Jonathan Summerfield started his career as an Analyst Programmer and progressed to CTO, designing and delivering large-scale transformational technology change programmes across various organisations such as Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Ladbrokes.
He is now CEO of Xiatech which he established 10 years ago to revolutionise data and integration solutions for their international customer base. Xiatech’s industry-leading SaaS platform, Xfuze ®, accelerates speed to market for organisations looking to integrate systems, create a Single View of Data (such as Customers, Products, Inventory & Sales) and deliver advanced Analytics & Insights.
Jonathan graduated from Leeds University with a Masters Degree in Management Studies. He is a keen football player, semi-professional magician and mad Arsenal supporter and lives with his wife, three daughters and dog in Hertfordshire
1. What values are most important to you as a leader?
The same values as we communicate and instil in our teams today at Xiatech:
Integrity, honesty, respect, equality, humility, reliability and importantly, have fun.
2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
On a personal level, probably my grandparents who escaped the Nazi invasions in Europe in WW2 and settled in the UK without any possessions and created a new life for themselves.
In business, I would say I admire most the real tech founders behind some of the biggest revolutionaries in the industry who have shaped our everyday lives. They all have their stories but have all inspired through being great leaders: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg. They have all changed a generation and how we live.
3. Best piece of advice you have been given?
Take calculated risks. Sometimes one can over-analyse a situation and spend too long coming up with an answer that might be wrong anyway. If the repercussions are not too great or costly, it is likely more efficient to take a calculated risk and go for an answer.
4. What would you tell your younger self?
A few things that I point towards, mostly through learning from my mistakes. I wish someone had taught me these lessons:
– Talk less and take people with you. You may know the answer but it’s important that your team have felt that they are part of the solution. Listen to the team and to your customers. They likely know more about the subject area than you do!
– Ask more than tell – I learnt this in my days at Tesco. Often asking a question will get a better response than telling someone your opinion. It is subtle point but asking people ‘what does everyone think about X’, rather than saying ‘I think the following…’ will receive a more positive response as you are involving others in the answer.
– Never lose perspective – often my team will ask why I don’t get angry. My normal response is that the world will not fall off its axis if there is a particular problem or issue or if someone has made a mistake.
– No surprises – often challenging someone on their opinion in a larger crowd will likely have a poor response. Pick your moments. Obtain alignment outside of a big meeting first rather than tackle someone head-on within a group meeting.
– Never be afraid to say you don’t know the answer – it takes a great leader to admit you don’t know something. It is fine to say you will get back to someone once you find out the answer.
– Over-communicate and manage expectations – people would rather that you tell them something bad has happened as soon as possible, rather than be tempted to try to resolve the issue first.
5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?
Importantly, I do not know all the answers and I am not always right. The answer is typically within the team somewhere and my job is to surface the answer somehow. Most CEO Founders have never been a CEO before, so it is important to recognise your shortcomings, embrace the the synergies of the team and nurture the knowledge that they have.
The other mantra I have is to treat everyone (your team and your customers) as you would like to be treated and make Xiatech a fun place to work. Your people are your lifeblood and represent your brand.