Resolving challenges and acting with integrity: Matthew Batchelor on working as a Mercia Growth Partner

Matthew Batchelor works with Mercia as a growth partner to help our portfolio businesses resolve challenges and accelerate growth. Drawing upon on his expertise as a CTO for businesses such as Thomson Reuters and FindMyPast, Matthew has worked with Mercia backed businesses; Pimberly as an adviser and Rockar Tech as interim CTO and then as an adviser.

We sat down with Matthew to discuss his career journey so far, how his values inform his actions and why success is its own reward.

What prompted you to transition from a full time CTO career to working as an independent adviser?

After 20 years in technology, I set up Integrity Partners to leverage my experience to support a wide variety of businesses in a variety of sectors. As an employed CTO I’d go into businesses to support their scale up and fix technology challenges. But I was very mindful of the fact that, as a CTO, I was one of the most expensive people within the business and I felt that as soon as I’d fixed a particular problem, that my value within the business was diminished. I knew that I wanted to work with multiple businesses at the same time and see the synergies.

When are you brought into a company?

I get brought into a business when there is a need for a solution, whether this is around scaling the business or at certain pivot or inflection points. Within this context, success is achieved by focusing on people, process, platform and product. And invariably because my approach is empathy-led, typically the solutions can be found within the businesses themselves.

This approach proves to be very effective because change can be delivered in such a way that the integrity of the business organisational structure can be maintained yet often people are better empowered to lift their performances. In the event that this is not possible, a sympathetic team redesign that recognises someone’s contribution and strengths can be equally successful retaining key skills within the business.

What do you find rewarding?

I find it most rewarding to find people-centric solutions that will help a business to scale and then see the result of what I’ve achieved after I leave the business. I also really appreciate mentoring and staying in touch with the smart people who have created those businesses. I can see how they are getting on, and then help them when they grow into other businesses. I’ll keep that network to see where they are up to or actually help them with the next stage of their career.

My son’s favourite film is Nanny McPhee, so I’ve seen it a lot on Sundays, and one day the penny just dropped: I’m like Nanny McPhee. “When you need me, but don’t want me, I must stay. But when you want me, but don’t need me, I must go.”

You mentor business leaders and students at the University of Birmingham. What do you enjoy and find comparable about mentoring students and business leaders?

One of the most rewarding things I see, when working with a student or a CTO, is that ‘Aha!’ moment when the penny drops. Then, when my mentee puts that into practice, which could be in a lecture or a board meeting, and they receive positive feedback and are happy and really enthusiastic about the advice I gave, I relish it – it’s the reason why I do what I do.

I went to the University of Birmingham and it was important to me that I gave back. I would have loved to have met someone similar to me as a student to answer the questions I had about what my career should look like, entry avenues to different professions, and those type of things. I get to offer something that I wish I could have had.

Why did you decide to work with Mercia?

In my experience, there are two types of funds. The ones that I like to work with tend to  listen to their portfolio, they work with them and they want them to succeed.  Mercia are my kind of people; they are empathetic. They believe in their portfolio and work with them, not against them.

What are your core values and what values do you look for in the companies you work with?

I named my business Integrity Partners because integrity is at the core of everything I do. I value people who, when they say they are going to do something, they follow up on it; I value those who are very open, honest and transparent. And they don’t view people as rows on a spreadsheet but as individuals. Diversity is also really important to me.

What would you define as a key challenge in technology-led businesses?

Often, CTOs don’t have a seat at the boardroom table yet in many instances they are 50% of the business. Not having board exposure to the CTO is incredibly limiting for growth, especially for a technology-led business. They are intrinsic to the success of a business from start-up through the scaling process. And if they are not able to fulfil this role as the business scales, then there are effective ways of retaining this IP and expertise in the business that is a win-win for the CTO and the business.