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Surviving setbacks: How one Aussie start-up achieved international success

Stratsec was launched in its founders spare bedroom, based on a vision to change information and communication technology security in Australia. Since then, the business has overcome a number of challenges to grow into the most-recognised cyber-security firms in the country – an achievement recognised when stratsec won 2010 Telstra Business of the Year.  Here, head of delivery and operations Peter Lilley shares his tips for surviving business setbacks.

In the seven years since its launch, stratsec has grown exponentially. By providing companies with quality cyber security, it has become the largest and most recognised cyber security firm in Australia and achieved major wins against large multinational competitors, providing services to governments and corporations in over 20 countries.

stratsec’s success was recognised in 2010 when it was named Telstra Australian Business of the Year. The following year, stratsec was acquired by BAE Systems – which Lilley says was a turning point as it enabled the business to better invest in its people and consolidate its security capabilities, allowing it to deliver the best possible services to governments and corporations.

Success hasn’t come without its challenges though, with long sales cycles impacting cashflow and clients overseas proving difficult to engage. But Lilley says these are challenges that stratsec has proudly overcome.

Here, Lilley shares some advice for surviving setbacks and for how best to lead a business into the future.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt from the business?

Celebrate success and be willing to listen to others. Showing respect to my management and all members of staff has allowed a trusting relationship in the team where ideas flow, criticism is constructive and better decision-making occurs.

How has stratsec retained its customers?

We always try to maintain the quality of what we deliver to our clients and go beyond expectation. This generates trust and repeat business, as well as the all-important word of mouth. We treat criticism and complaints as an opportunity to improve.

How has technology enhanced the business?

stratsec has used technology for everything from creating innovative tools to enhance ICT security for our clients, to enabling staff to work securely from remote locations. We are continually looking at improvements to communication, security, applications and data integrity in order to deliver leading edge ICT security consulting, testing and research services.

What have been the biggest frustrations for stratsec as a business?

The cyber security industry deals with national and global threats that are constantly evolving. Success requires partnership between government and industry, which has to be built on trust. Despite the willingness of government and industry to work together, the machinery of government is frustratingly slow.

How can other businesses plan for the future?

Succession plans should not be used simply as a tool to replace someone who has left. They should also provide the ability for employees to move sideways in order to understand more about the business, and also provide incentive to learn, grow professionally, an enjoy a long-term career path.

What are your tips for maintaining a work-life balance?

There is nothing more important than ensuring you work to live, not live to work. I make sure that my focus is on my family when I am enjoying time away from work, putting the mobile away and thoughts of work to the back of my brain.

Stratsec’s full story can be found in a new eBook that celebrates the achievements of the 20 national winners of the Telstra Australian Business Awards from 1992 to 2011. Click here to download the eBook for free. 

The finals of 2012 Telstra Australian Business Awards will be held in Sydney, on 29 August.