Getting to know you: Dean Forbes

What do you currently do?
I am Executive Vice President at KDS, a provider of online corporate travel and expense optimisation solutions. I am responsible for commercial activities at KDS such as sales, marketing and partnerships on a global basis. At the end of 2009, I left Oracle where at 31, I was their youngest vice president in 29 years. I joined them just briefly as part of the handover of Primavera Software, a company whose revenues I doubled in 3 years and which Oracle acquired in 2008. At KDS, I’m pleased to again be driving a smaller software firm – that’s really where I’m at my best.

Who is your inspiration in business?
I have been lucky enough to work for one of my main inspirations in business. Larry Ellison is the fiercest competitor I have ever come across and regardless of what you think of Oracle there is no denying their premier place in the software industry. Other than Ellison I admire Steve Jobs. In my opinion, he’s a marketing genius. His ipod is the world’s leading digital music player and whilst it is probably one of the most expensive, it’s by no means the most capable product available, yet it dominates. I also think that he’s led Apple as a computing platform to be years ahead of the rest of the industry; integrated hardware, software and applications straight out of the box and easy to use.

Who do you admire?
I admire people who pursue excellence simply for the sake of being excellent at something. It is easy to heave yourself out of bed for a hefty pay cheque, or countless loud accolades. But doing something well, every single day, just to be brilliant at it require drive and commitment that few people have. I admire what Tim Campbell (winner of the first apprentice) has created at The Bright Ideas Trust. An excellent company driving others to be excellent.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Whilst I hate failure, the learning experiences of making mistakes in the real world are almost impossible to replicate. You have to experience the damage of your mistakes to really learn from them –  so there’s little I’d do differently. When I started my management career I made some typical mistakes like sending out long edicts which, on reflection, were embarrassing.

I used to regret the early ending of my professional football career and later my International football career (I only got to play one world cup qualifying match). I used to wish it had continued for much longer. But as I achieved more in business, I realised that I’d learnt a lot about preparation, team work, competing and most importantly gained a passion to avoid failure again at all costs. Now I don’t regret those football career failures at all.

What defines your way of doing business?
I think my business and sales teams, customers and partners will tell you that I am relentless in ensuring that they are successful. The only way for KDS to achieve the objectives that the senior management team, board and investors have is for our people to be hugely successful. This will in turn make our customers and partners successful. I try to focus on helping people achieve their next goal and trust that along that journey, I will achieve my goals in turn. As a result I am very proud of the careers I have influenced and customer successes that I have participated in.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
People are the only thing that matters in business. Service the hell out of your customers and spend as much time as you can with your top performers and strongest people. No amount of management heroics will make your weak people strong, but small amounts of time with your ‘A’ players will ensure you continue to get A+ results.