The tech world is packed with innovators, progressive thinkers, and game-changers.

Having previously been called ‘cuckoo’ – which led to me setting up CloudCoCo – I probably share some of Willy Wonka’s entrepreneurial traits of my own, when it comes to looking beyond the obvious and proving what’s possible if you put your mind to it!

But the beginnings of my story are actually a little more Charlie Bucket. It’s something I’m absolutely not ashamed of talking about, although I don’t always let people in.

I came from an ordinary working class background,  an estate kid born into five generations of Halpin chefs.

At the age of 21, my world was turned upside down when I lost my father.

He was the hardest working man I’ve ever met. He always fuelled my everything, and the pain that stemmed from the grief of his early death, was like petrol on the fire to keep improving myself.

I wish I’d planned earlier for life after rugby

My perspective changed beyond words, plagued by the fear that I might also expire at the age of 40. Life suddenly felt very short, and I didn’t want to waste it.

We’d talked as a family about computers being the way to go, and I listened.

I catapulted myself into a role with InTechnology – now Redcentric – and everything stemmed from there. It’s crazy to think that, back then, I couldn’t even hold a glass of water in my interview, for shaking so much!

As my career in IT progressed, I held onto the values my parents instilled, and remembered every nugget of generosity, care, and faith that people showed throughout, just as I’d been taught to. Tech drives change in business, but it doesn’t do it alone.

In fact, during a board meeting in 2017, it was branded ‘cuckoo’ that an organisation’s principles could be based on kindness, hyper-responsiveness, hard work, and loyalty.

That was the catalyst for me creating my own managed service provider (MSP), CloudCoCo – an organisation committed to driving digital transformation the right way, with solutions that look beyond the kit within an MSP’s chosen tech stack, delivered by people who truly prioritise engagement and relationships, to support the actual adoption of the technology they’ve provided. It didn’t seem that far-fetched an idea. But it wasn’t common.

It stunned me, all those years ago, that we found ourselves using devices and apps in our personal lives, which offered us windows into such vast choice.

So, why, when it came to business technologies, were the options so comparatively restrictive?

Nobody was saying things like ‘tell me what you need to achieve, and I’ll help you get there’.

I’ll never forget my boss’s reaction when I crashed BBC iPlayer

Regardless of the mission statements on vendors’ websites – and however collaborative they sounded –  the goal was still how can I sell you X?’

We wanted customers to know they’d chosen the right MSP from day one, of course, but equally as important was their ability to keep reaping the benefits from their technologies – and our partnership for years to come. Our philosophy became ‘the future starts now’.

Fast forward to 2023, and we have 140 employees, over 1,000 customers, £25m turnover, our sights set on £100m, and I’m the CEO of what is now CloudCoCo plc. Perhaps I wasn’t cuckoo after all!

Our ongoing organic and acquisitive growth story has been one of continued twists and turns, in terms of expansion, brand building, sales and cash boosts, as well as the reduction of churn, cost savings, consolidation, integrations, and so on.

But throughout it all – with every takeover and restructure – culture has been key. It sounds almost trite to say it – so many businesses profess to prioritise culture nowadays after all. Yet it’s true.

I’ve always wanted my children to know that nothing is impossible if your heart is on fire and your mind is focused and I express the same sentiment to our staff.

How we engage with our customers, partners and each other, is how we grow.

Throughout every chapter of our story – even as we expand – it’s therefore important that people maintain their voice.

We need to create and nurture environments where they can speak their minds.

This isn’t always easy, especially for an ambitious organisation on a seemingly constant acquisition trail, but it remains our barometer. I want to be remembered as someone who gave life – and others – a shot, when people told me it wouldn’t work.

Importantly, for me, so many people who’ve represented stand-out moments in my career to date, are now on board the CloudCoCo journey too. I think this just goes to show that like-minded individuals want to be a part of something bigger.

If chapter one of our story was the start-up, chapter two was reversing into the plc, and chapter three was packed with the acquisitive deals, investments and innovations that went into building our platform, chapter four is the maturity of it all – a now established company, attracting incredible talent, and pushing the boundaries of multi-cloud transformations.

Whenever there is a shortfall now, between the tech that an organisation already has, and the tech that they need to thrive, we can deliver it, in a way that makes sense for customers and, importantly, works.

When you strip back all the jargon, the tech stacks, roadmaps, and business plans, what you’re left with is a bloody hard-working team of responsive, knowledgeable human beings who want to walk through walls for customers. This remains true – it’s in our DNA – and it will continue to take us forward, through chapters four, five, and beyond.

Having passed the age of 40, the fear surrounding my life expectancy has subsided, and I almost feel reborn, fired up with a new sense of perspective that will drive me through the next 40 years.

But my dad will always be the heartbeat of my personal journey, and I’ll never be embarrassed of being the Charlie Bucket.