Hi, I’m Neil. I grew up in Northern Ireland, went to university and started my career in Scotland, lived in London for 12 years and then Los Angeles for three years until I immigrated to Brisbane, Australia with my Aussie-Danish wife and our two American-British-Irish-Danish-Australian kids. So now you know why I have a strange accent.
I’m a business consultant that helps customers implement CRM software using an agile approach I call Customer Agility. If you think that sounds like the best job on earth, you’d be right. That’s exactly how I feel too.
I studied biochemistry at Edinburgh University and during my final year I applied for every graduate position in every big company I could think of. And some I had never even heard of. I interviewed with lots of companies all over the UK. I got exactly zero offers by the time I graduated. So I applied for a role as a ‘resourcer’ at a local, family-run IT recruitment firm in Edinburgh and was fortunate enough to start my career in sales right there.
The first CRM system I ever used was called Cardbox. It was 1996 and it was mind-blowing stuff. The company was acquired a couple of years later and we got a new CRM system. I was asked to visit our offices in London, Manchester and Leads to map out how each office was using the system and what changes we should make — my first role as a business analyst!
For a short time I joined the Royal Bank of Scotland’s internal management consultancy as they tried to sell their consulting services to the bank’s customers. The job didn’t last long — RBS acquired NatWest and all our consultants were directed onto internal merger projects — but three great things came out of it. I met a girl, Natascha. I had a great manager who taught me heaps about management consulting. And I got to perform a CRM process and systems review. That introduced me to Onyx CRM software and a new job in Kingston-upon-Thames with UK Onyx partner, Interliant.
Unfortunately, Interliant didn’t last too long but I got to learn about the application service provider model (what we call cloud computing today). And I got to work with another great manager, who hired me as a freelance CRM consultant in his next role at Rackspace to help them implement Onyx. It was Rackspace that really gave me a taste for cloud computing combined with Fanatical Support so once that project was done I called Sage, Salesforce.com and Microsoft to see if I could become a hosting partner.
In April 2006, I used all my freelancer savings to establish Increase CRM, the UK’s first Microsoft Dynamics CRM hosting partner. Over the next three years I grew that business to 10 team members and that’s where I met Debbie Thornton at Premier Medical Group and had my first agile CRM experience.
Increase CRM was sold in 2009, just before Microsoft launched their CRM Online service in the UK, and I set up Customery and went freelancing again. I got involved in some bigger projects: some agile, some traditional. Most were successful. Some less so. The agile projects seemed to correlate with rewarding work and successful outcomes. So when I moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and started leading the SoCal CRM practice at Slalom Consulting, we used Scrum as our preferred methodology and delivered some great agile CRM projects with some fantastic clients like Advantage Sales & Marketing and American Homes 4 Rent.
By 2015 my US work permit was expiring and it was time to ship out. This time to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, and a new role as director of the national CRM practice at KPMG; where I’m once again having a blast evangelising Microsoft Dynamics CRM and agile frameworks.