Fronde chief sees collaboration as the key to company's success

By Holly Ryan

Fronde CEO Ian Clarke relishes the opportunities change provides.
Fronde CEO Ian Clarke relishes the opportunities change provides.

Sitting in the Fronde office in Auckland, chief executive Ian Clarke admits it's been a journey since his days as a South Otago sheep and beef farmer.

Clarke, who has been chief executive of the 22-year-old company for six years, says it's all about putting yourself in the way of opportunity.

Fronde's growth from $27 million to $63 million in the previous three years has seen a number of exciting opportunities emerge for the technology company.

In April, Fronde sold its mobile messaging platform Message Direct to Sydney company Soprano Design. The move lets Fronde retain operation of the product, while freeing up capital for other areas.

"When Soprano approached us about the sale, we had to ask ourselves, 'How does [Message Direct] fit with our strategy?' and aside from continuing to provide really good service to our existing clients, it didn't really fit ...

But if you look at Soprano and the products they do, it fitted well and they have ongoing investment in it which is great."

Soprano chairman Richard Favero said he was looking forward to integrating the platform with their business model.

The Fronde mobile messaging platform, focused on enterprise and government customers, was a perfect fit for Soprano, he said.

Customers could look forward to a continuing product innovation path, he added.

After three successive years of significant growth, Clarke says the company had a year of building capacity in 2013 which has seen more than 50 per cent growth in the sales team as well as in marketing, and a new executive team which he says will help support Fronde's new focus.

According to Clarke, Fronde's marketing message is now about "liberating clients from the constraints of the legacy IT", something he sees as an elevation of the company's approach to the market.

Aside from the strength of its products, Clarke puts the company's success down to its culture, and in particular to what he describes as the best way to develop innovation - through collaborative generosity. Even if it means working with the competition.

"We form very good relationships with clients, partners and competitors if we need to. Where you get that collaboration and that willingness to give, you tend to get innovation.

"Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum, it almost always happens as a result of collaboration, so the things you do to promote collaboration have a direct impact on your ability to innovate."

Clarke says his new focus is on the cadence of change within Fronde, following what he describes as the Jack Welch view - "to remain competitive you have to change faster than the competition". Accordingto Clarke, this makes for an exciting ride.

* APN - publisher of the Herald - holds a stake in Soprano Design.

- NZ Herald

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