After a 30-year career with one of the world’s largest IT companies, Nick Gunn has turned entrepreneur with the launch of a new venture.
Nick took up a degree in Business Information Technology with Dorset Institute (the forerunner to BU) in the mid-1980s, with a hunch that IT might become a growth industry. His hunch turned out to be correct, and the degree acted as a springboard to a business analyst role with Hewlett Packard. He said: “During the degree I discovered a love for the business side of things, rather than computer programming, but the broader focus gave me an opening to work in the IT sector. I was the first in my family to attend university and it provided me with some great experiences, strong friendships and a good mixture of practical and theoretical knowledge which prepared me for my next step.”
That next step with Hewlett Packard was the start of a 30-year journey in which Nick progressed through the ranks, eventually serving as Senior Vice President responsible for procurement, real estate and travel worldwide. Along the way, Nick took up the opportunity to relocate to California, where he is still based today. Nick said: “Moving from the UK to America was obviously a big decision, but it was too good to pass up. Our children were at a stage that made the move easier and they have now grown up here and made the most of the lifestyle that California offers. My advice to others who want to follow a global career is to join a company that operates worldwide and do your best to secure relocation opportunities early on, before family life and other commitments become reasons not to do it.”
Family life has recently taken on a different focus for Nick as he has partnered with his son Charlie to launch their new business. Together, the pair have launched The NiVACK Group to advise mid-sized and enterprise companies on transforming their procurement, real estate and shared services functions. Nick reflects that the move from corporate life to running his own business has been an interesting one. He said: “I am now in my early 50s and I had intended to retire. After a few months I realised that retirement was not for me – or at least not yet – and I began to get approaches from business contacts to ask if I could advise them on their procurement. Going from working within a large and established brand name to going it alone has its challenges. It enables you to work in a more agile way, but you also have to learn to do a lot more yourself. I am experienced in what I do, but I am a novice entrepreneur and learning all the time. I have to say that I am loving the freedom and it's satisfying to see the immediate impact of our work on our clients.
“Having launched the business just as the pandemic hit, we had to quickly adjust our marketing strategy, from attending trade fairs to utilising LinkedIn. I have been struck by the generosity of the entrepreneurial community, and the support from previous colleagues and business contacts.”
Nick’s advice to others looking to make a similar shift later in their careers is to go for it. He said: “I would encourage anyone, at any stage, to stop and think about what they are doing and whether it’s time to make a change. So much has changed in terms of typical working patterns and traditional life stages that we shouldn’t get locked in to thinking that a current path has to be the only one.”