Rob Clifton, Chief Operating Officer at Asite, talks to The Ortus Club’s Marcella Tortora about the challenges he’s currently facing and how he’s leveraging business trends in digitalisation and data procurement.
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Can you give us a one-sentence description of your company?
Asite is a data platform in the architecture, engineering, construction, and AC space, focused on capturing data to help our clients manage risk, cost, information on their projects, leverage that data for their use, and efficiency and improvement in their processes.
Can you describe the role of a COO in one word? Why?
As a COO, I would describe my role as someone efficient and able to execute tasks.
What current challenges are COOs facing right now? Can you identify a solution?
From my experiences, it’s all about how we drive businesses forward. Looking over at the long horizon, we want to take the company to further heights and bring everyone on board on that journey. The main challenge is dealing with people at many different levels within an organisation, and you’ve got to get them all pointing in the same direction. Asite is in a scale-up phase. We’re talking about high growth, lots of dynamism in the business, the requirement for many chains, and malleability in how people perform. It’s challenging to align everyone in the order the business needs to travel.
How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?
For context, this is my first job straight out of university, and I’ve already stayed for about seven to eight years in my professional career. I live by the motto to make the most of every opportunity I’m given. It’s been challenging, but I noticed that I could achieve a lot in this role. The more I worked within Asite, the clearer my vision was because I knew that this company would go places. I wanted to make the most out of that.
I’m a generalist in how I work. So, I move fluidly between different areas of the business, whether that’s sales, product development, or marketing. I would go into those roles to help make an opportunity for myself to drive the business even further. I believe that you need a strong foundation of hard work and dedication. You need to be passionate about what you do to find those opportunities and go for them.
“Stay focused, and think of your clients. Work towards your goals and your client’s success with a compelling strategy.”
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
Joining Asite was the most significant risk I’ve taken in my career. I’m a civil engineer by background, and I came out of university with a master’s degree. I was sponsored by a fantastic market-leading engineering organisation. I could have gone on to a graduate scheme and through the stages of that excellent organisation into a stable career based on what I’ve known and been studying for five years at university.
The risk for me was to go into remit technology that I didn’t think about in terms of background or experience studying. However, I can make something that will surpass what I could have achieved within an engineering remit.
How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years?
Today, the business is scaling up. Our company started with four people, and we currently have 500 employees. We’re growing that headcount at 25% a year. Our growing revenues went from 25 to 40, then 60 to 80. In a couple of years, I think the nature of my tasks will significantly differ. Five years ago, I would drift across different business areas, but now, I would have to dedicate myself to looking for specialists to take over and focus on critical areas.
What marketing/business trends are you taking advantage of right now?
By nature, the construction or AC space is one most under-digitalised areas of any industry. We must tap into that by providing value and clarifying why we should improve its digitalisation. The second is data. Much information is generally available, and there is a debate around the importance of data and why Asite is excellent at capturing those data. The question is how we leverage that data to provide value efficiently. We’ll need to tell our customers, clients, and prospects how we capture the data and how they get value using that data.
What career advice would you like to share with other COOs?
Keep your horizons open. Prepare the way the business is going to operate far into the future. It will require you to think about the processes and how you’re working at a level above anyone else today. Most importantly, it’s making the most of every opportunity.