve something, visualize it, dream about it. And then most importantly, take positive action to make it happen.
Finola Howard 3:13
And when she said visual, visualize it or dream about it. Like I shall I make this presumption that she wasn't having you do vision boards. But how did that manifest itself? How was it that you would sleep and dream about it as you go to bed at night? Or how did that?
Unknown Speaker 3:30
Yeah, we would we would dream about it, we would talk to ourselves about us. Just give you a very simple example. So growing up in Kerry, in the 70s, I mean, football was everything! The GAA. So there was 8 kids in our house, plus me, mom and dad and my grandmother, and of the eight kids five of us played football for Kerry. And it was something childishly we say we wanted to do at some level. And it happened and then my father would throw in his tuppence worth and he said whatever you do, avoid negative, pessimistic people, energy vampires, he used to call them they'd suck the energy out of a good idea, even then, even then, as a 10 year old when you told / said to your neighbor, that you want to play for Kerry at some stage. If somebody had a negative response to that, then you avoided them and just surround yourself with positive people. And throughout my entire career. That's what I've always done. And it's been a hugely successful part of my career, making sure that those around me had a very positive attitude because look life is too short.
Finola Howard 4:29
But it's very conscious David, like that's a very, from a very young age. Like that's something that comes to lots of entrepreneurs later, or as they start their their business but not at 10. Like that's
Unknown Speaker 4:41
Wow, that's that's why I said we were lucky with our parents, my mom and my dad and that that was their natural disposition themselves. And again, I guess they felt they had to articulate it to ourselves but after I left Kerry after doing my leaving certificate I went on to UCD I studied agricultural science there and I have to say this as well that I think third level education, which is why I feel very sorry, for the present generation during COVID. But third level, education is as much about personal development as it is about academic development. And I loved agricultural science from a farming background anyway. But it gave us the latitude as, as a small group in a big university, to to express ourselves. And I think, again, it fed into my thinking about people ask me all the time, why, why I'm so proud that we built a business in Carlow. But I've always said that David versus Goliath piece as being important. And when we were in UCD, there was 400, in Ag Science out of 10 or 12,000 people. So we had, it was us against the rest as well, and we punched above our weight. And again, I think, I think how we react and how we lead in business is all these factors in our environments, apart from our personalities do feed in to the way we run things and the way we lead. And when I left UCD, you rightly mentioned the 1988, I, I joined a fantastic company called Ova Mass. This was a spin out from UCD. What the easiest way to describe it to your listeners is back to thirty three years ago, now we were producing test test tube calves. So we were we were taking embryos from three quarter bred heifers of female cattle, bringing them back to our lab, which was based in Fethard in Tipperary and fertilize them, and then transfer in the almost purebred embryos into lesser quality cattle. So we, we had this vision and I think this is what we obviously it was disruptive in terms of what we're doing. But we had this vision that we were going to feed starving Africa, because back in the 80s, every time you turn on the television, you saw images of malnutrition, kids on TV, and this just really, really appealed to us and appealed to me particularly we were going to save the world. But it was a big lesson.
Finola Howard 6:51
Was it your first kind of hint at entrepreneurship because it was a spin out.
Unknown Speaker 6:57
It was and I think it was it was my first understanding as well. That whatever you work at, if that if you understand the why you know why we're doing what we're doing, and purpose and the mission, then you can get really deeply involved in an organization. And then if you can go a step further, and bring people into the organization that believe what you believe in terms of the mission is critically important. But you're right, it was an entrepreneurial startup spin out, but it ran out of money. And it was. So back in 1988, when we finished in UCD, jobs were very scarce. I was the first person in the entire class to get a job working with this Ovamass company. And it was it was really innovative. It was exciting. We were doing all the things I spoke about. But unfortunately, the company ran out of money.
Finola Howard 7:43
Also a very good lesson though, you know, your first exposure to entrepreneurship to a startup. And that very, very tangible thing of running out of money. I mean, it faces so many startups.
Unknown Speaker 7:56
And it's a fundamental issue. And it hasn't changed over the last 20 years. And I've spoken about in a national paper recently when we started netwatch. And we'll come back to Keenans in a minute. We had to sign personal guarantees, you know, so, and 20 years later with Halocare, we the banks were still asking us to sign personal guarantees, which is a difficult thing for a startup to do, but having the necessary resources in play, particularly in businesses that have need to be developed. So, the Ovamass model was there wasn't going to be any income generated for 12 months anyway, because just just nature of the of the, of the business we were in. So in those situations, it is really important to have funding in place. So when when Ovamass went into liquidation, I ended up coming to Carlow to join a fantastic company called Keenans down in the picturesque village of Boris in South Carlow, at the foot of Mount Leinster,
Finola Howard 8:46
which is an amazing company also Keenans
Unknown Speaker 8:48
fantastic company. So again, after my experiences with with Ovamass The plan was to spend maybe six months 12 months max in Keenans and then head back to Kerry and do something in Kerry and that was the thinking But such was the nature of Keenans such was the culture of Keenans, the global they were a global leader in the space to bring in livestock feeding systems. I just couldn't believe this. It was just fantastic to see hugely innovative. It was hugely innovative, but the fact that there weren't afraid and there were there were the market leader in the UK, in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France, all being manufactured in this beautiful village at the foot of Mount Leinster, as I said, and interested enough, Keenans changed my life. There's no question about that in a number of ways. So what I when I finished in UCD, I didn't have a commercial bone in my body. In fact, if anything, we were we were through the course and the way the courses presented that sales was seen as something slippery and something they should be avoided. At all times. We were we had images of this snake oil salesman or the anti wrinkle cream salesperson and the only person losing out was the farmer. But I was very reluctant I went in there in a technical capacity. So Keenans, their business model was that they were encouraging farmers to use homegrown ingredients with their silages and mix it all together and feed it out. So somebody had to put together the rations to make sure they were properly balanced. And that was the focus I went in on. And then I met an amazing man called Louis Kearney, who became my mentor for life, unfortunately passed away last year great guy. And he was he was the first person to really explain to me that they that sales, firstly, is the fundamental in every single organization, no invoice no business. Secondly, you know, from from a sales perspective, it's only a good sale for the company if it's a good buy for a good purchase for the buyer. So it isn't there's a dynamic there. And, you know, I remember the very first day I arrived in Keenans, and Louie took me out on a farm and I'm a young fellow from Kerry. And he said to me, what are we going to achieve here? What are we trying to achieve? What's the objective, so as not to look stupid, I said, we're going to sell this man a Keenan Feeder. And he said, Oh, no, we're not. He said, we're going to present him with the facts. And he can convince himself to buy the feeder. I love that it was something that stood with me for life. And he said to me, remember this, that a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still. So he said, This guy, that's great one liners, but we presented with all the facts, we'll listen to his problems, we'll present the solution and let him convince himself and that's, that's what happened. And I rose through the ranks, I went into sales, I took it like duct to water, I completely and utterly enjoyed it. I've seen it as a skill set, as an art form. And as something that was real. And when professional salespeople are at their best, it is a beauty to behold. And I rose through the ranks of Keenans at the time, I ended up being the sales manager and being a group sales director. And I ended up coming back to Ireland to be the market director for the Irish marketplace. And like Ger Keenan was there at the time, he was the CEO. And he had an his his leadership style was just amazing in that he built the capabilities of those around him. So I went into Keenans, as green as a grasshopper, as it were. And I left with a toolbox of business tools that allowed us to go off and set up netwatch. And it was, it was definitely from Ger Keenan. And that I understood the significance of strategic positioning in terms of your company, and what you stand for strategic alignment in terms of making sure that everything fitted in in terms of the overall strategy.
Finola Howard 12:29
How did he summarize that idea of strategic positioning, because it's something that a lot of I mean, that's my day to day how I work, but it'll be interesting to hear how Ger Keenan, or your perspective of in layman's language, how would you describe strategic positioning?
David Walsh 12:44
That's interesting. So I think when you're starting a company, there are two directions, you can go from a strategic positioning perspective, you can go for a high value proposition where you're building a close intimate relationship with your customers. Or you can go the other direction and say, Listen, okay, we're going to, we're going to have a low analytical type service, where cost means everything. So we're going to make sure that we run a real tight ship ourselves, the product that we were going to compete at, at cost level, as opposed to the value level. And neither is right or wrong. It's up to the organization themselves. And particularly, it's related to the personality of the founder or the CEO. But and the companies who get it right are very clear
Finola Howard 13:21
on both parties . Why do you think it's related to the personality of the CEO as opposed to the marketplace?
Unknown Speaker 13:26
Well, I think if you're going to if certain CEOs are come from a sort of a cost based background, right, or say, certain founders should I put it that way, come from a cost base, and they're more comfortable, making sure that their efficiencies in the organization is critically important. They want to make sure that they're competitive in the marketplace on price. Whereas the organization's where founders who come from a different perspective, say listen, okay, we are going to, we're going to sell a premium product here, we're going to position that we're going to market it, every single decision that we make in the organization, including how we treat our people is related to that type of strategic positioning. But again, from from Ger Keenan, and I saw firsthand the real value of high quality customer service, because once he had made his decision, that he was going for high value proposition with that close intimate relationship with customers. Then as I said, every every decision was aligned to it. And it everything in the organization.
Finola Howard 14:20
I think that's where a lot of companies fall down is when they don't carry the thinking through that it's not all aligned.
Unknown Speaker 14:28
I think that that's one of the reasons they fall down. And secondly, they get lost in the middle. So the companies who have the high value proposition and do everything, right, the companies who go for a low cost efficient service, get it right. And then there's a bunch in the middle who said, listen, we're going to give you the high quality service at the lower price, but we all know that's not possible, but they get away with it for a while and then the market finds them out. And you move
Finola Howard 14:51
on. And do you think that that people do that because they're trying to straddle two fences not sure don't want to make a don't want to take the risk? Why do you think people get lost in the middle?
Unknown Speaker 15:03
I think they're trying to straddle two fences. Yeah, I think they believe in their heart of hearts that they can cut costs internally whilst giving an external, high quality service. And it's not possible. It's it's possible for short bursts of time. But if somebody wants to build a sustainable organization that supports sustainable growth, then you have to be very, very clear. And you nail your mark, your colors to one mast or the other, and the people in the middle, they come and go, they don't survive. And I've seen so many times, even when everything Keenans where low cost competitors come in. And said, We can do the exact same as Keenans at half the price. The same happened in Netwatch, and it's not the case, you know, where, where companies come in and said, Okay, Keenans are out there on their own they are a premium product. But we have a real cheap product here. And we can do a certain job, and they can be successful. But it's when we try, as you say, to straddle both parties. I think. I think that's that's where the challenge happens. But so the last point I would make about Keenans , before I move on is that what again, what Keenans showed me is that the key to sustainable growth, lays in innovation, and continuing to be able to change. And that's been fundamentally important in terms of in terms of the netwatch story, and, you know, so I was 13 years in, in Keenans, I got to the top table, which was my ambition from day one. And then when I got to the top table, I have to say, and I hope nobody gets offended by this, and I found it a bit claustrophobic in the car, in the context of decision making processes, right. So, you know, and, and it just, it became obvious to me at that stage that, for me to, to move on in terms of my career, I needed to do something for myself, you know, I had, I had toolboxes, I said that I learned over the 13 years. And Keenans was a family business, Ger Keenan was the CEO. He was not going to leave that position, understandably. So for me to become the CEO of something, I was either gonna go join a different organization, or start something else?
Finola Howard 16:56
And was it when you only got to that point that you thought to go out on your own? Like, had it been? Like had that only kind of come to your thinking at that point when you felt that claustrophobia?
Unknown Speaker 17:08
No, I think the reason that clausterphobia came was because I was thinking of it all along for the maybe for the last two or three years. And I was just look, I was, I was very, very comfortable in the sales process, and meeting people and stuff like this. And, and I just felt, I just felt that I was looking for an opportunity to arise, you know, the thought process was there. My reaction to the top table of Keenans was driven by probably that desire. Anyway, I was looking over the fence. And then the opportunity for netwatch came when a friend of ours was attacked one night responding to a traditional burglar alarm, his place of work, he was the keyholder long story, it was back in 2002. And at the site, where he was the key holder had a serious history of false alarms with traditional intruder alarm monitoring. And it was going off all the time, and the neighbor's were always giving out. So he just jumped in the car drive, drove to the site, to put in the code to stop the bells and whistles going off. And, unfortunately, it was a real event and he was attacked. And we just felt that there had to be a better way, a better way of protecting the property, but most importantly, those first responders. And that's how that's how netwatch was was was was came to be
Finola Howard 18:17
so explain the thread for me now in your kind of life. Why as opposed to business? Why it's interesting how you go from agriculture from Keenans to because lots of people would have stories of somebody getting hurt in different scenarios. But not everybody says let's build a business from it. So what's, what's the tipping point there?
Unknown Speaker 18:41
Yeah, well, I think from my perspective, the timing was right, anyway, right, that I was thinking of leaving. And then one of the, one of the people that I met in Keenans on my very first day was a gentleman called Niall Kelly, and Niall's background was electronic engineering. And he understood the whole area of video transmission technology, you have to put this in perspective as well. Finola, this was back in whatya call it in 2002. So we only had VHS tapes, we didn't have we only had PSDN and ISDN telephone lines, we did not have broadband, you know, so Niall was was familiar with this, this, this technology and, and we got talking about it and said, Look, we wanted to build something so that nobody else would go through the experience or friend went through. And our initial thinking was that we would use cameras. If an intruder alarm went off then we would log on to those cameras albeit, that it might take a minute and a half to do so just to make sure the coast was clear. And then once we investigated that we've discovered that not only could you do that, but you could set up a system that if somebody entered a restricted area, that the camera would send you the footage as opposed to you having to log on. And all of a sudden it went from a real reactive service to a proactive service. And then we discovered that we could include audio challenges so to prevent the crime taking place. So if we saw three guys breaking into a property, then we could challenge them with a personalized audio warning. And it just took off.
Finola Howard 20:06
And the idea of the person, like that's quite clever to have this audio piece. So it's record pre recorded, or is it live? Or is it live live
David Walsh 20:15
personalized audio ordinance. So somebody with a red cap, so you in the red cap, this is private property, leave the area or so on and so forth. They were all personalized on the moment, and somebody entered a restricted area, you know, so it was very interesting. And you asked about motivation as well. And you say, you know, we genuinely didn't set up Netwatch to make big revenues or big profits, that was never our motivation. In my view, it should never be the motivation of a startup, it should be the result, the result of doing the right things, and doing those things better than anybody else in the world. So netwatch at the time rose from the ashes of three great, Carlow organizations, there was Braun Irish Sugar and Lapple. And I remember reading this before, between them, they had contributed 150 years to the fabric of Carlow society, when you combine all their longevity in Carlow. So, our motivation was to build a global organization. We weren't afraid of that we're going to build it in Carlow, and play our role.
But when did you start to think of global at what point a 2002? Did you open the door with a global intent? Or did that come later?
We our very first vision statement as opposed to mission statement, a vision statement was to become the global leader in remote video surveillance. Now, it was a scary goal for two lads with no money. Right. But but that was it. And again, I was really driven by what I saw and Kerry with the Kerry group. He set up a list all but Dennis Brosnan, I saw what Keenans did out of Boris says, why can't we do it in Carlow town. So from day one, the vision was definitely to build a global organization.
Finola Howard 21:52
As an entrepreneur, it helped that you saw it, that someone else had done it before you that you saw that it was possible. I mean, I'm always very interested in how we can help entrepreneurs and inspire entrepreneurs to think in that bigger from that bigger perspective. So you saw it
David Walsh 22:09
Yep. Again, going back to my mother. Visualization. Yes, that's fact. And then, even at my father, because when we said we were going to do this, and people said that we couldn't be done, right? Well, then we what you call it we, we got we got even stronger in our minds. But it's amazing. I mentioned that we didn't set out to make big profits, or revenues. But the reality is, while I was there, we were there for 16 quarters, as the guys across America describe things in quarters, and we we grew every single quarter for 68 quarters, there was never a quarter of those 17 years, there was less than the one before
Finola Howard 22:42
did you have the motivation each quarter to say we must grow it, we must, it must be better this quarter, it must be better this quarter like that. It's tangible, even though they're small, like they are these steps forward. What it was, was a very conscious every quarter,
David Walsh 22:56
it was a very, it was very conscious. Because again, we were a sales driven organization. And we had a very good sales team. And we find you know, but look at over those 68 quarters, I can vividly see three different phases. And the strategy evolved throughout our phases. So phase one was about building credibility for what we're about. So you have to understand, we were bringing this very disruptive technology to a very conservative industry. Take the security industry. I've said it publicly before i don't mind saying it I don't have an actually a gra for it. There's a lot of followers, very few leaders in the security industry. So we needed to build credibility. And so we had this phrase, and it was in my office for about 10 years with on the wall, that in business, you should be a rule maker, as opposed to a rule taker, we decided we wanted to stand out from the crowd be completely different. People talk about the Purple Cow and the tall poppy. And that's exactly what we wanted to do. And we in inverted commas, we broke all the rules of the industry of the traditional industry. People will say to us, Well, nobody's going to pay in advance for security, all our companies paid us in advance. We broke that rule. People said, well, they definitely won't pay by direct debit in advance 95% of our clients across the globe pay us by direct debit in advance. And every time somebody said to us, that wasn't possible. That's not how our industry does it. Then we try to do things differently. And I remember throughout phase one, look, phase one as being 2003, up to 2007. When and we had outstanding success of those five years, four or five years. And we got to five and a half million turnover as it turns out that period of time. And then yeah, it was a great time and
Finola Howard 24:29
I but I also remember you were such a hustler. While you were always moving like you were very focused, I always remember that.
David Walsh 24:39
Yeah. And I think that's part and parcel of it too. It really is because we we were we had a mission and we were wanting to stick to it and that mission was to build something to to to make sure nobody else suffered what our friend suffered and to do that on a global basis. You know,
Finola Howard 24:53
did you always remember that story?
David Walsh 24:54
100% every single decision we made every presentation we made in America because Again, we were very lucky to have a tangible story that people could understand. And they could feel it, you know, so. So phase two for us was was all about innovation and change. And when I talk about innovation on top of innovation per technology perspective, from a business perspective, a business model perspective, in the in terms of the markets going international that I remember, in January 2008, bring our staff together for the very first time, we only had 46 staff at the time. And we said, look, this is a big change happening in the marketplace, in terms of recession, or we didn't predict things like Lehman Brothers disaster, or Anglo Irish bank disaster, but we knew that change was happening. And we gave the staff the opportunity to have an input into where we're going to go on, or use the phrase on the day, guys, we're going to bet the company, this is my real great, we've worked, we're going to go from broke, we're going to really build our own technology, we're going to build a communications hub in Carlow, we're going to change our business model. Instead of charging the client upfront for the capital, we'll give it away, free and just charging for the relationship on a managed service basis. We spoke about going to the States and I remember at the time, saying to the staff, look, we have two choices, we can go down this road. Or we could just do it up, wrap our arms around what we've already achieved and hope that we'll be around when this recession burns over. But pretty much every single person in the place had a vote. And they said, No, let's go. Let's go for it.
Finola Howard 26:25
That's so interesting. What like was there a type of person that was a netwatch employee? Or was there that's a great point?
David Walsh 26:35
Well, there was there's been a few eureka moments in my life. And that particular day, to your point, was probably the most important day. Because as I look down the crowd, fortysix people, there was probably 15 in the room who shouldn't have been there. Because we had been careless. In the recruitment process, we were we were recruiting to fill a position based on competencies, instead of looking in a different direction, and taking on people who had a different attitude and who had an attitude like we had, and who were able to put their shoulder to the wheel. And after that, would you believe it I started introducing personality profiles in every single recruitment, irrespective of what position was in the organization. And we were looking for three things, we were looking for somebody who had a naturally positive disposition in life And that was absolutely fundamentally important. And if they didn't, it didn't make them bad people, it just meant they were better off at a different organization, to the organization that we were in, they would be more aligned to that low cost environment I was speaking about earlier on in terms of a low analytical service. The second thing we were looking for was people who take ownership, that don't make excuses. When an event happens, their natural disposition is to resolve the issue, and go out there and make the changes or not allow somebody else to do it not to make excuses. So when something went wrong for ourselves, we didn't make an excuse, we actually put a plan together to make sure that we improve the better the next time around. And the third thing we were looking for in the people that we recruitment recruited was people who had a natural ability to, to handle change, because netwatch changed dramatically over the 17 years. And some people, what we once we got it right, I'd say about 2010 onwards, every single person that we had in the organization was that they not only knew that change was inevitable, but they knew that change was absolutely necessary. Because we had this phrase in networks that been been best in class is not good enough, the market will not continue to payou you sufficiently enough for being best in class. So you need to have new technology, new innovation, coming all the time, so as to bridge the gap. Because come back to that phrase about the market not paying you enough to be best in class the market will acknowledge youre best in class, it will acknowledge the person who's in second place or third place is not as good. But unfortunately, good enough. So you're going to lose out unless you continue to move the battlefield. as it were with new technology and a new products and services. And that's what we did. And in Netwatch. Can
Finola Howard 29:05
I ask you a question now? Sure. Because it's really interesting to me, I do a lot of work with integrating marketing thinking into HR positions into the HR function in companies. And there's an interesting kind of dialogue around, you know, hiring a certain type that's aligned with the company so that you have these three things which are positive disposition, the ownership, no excuse making and can handle change. And like, that's wonderful, that clarity that you have around that. But here's just a question in terms of in this time that we have about diversity and inclusion. Is there a danger of being that focused, which is powerful? And it's not? It's this is not rhetorical, and you're actually genuinely asking this question. Is there a danger that it's skewed too much in one direction? Is there a possibility that you are leaving something out, which is, you know, challenging the possibility of being challenged by a different viewpoint.
David Walsh 30:09
It's a fantastic question. So in terms of diversity, I think that's critically important. And we had all types of people in in the, in Netwatch, it was fundamentally important. I wasn't trying to surround myself with Yes, people. And that's right. So there's, there's another big long story story in this Finola in terms of how we could describe the culture that we developed in Netwatch underneath this piece, right? So again, very, very simply, I was never and still to this day, I'm not a fan of values being put on a wall. Because the first three and pardon my French are the usual bullshit, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness. And I, I've sat in reception areas, looking up at these values in the wall, and knowing in my heart and soul, that, that the person that I was gonna be dealing with did not live these values. So we came up with a situation, said, netwatch, right, we're going to do a deep dive into our culture. And instead of talking about values, we're going to talk about behaviors. Because people, everybody can see what the behavior is, like, my, my view of honesty, and yours could be different depending on different circumstances, you know, and I often use the example of Oliver the musical when I was young watching that. And we all know that stealing is dishonest and wrong. But if you haven't eaten for five days, and you can get an apple off a stand for free of charge, and make a run for it, you can justify that in your mind. In that case. So whereas behaviors are different behaviors are solid, the rock solid does this know if somebody's late in the morning, that's the behavior in the story. There's no ifs and buts. So we decided to go through a process in Netwatch, where we would decide on the behaviors in Netwatch two things that we always did, and two things that were completely unacceptable. So the two things that we always did as an organization, we always put the customer first. And we always worked as a team, they were the two things, the positive behaviors, and they were the things that got you rewarded, promoted and recognized in the organization. And then the two things that we never do, we never disrespected another person, but that's an employee, a manager, a manager to an employee, a, an employee, to an outside to a customer or to a supplier. And he talked about we spoke earlier on about strategic alignment. Once we'd made that decision, then we meant it for everything. And to your point there specifically, that the second thing that we never do, we never hide. We all have opinions. We all make mistakes, it's important that we own up to those mistakes and drive on. And one of the things I remember speaking to a senior manager, one day when she was starting on I remember saying to her, particularly on this piece about we don't hide, and I said hiding means different things to people in terms of their own jobs and whatever. But I said at the senior management table, if I'm very strong about a particular direction I want the company to go, and you feel completely, that we should go a different direction, and you don't speak because I'm strong character, well, then hiding you're no use to me, you know, you have to challenge you have to challenge things at a strategic level to make sure that we're doing the right thing for the company. And that stood us could step over the way with that culture. The the model of the behaviors became known as the netwatch way. And everybody lived,
Finola Howard 33:14
you know, what I like about how you articulate all that? Is the language, the language you use? Well, first of all, I like that it just comes so fast. And it's at the tip of your tongue, which means that you feel it very clearly. That's what comes to me when you speak about it. But the other thing is, the language you use is so simple, that it can't be ignored. It's not highfalutin language, you know what I mean? Well, I,
David Walsh 33:43
I believe firstly, I could be wrong, and is that that's the key. Yeah, I had no interest in trying to pretend to the staff. And that was that I was intellectually more powerful than they were because it wasn't true anyway what I would have got cut out, cut out very, very simply, if I try that. So I think what I discovered over time, was that people like to be people like clarity. And clarity comes from simple communication, and being very, very clear. And just so another thing I brought into netwatch Over the years, was that I insisted that the management team could only start new employees on the first Monday of a month, or Tuesday, if it was a bank holiday weekend. And the reason why, because that way, I would meet myself, I would meet all new employees on their very first day. And I would go through Welcome to the organization and I would talk about the culture of the organization. And I would talk about the two do's and the don'ts. And then at the end of it I used to have my old growling rights, I was joking about this I used to put up a clock, a broken clock. And I say Guys look just just from my perspective, right? You know, probably because of my farming background. I hate people being late so so here's here's here's my advice to you. If you want a long career in Netwatch. We started 8 o'clock in the morning, be here early. Be here at ten to eight we finish at 530 Be gone at 530. That's the quid pro quo, because coming in early in the morning gives me a clear indication that you want to be part of this organization. Leaving half, five in the evening gives me a clear indication that you've got a life outside of netwatch outside of netwatch. And if you don't, then we're all in trouble. You know, so cracks will appear. So again, that's very, very simple clarification made it very clear to people, you know, and they enjoyed it. They they enjoyed knowing what was important in the organization. Yeah.
Finola Howard 35:32
This, I mean, I have a question for you now, abut this, how much? Can I make a presumptive Can I make a presumption that a lot of this stuff evolved from you know, you learn your you adjust, you try things out, they don't work, they do work, and that these insights that you have, at this point, at this stage in your entrepreneurial career, is an accumulation of all the lessons you've learned over this period of time. Like, I presume we didn't walk in a in 2002, having all of these great, this great wisdom? So I presume that that's the case.
David Walsh 36:10
Yeah, I think it came from three different areas. One is that it is a journey. And you're right, and we all evolve along the journey. And, and we build on what's in the past. So we get we get stronger and stronger at certain things. Right. So that was one thing. Secondly, I was a finalist back in 2007. In the Entrepreneur of the Year, entrepreneurship program, yeah, I remember that. Yeah, that was a game changer, apart from all the PR and all that stuff. Because it was the first time that I was in a group of entrepreneurs who, who shared the same opportunities and challenges that we had. And we have a group of us that get together every so often we meet, there's 10 of us. And we talk about different business issues in our, in our different companies, and so on and so forth. And how, and predominantly, in all the early days, of course, it was all about the bravado stuff, how good we were. But then somebody would drop their guard and say, Look, we had a problem here, and then somebody else. So it evolved into a situation where we started helping each other, just bouncing ideas. And the third piece, thanks to enterprise Ireland, I did the leadership abroad program in Stanford University back in 2011. And again, that was definitely a game changer for me, because all of a sudden a bit like when I said about Keenans, I had all these strong views in terms of culture, in terms of positioning, and so on and so forth. And, and all of a sudden, they were, how would you put it, the lectures that we had in Stanford University, were talking the same language. And to your point earlier on, they kept saying to us, when you go back home to your people, just keep it bloody simple. Let's don't try to pretend just because you've been to Stanford University, you know, you're, you're now more advanced than everybody else. And I think those three things were the reason that that we evolved over time, that
Finola Howard 37:46
peer group thing is, is particularly interesting, because I think it's that whole idea of having people that push you that will, one support you cheer you on and kind of keep your spirits up. And you know, when things get tough or and when things get good, you know, to celebrate with you. Because there is that old story of if you go to play, and I don't play golf, this I'll say this really badly. But anyway, always think that when you go and you play game of golf, and you go with the Golf Pro, the reality is that your game will come off because you're with the Pro, but their game will come down. Yeah. I mean, I always find that very interesting. That analogy. I would I mean, I have a group that I meet every week myself, because it keeps me moving forward and pushing me. And I'm presuming that's the case with your example of the peer group.
David Walsh 38:37
Yes, exactly. And it is important for us not to stagnate and keep moving forward. And that is the best way to do it.
Finola Howard 38:44
Tell me what happens next now. So you get you have this enormous amount of success with netwatch. It's very, very well recognized throughout this country and internationally. What happens that you decide to move again?
David Walsh 38:58
Well, so we spent 17, glorious years and Netwatch grew to a fantastic organization. And then for the latter years, we brought in private equity from the outside to acquire three companies, and to allow myself and Niall Kelly, who was the co founder, to take some money off the table, which we did and reinvest in the in the bigger organization, which now became the netwatch group, which was a far, far bigger organization. So at that stage, then we said, Who's the best person to take this on to the next level? Where is the big market going to be? And there's absolutely no doubt that for netwatch, the big market is in is in is in the US is in the USA. So it was critically important that the new CEO, or the DCO was going to be based in the US as opposed to in Ireland we wanted to keep Ireland and Carlow as our headquarters by all means, but had to be driven from the US. And I certainly wasn't going to move after 17 years of hardship to my wife went through over the years doing all the heavy lifting at home. So if we made a decision back in the day that we would When the deal was done, that I would stay on board for 12 months, I ended up staying on board for maybe nearly 22 months or almost two years. And we sought a new CEO. And we found a fantastic man in America. Absolutely brilliant guy again, he had he understands our culture. And so for me, it was very, very clear that you can't, you can't have two bulls in the one field. So I just I had to give this man his space. Back to you, it made sense that we're going to step a step down from as the CEO made the announcement back in 2019 was it hard. Yes, it was hard. It was hard for me. So it was easy from a business perspective, because I knew was the right thing for the business. Absolutely. 100%. But it was hard, leaving people behind. Because, you know, when we built the culture that we had, and when you have 68 quarters of growth, it's like, it's like a team winning a county final and all Ireland they stick together, there's something happens there that you can't just describe that we're all part of something. And we're all proud of it. We all had setbacks along the way. But we got over those things. And we moved on. So from that perspective, today, it was it was difficult, but knowing that it was the right thing to do was made it easier. That makes sense.
Finola Howard 41:12
Yeah. Why was it the right thing to do just for the business, but for you as a as a man, like, as a businessman, as an entrepreneur, and as a man? Why was it the right thing for you to do? Well, it
David Walsh 41:22
was a new challenge, because I was never going to leave Netwatch and do nothing, that was never, that was never the plan I would have liked to have done nothing for a year, or six months at least. But that didn't happen either. And then what actually happened and its amazing, how these things evolve, but I attended the family carers, Ireland's care and awards in Dublin, fantastic awards. I mean, the you and I had been at awards over the years, but these this was really touching stuff. You had some extraordinary ordinary people doing extraordinary stuff for a loved one, and given up their lives and putting their lives on hold. It was a vocation, you know, for these people. And I couldn't help thinking coming home that night, that technology has a role to play in this world, to help a carer, to give them some respite, if that's the right word to use, so they can take a break themselves, and even to support and give independence to the to the person who's being cared for. And then COVID Hit. And we saw firsthand, the real negative impact that COVID had on the most vulnerable population, which is the elderly. And we saw what happened in nursing homes, unfortunately, very, very sad. And everybody knows that outcomes are far far better for elderly people, particularly when they live at home in their own community and, and nine out of 10 people want to live live, when they're going to their twilight years would prefer to live at home, if they can get support there. At the same time, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was, was calling on the business community to come up with some innovative ways to help the situation and friends of mine were bringing in PPE, another friend of mine, pivoted turned it around his business to make ventilators as opposed to what he was doing in the past. So we just felt that we had to play our part and like I'm going back to this "why" again in our mission. Our mission is very simple. It's to use technology to empower senior adults and other dependent parties to live a quality life for longer in their own home. It's all about the quality life piece. It's not just about living at home. It's about having the quality of life.
Finola Howard 43:20
So did you have a personal story of why you picked this? Like when you built netwatch, there was a personal story. I'm just curious as to all of the options that were available. Yeah. Why choose this?
David Walsh 43:33
Well, I think we knew the technology space, we knew we wanted to do something for carers. Anyway, because of that, that awards event we were at. And didn't Niall Kelly's mother was 97 year which is 97, which is probably 96 at a time. And again, Niall, he was very, very conscious of this. And Niall and his family were bringing carers around the clock. So look, surely technology can play a role in their home at nighttime, rather than having somebody sit in the chair beside their mom. And again, all those factors fed into and I think, but I think the biggest driver for ourselves was that what what we seen on the telly on a daily basis, your COVID in terms of elderly people, and the figures were huge in terms of who passed away nursing homes and tried to keep them out of the nursing home and keep them connected to the outside world. So that was critically important. There's well I
Finola Howard 44:19
know, I mean, from my own experience, my dad passed away in 2018. And from Parkinson's, and he had been in a nursing home for a year before that. And I know what it took for my mom to take care of him at home and it was so challenging. And but I do know that we talk all the time that thank God he went before COVID I know
David Walsh 44:41
it's it's it's it's a big issue. There's no question about it. So now, there's there's there's four components to what we do in Halocare. The first one is about safety. We have what say to the safety of the person themselves, and in safety of the environment that they live in in terms of their home. And in terms of the person themselves. Again, we did a detailed survey of 1000 people over 75 years of age asked them a number of questions. And one of the questions was asked was, would you like to live at home when they get when they move on in later years. And yes, of course to do. The second one would do they mind wearing devices having a pendant around their neck or having a bracelet on the wrist, or God forbid a tag on her ankle or something, and they don't, they'd rather, they want to live independently. So the technology we have developed is contactless so the person doesn't have to wear anything. So just take for a very simple scenario, that the sitting room of an elderly person that's living alone, this device is fitted to the wall, and it learns the scene, right, there's no cameras involved, which is critically important. So the privacy and dignity of the person is protected at all times. But the technology is very, very intelligent, in that it learns the scene, it learns the normal posture, the normal gait, how many steps it will take, how fast to walk, how long they're sitting on the couch, when they get off the couch, do they stumble, and so on and so forth. And it reports back outliers to ourselves into our care team here in Carlow, and we're the care hub and the waterfront building with nurses and care staff. And if there's an extreme outlier, like somebody falls, well, the technology recognizes that straightaway, and opens up a channel to our care team here to follow after that, you know, so it's, it's a holistic service and that things we also monitor things in the home like gas, carbon monoxide fire, even down to flooding, we had one lovely lady was down and Cahir in Tipperary and she, she put her, she's got early signs of memory loss, she put the dishes into the sink, turned on the tap to soak them. And unfortunately went out to the living room and fogot to come back in to turn it off. But because we have flood detection systems there, we knew there was water, heading on to the floor, we were able to alert her and make sure the place wasn't flooded.
Finola Howard 46:57
And she was able to be reminded that Oh, like effectively, the alert went off and she could go in and take care of her the issue herself.
David Walsh 47:06
Correct. Exactly. That which was dignity. That's dignity it is. That's what it's all about. Then, the next piece of very important pillar that underpins what we're doing is the whole area of social inclusion. We again, we've seen firsthand what happened during COVID When elderly people living alone, and they couldn't have their sons, their daughters or grandchildren visit, for obvious reasons. So how do you keep connected so we we've built our own iPad, which is age friendly for the elderly, very, very simple to use. And we've built our own app, which we call the circle of care app. For for for the her sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, whoever she decides or he decides shouldn't be in that so they can, they can stay connected together, they can stay connected to our to our care hub here. And then the last two pieces is an area of wellness. So again, we we have in house occupational therapists here who do an assessment day one, in terms of the elderly person, and then we make sure that their hydration, their nutrition, their exercise is done on a daily basis, as it should be done. Because again, we have a very strong clinical advisory board here. And they keep telling us that even if somebody is living with a chronic illness like diabetes, or COPD or arthritis, if we can take care of the of the wellness piece first the basic wellness, that we all know to be important, then the outcomes are far, far better. And the last piece of our jigsaw is the the whole area of vital sign monitoring when somebody is living with a chronic illness, that we can remotely monitor such things as blood, blood sugar's blood temperature, respiration, lung capacity, blood, oxygen, blood pressure, all those type of things. And we give that information to their GP or to their specialists. So it's a holistic offering that we have it all comes back to our care hub here in Carlow again. You've heard me mention Carlow a few times. But we're proud of that fact. We want we want to build another global organization here in Carlow, I have no doubt we have the people to do it and the technology to do it.
Finola Howard 48:59
And how how is this? How is it being received? David? Because I, it sounds amazing.
David Walsh 49:06
So we only launched it, we started building the technology. Last May last June. Yeah, we built out a care hub in Carlow, which is all fantastic. And in time when when we can all travel again, you're most welcome to come in and have a look. But so we didn't launch the business until the end of November last year. And the response to date has been extraordinary, really, really has both from private clients from private hospitals, public hospitals. Even some insurance companies are, look, we're involved in some very strategic conversations. But from an elderly person's perspective, I think what's really, really important to them is that it's unobtrustive . So as I said, it's contactless so when the technology is in place, the elderly person lives a normal life. And that's what they want to do. They just want to live a normal life that's quite unique.
Finola Howard 49:52
Because I look at my own mother, my mother, it will be 79 later on this year, and I know that she wears devices and I know It bothers her. Yeah. So that's it's so interesting, it makes me want to find out more. So I presume I'm not going to be the only one. How do people find out more.
David Walsh 50:10
So the easiest way is to go onto our website, which is the halocare group.com. And all the informations there, all the contact numbers is there, they our direct, a very easy number to remember, here is 0818 700 700, somebody would get directly in here, but if they went to the website, they'll see all the details there. And they can send any emails and they can very, very easily way of contacting us. And we do have a team of care consultants here who speak to the client, again, going back to what Louis Kearney said to me 30 years ago now, right, it's only a good sale for the company, if it's a good purchase for the buyer, and that that link has to be there. So we tailor the solutions to the exact needs of the person. So hence why the response is so positive presently.
Finola Howard 50:59
Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time David. You're very welcome. I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you'd like to find out more about David, check out the Halocare website at HaloCare group.com. And if you'd be so kind to share this episode with someone you know who would find it valuable, I would greatly appreciate it. If you'd like to reach out to me about the podcast or anything else, email me at [email protected] and I'll be back next week with another guest and until then, take care