Robert Buck is the Founder and Managing Director of Diamond IT. Having studied computer engineering and worked as a Computer Technician, Rob started Diamond IT from his parent’s granny flat in his early twenties. From these humble beginnings, he has built an award-winning business that has recently celebrated 20 years of servicing organisations not only in Newcastle and across the Hunter, but all over Australia.
Rob has an MBA with Merit and is a Graduate of the Australian institute of Company Directors.
It’s important to Rob to give back to the community and, as a result, Diamond IT supports numerous organisations and causes. Recently Rob was also appointed to the Board of Directors of the Samaritans Foundation.
- Tell us a little about your career path.
I think I’ve always had a passion for both business and technology. I remember the first time I ever saw a computer, which is probably a bit longer ago than I care to admit. It was in the days of typewriters and I remember them showing us how if you made a mistake you could just correct it and reprint it. I just remember thinking that was absolutely incredible.
I think it just sort of planted the seed of passion for technology that’s always been there for me. And business as well. At school I started a couple of businesses – if there is something smaller than micro businesses, that was what they were – such as selling toffee around the streets as well as some lawn mowing.
In terms of my first real job, that was at a computer retailer and I worked there as both a Salesperson and as a Technician. It was a great grounding for me because at Diamond IT we have those two teams, and they can see the world a little bit differently from time to time as you can imagine. But it gives me a good empathy and understanding for the way they’re both addressing something.
This year I’ve actually had Samaritans reach out to me and asked me to become a Director. And that’s been a great experience for me. Certainly, of course, I have a lot of respect for what they do in the community. But it’s also beneficial as a business person to be at arms-length as a non-executive Director of a business and to be in a different sector. Seeing firsthand what they do in the community is really incredible and very heart-warming. So that’s been an amazing experience.
But most of my career has been as a Managing Director of Diamond IT. And I’ve seen – obviously you can imagine over the past 20 years – a lot of change in technology, but also people’s acceptance of technology. I mean, in early days if you use a computer, you’re a geek, and if you use a mobile phone they had other words for that. Whereas now everyone just embraces technology; if there’s a new iPhone coming out, people line up around the world at midnight to get it. So I’ve seen a lot of change and it’s been a great experience.
- What are the key skillsets leaders need?
I think leadership is like most parts of business. There’s a lot of quite simple concepts, it’s just a matter of managing to achieve as many as you possibly can. I think the key things with leadership are vision, communication and then buy-in.
So for vision, I think it goes without saying that it’s really difficult to get anyone to follow you anywhere unless they know where they’re going.
From a communication point of view, I think the key things there are clarity and consistency, so obviously being clear with communication, but also being consistent. If you just fire off an email, you can’t expect the whole organisation to just change what they’re doing. So, you’ve got to be consistent with communication.
In terms of buy-in, I think I’ve always been pretty inclusive when I’m looking at decision making. When we engage staff on how to address an issue or something we want to improve, I’ve always found that it’s surprising how in sync they are with what management are thinking about the same issue and sometimes they have some great ideas that we hadn’t thought of as well. Obviously buy-in is always going to be a lot easier when the people come up with the ideas themselves.
But I think at the end of the day, leadership is about setting an objective and getting people to buy-in and want to help you achieve it.
- What is one action or task you incorporate into your diary each week?
For me, it’s exercise. There’s plenty of things that I incorporate into my diary every week, but exercise is the one that I really try to make a habit. I get up at 5:30am every day and try to do something active.
And the strange thing for me is that I actually really enjoy exercise, but I find that if I get out of the habit, for some reason it becomes a bit of a chore. I think the energy gets a little bit down and I find it hard to be motivated to get back into it. I really like to do exercise on a regular basis.
I find I’m a lot more productive when I do exercise. Even little aches and pains you tend to get from sitting down for a long period of time, such as neck and back pain, can be helped by the right exercise.
Exercise is my key to productivity and also a bit of stress relief as well.
- What’s unique about doing business in the Hunter?
The first thing I want to say is I love living in the Hunter. My family is from the Blue Mountains and we came here when I was 10-years-old, and I’ve loved it ever since.
For me, what’s unique I think is that it’s a big and small town at the same time. In some ways it’s an engine room but it’s also a small community. It’s very important to have a good reputation and also building relationships is really important as well.
I remember when we first set up our Sydney office, one of the customers down there said they really enjoy working with Newcastle businesses. And this was their perspective, they said, “There’s so many customers in Sydney that it really feels like Newcastle businesses hold a bit more value on relationships”.
That’s the key – reputation is going to follow you everywhere so you’ve got to do a great job. But overall, Newcastle is a great place to do business.
- Which local businessperson do you find inspiring?
Leah Jay from Leah Jay Property Management. We’ve worked with Leah for 20 years, and over the years I’ve developed a lot of respect for her.
To me, she does things the right way. She’s worked really hard, she respects her staff, she’s very customer focused and she’s just a pleasure to do business with.
For someone with such a high level of success, I really respect how humble she is as well. And in addition to that, of course, she’s climbed Everest. I mean, that’s the pinnacle of any achievement. She not just climbed Everest but was actually recognised inside the international business community for it. So I do have a lot of respect for her.
And I’ve suggested to her she should write a book one day about her life, and I hope she does.