The Amaiz Podcast

The Amaiz Podcast - SER Team's Troy Norcross talks Strategy

March 25, 2021 Amaiz Business Season 5 Episode 2
The Amaiz Podcast
The Amaiz Podcast - SER Team's Troy Norcross talks Strategy
Show Notes Transcript

Amaiz talsk to Troy Norcross of SER Team

The initials of SER Team stand for strategy, execution, and results. Troy set up the consultancy to empower efficiency and decision making in business. As he tells us, engagement is essential - and that extends from celebrating success to managing failure. Troy gives a fascinating insight into business strategy from a global, but utterly relatable perspective. If you’re starting or growing a new business, don’t miss this chat on the challenges of dynamics and scaling as well as:

  • Mergers and combining company cultures.
  • The ultimate importance of trust.
  • Why companies are never digitally mature.
  • How the best technology is invisible

As Troy explains, tools are irrelevant, but success is more dependent on learning from the way problems are solved. As for the future, Troy sees opportunities from the world emerging from the pandemic, particularly for companies that seize the critical shift from globalisation to hyper-localisation 

SPEAKERS: Jake Shaw, Troy Norcross

Jake Shaw  00:01

Hello and welcome to the Amaiz podcast where we talk to businesses large and small experts and subjects across a spectrum of business, entrepreneurial ism tech, innovation, investment and finance. I'm Jake Shaw, your host. If you'd like to learn more about Amaiz, please go to 

Jake Shaw  00:22

 Hello, everybody. Today I'm joined by my good friend Troy Norcross. Now, Troy is principal strategies and owner at SER team. Good morning, Troy. How are you?

Troy Norcross  00:33

Good morning, Jake. I'm really good. 

Jake Shaw  00:34

Thank you very much for making the time. I know we had to move it around. I think the best place to start is a bit of a background because I know I've heard these stories about who you are, where you come from, or as you said to me missoura when I first met 

Troy Norcross  00:47

 That's right. You know, I was originally born in 4000 acres of god's green earth with 1000 other beef cattle in Missouri, just outside of Kansas City. Now, I'm a long way from home in many ways. The thing was, I grew up on that farm and I was allergic to just about everything there was on that farm, and I would break out in hives by ice with water, you know, it was it was a mess. At 12 years old, my mom took me to the local university. And I walked in, and it was clean air inside the big computer room. And I said that's it. computers. That's my future. And that was what really kind of turned my entire career. I then got a degree in computer science. I wrote flight simulators for military aircraft at McDonnell Douglas. I then spent a whole lot of time in 3d high-end graphics for SGI, I moved them to the west coast just before the bubble burst and wound up living in telecoms land, working on telecoms infrastructure for a while, but moving to Europe. And then for the last 9/10 years after I left Nokia. I started my own consultancy company called SER team. And SER is coming from S for strategy for execution and are for results. Because strategy is good, execution is better. And results are best. And team because I work with a collective. So I always have a number of associates that I bring together on a particular project. And we work together to solve that. How do you enable the people at the coalface to actually make more decisions and do more things? And three of the different business books all we're absolutely focused on how do you engage people in a way they feel like they can experiment? And in the smallest possible way? And how do you even celebrate it when they don't do everything right when it doesn't come up with the outcome that they want. And that's another really kind of big thing. So whether we're talking about digital maturity, we're reading a book called The technology fallacy, and it talks about the digital maturity level of, of not only the company, but also of the people of the organisation of the business and of the industry. And how does all of that kind of happen? Well, again, it's all about the people and their willingness to look at things and try different things and experiment. One of my overarching themes that I continue to focus on is the penalty of failure when it comes to business organisations. And if you penalise people for failing, they're never going to try, you've got to create an incentive structure that says, we're going to support you and we're going to encourage you to get out there and try different things. And it's okay, if it doesn't work, so long as you learn something from it. And you share what you learned across the organisation,

Troy Norcross  00:47

That's right.

Jake Shaw  03:38

then pick up on a couple of things about people making decisions at the coalface. I've been researching three entirely different podcasts about the grossest of East India Company. And the viceroy was asked what he thought about this installation of telegraph. And he said, it was a terrible idea. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. But it was a terrible idea because it meant those idiots in London, could now interfere with his running of India does that kind of chime with what you're findings are - is that you just let people get on with it?

Troy Norcross  04:05

If you have a really clear vision and direction and it's communicated up and down the entire organisation, then yes, they can go ahead and get on with it within the guidelines within the boundaries of doesn't move us further or closer to our end goal. You know, the number of times I've worked in really big corporations where my individual KPIs, my key performance indicators were disconnected from what the actual top level five strategic business objectives of the whole organisation Where is, is rampant, and you wind up with Okay, now I've got a fiefdom, who's going to create his own or her own kind of, this is the direction we're gonna go and we're gonna break free or we're going to show off the other organisation or whatever, you get all this kind of competitive behaviour. But if you give people in our organisation a complete vertical, this is exactly how it's all gonna work. This is the way you should approach it and get out there and do it. So one of my favourite stories is I worked for Nokia, we were doing a it wasn't a joint venture, but it was almost a joint venture with a company called Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks. And so we had the devices and they had the software and we were launching it in India. So I people in China doing the manufacturing, I people in India that we're actually doing the kind of the rollout the market approach. I had people in Helsinki, who were kind of the corporate governance people in London, who were doing the marketing and the people in California, follow the sun manager at a team of 12. And I would get everybody together. And I said, Okay, look, I'm not going to be awake all the time. You're going to have to make decisions and get out there on your own. But you know, me, you've worked with me enough. And you know what I think and you know, where we're going, if you're in a room, went to the pick an empty chair, and say, if Troy was in that chair, what would Troy say do or decide, do that and get on with it? Because, you know, hopefully, nobody's going to die. And if it goes wrong, I've got your back. And if it goes wrong, we'll clean it up, we'll fix it. And we'll look at how did you come to that decision. So we can inform everybody on how to make better decisions going forward. So not only do I think decisions at the coalface are important and valuable, I think they're necessary. And it's really, really empowering. There's a whole lot of debate about the word enabling versus empowering, but we won't go there. But I think it's the right approach.

Jake Shaw  06:31

I agree. It's better that one travels in the wrong direction, and then realises it rather than not travel at all. What do you think about this situation, though, where you have businesses that have been merged, where you've got different cultures coming together? How would you overcome that problem of bringing cultures together like that?

Troy Norcross  06:50

Well, the first step in that, as far as I'm concerned, is to admit the two cultures exist, but assume that you're going to flick a switch, and then you're going to be part of our culture. And these are our processes, and you're going to forget everything else that you knew, and you're just going to come across, and that's not going to happen. And so then you say, okay, you bring a huge amount of value. And you have your own culture, we have our own culture. And let's figure out how to incorporate these things slowly. And, of course, we like to spend lots of time personally networking, going to the pub, you know, talking at the watercooler and those kinds of things, and learning each other, because at the core of all of this is another magic word, trust. Because if you trust the people that you're being merged into, or that you are merging into your corporation, but you are all absolutely trying to do the same thing and work together, you can let a lot of stuff slide and you can say, Wow, okay, that doesn't really work. But I trust, we're all going to go the right way. Or that's really uncomfortable that I'm going to trust you and I'll come to your software tool, I'll come to your sales process, but you got to trust.

Jake Shaw  07:57

So that brings you back to your empty chair.

Troy Norcross  07:59


Jake Shaw  08:00

So if you think about sort of a founder of startup, you startup businesses, I startup, this is where you do start there on your own with a computer and a phone.

Troy Norcross  08:09

You get a co-founder, hopefully, for anybody who's listening, the best co founders is one business person and one technology person don't get too techies don't get to business people, that doesn't work. So one to two is fine. The minute you add a third person, you've got a new dynamic and then you go four  56789. And then you get to 10. That means the first digit has changed again to a one. And now I need to have ideas about what are our values and what are our principles, and they go 1112 until 30. Now I need to have an HR process. Now I need to have structure. Now I need to have an employer handbook. And then I go to 100 and then 300, and then 1000 and 3000. And so every time that first digit changes from a one to a three to a one, two or three, you can do another layer of growing your organisation and keeping everything together.

Jake Shaw  09:05

You said something earlier about digital maturity. I'll give an example of digital immaturity in the US government sent out a check to everybody, didn't they? Yes, I got mine. A check. A piece of paper a check 

Troy Norcross  09:20

not only sent checks to anybody who wasn't registered with their bank details with the IRS. He sent a pre letter and a post letter advertising in paper to every single citizen across the whole of America, reminding them that 45 had given them this cheque. That's a lot of trees. Start digitising your business at the get go.

It does but the point of the book and this is the technology fallacy. It says the tools are really irrelevant. The digital maturity applies to the people and their willingness to adopt the tools and the way they look at solving problems using available tools. The old Moore's Law, every so many years, processors get twice as fast and half as big. So we're no longer talking about processors or the amount of RAM or even disk space that you can get. We're limitedly talking about bandwidth, all of that kind of fading into the background, which comes to another one of my principles, which is the best technology is invisible. You don't want to talk about technology one time, but what it can do in a digitally maturing organisation. So there are three levels, there's beginning, there's in the middle, and then there's kind of digitally maturing, so there are no digitally mature organisations, because you never stopped maturing. And this is kind of the journey that we can go on. And the people who are lifelong learners, the ones able to adapt and to adapt to change, willing to try, experiment and fail, are the ones that then kind of move towards this digital maturing space. And the ones that are locked and loaded in a business model that's worked for the last 20 years, why in the world would we change it? They're still using the stone mill, grinding for flour, and there's no reason there's no benefit. And there's huge risk in their minds of changing

Jake Shaw  11:09

you brought up the point about COVID is that that is the thing that's causing this digital maturing to go into hyperdrive. I mean, people are really having to get to grips with it now.

Troy Norcross  11:20

So Milton Friedman made a quote several years ago, and I've been using it a lot during this whole wicked podcast series, that in the event of a crisis, actual or perceived is the only time when real change happens. And the change happens based on the ideas that are lying around. Now this was going to short circuited and readopted by most of the big kind of like McKinsey and CO's saying, never waste a crisis, you know, but the positive side of that in light of COVID is, we had all of these plans for remote working, we had all of these plans for digital transformation, we had all of these plans. And we were waiting for the right time. And then somebody who had all these plans pulled out the drawers that hey, fellas got the plan, we can do it now. And suddenly rapid acceleration and rapid kind of fail because we don't have a time to try and make it perfect. Where does it get it out there and adapt on the way?

Jake Shaw  12:18

Moving on from that you've read all these books? Where do you think the opportunities are? And what sort of people businesses do you think having read all this stuff are gonna really, really benefit post this lockdown, and where we are now,

Troy Norcross  12:34

the ones that support the transformation from globalisation to hyper localization, kind of the big archetype trends. And I don't know how long it's going to last. But I think it's going to last longer, especially as we continue to have second and third waves kind of come through. And I work for a lot of people in Hong Kong, and they were all back in the office. And now they've had a huge outbreak. And they're all back in and the CEO said this morning, you got to get used to it. We're not going to see each other for a while. So this is going to be a long time. So you get people in London saying Well, there's urban drain, that starting to happen. It's been proven now I can indeed work remote. So why should I have to live in the rat race and pay horrendous prices? Why don't I move out to the country? I can't sell to millions and millions of people, Tesco or Sainsbury's or something like that. So I'm going to sell it to the local market, the local merchants and I'm going to keep more of the margin. So hyper localization, that means they need help. So people like zero, who can do tiny small business accounting, or even into it can do small business accounting, and really interesting people who understand micro advertising, not necessarily on Facebook, but it could be on Facebook, but how do I advertise in the village? How do I advertise to the people that are hyperlocal, I really, as a catchment area needed 2000 people, I don't need to reach all and sundry across the whole planet. So businesses will need that I was having dinner with someone last night, and they're setting up a zoom meeting production company. So these people are doing zoom meetings with 300 500 1000 people. And this company is being set up to the producer, one producer so I manage your slides. And she said, Look, it's just like you would have at a major conference. You don't have the speaker, trying to manage the sound system and trying to manage the lights. You let the speaker get up on stage and do their work. So anything that supports teleworking, also cyber security, cyber security and remote working IT security is another main area and I'll stop it those three.

Jake Shaw  14:44

What's gonna happen to those businesses in those urban areas that used to make their money selling in lunchtime sandwich?,

Troy Norcross  14:49

that's one of the real serious challenges for Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London is how do we address the fact that people are no longer going in and whether it's the small sandwich shop or In the barbers and the beauty salons and the newsagent and all the rest, and there's not going to be enough trade for them to stay, and many of them will go. And that's just the reality of it 20 to 30% capacity and most offices and nothing more, and that's not going to start till October or November. And that's the best forecast based on what I saw happen in Hong Kong.

Jake Shaw  15:23

 Wow, where do people find the wicked podcast?

Troy Norcross  15:26

You can find the wicked podcast on pod automatic is also available on Spotify and on iTunes, the wicked podcast, you can also go to the wicked the website

Jake Shaw  15:37

and when people find you if they want to get in touch with you directly about strategy and things like that.

Troy Norcross  15:42

Great so you can go to  or blockchain And please also find me on LinkedIn or on Twitter and on Twitter @Troy_Norcross or @Igetblockchain

Jake Shaw  15:57

Bye Troy. Thank you for listening. If you'd like to hear more podcasts like this, please go to and don't forget to like and share this podcast