Philip White has been part of the Syscap team for more than two decades; moving from Sales Director to CEO and more recently being appointed Managing Director, he has been an influential figure in the growth and success of our company. We caught up with Phil to talk commitment, company cars and Crystal Palace…
Phil’s strong work ethic and people values were instilled by his parents from a very young age. “They taught me that life is all about striking a balance between trying to be the best, and recognising that life is short and enjoying the journey.” As a child and as a teenager, Phil had aspirations of becoming a professional footballer; he played for a number of teams and was a ball boy for his (still) favourite club, Crystal Palace. Yet, despite this commitment to the sport, he simply wasn’t professional standard.
But, all was not lost. Playing and supporting football equipped Phil with essential skills he would come to need later in life. “The sport taught me about team ethos, culture, camaraderie, support, respect and commitment.”
Not knowing what he wanted to do, Phil attended CDT College for two years where he learned about the business side of catering. His Dad was a bookkeeper for a catering company at the time, so it seemed like a viable career path.
Fresh out of college and aged 18, Phil found himself flicking through a job magazine when one advert grabbed his attention: salesman at Smithfield Meat Market. It wasn’t the role itself that caught his eye, but the fact that the job came with a company car. Phil applied and a couple of weeks later, he made his way to the market for his first shift.
“It was a defining role for me,” Phil said. “Smithfield is steeped in history and culture. It was character building.” Working at the market taught Phil a lot about serving customers; his clients ranged from independent butchers to large department stores and 5 star restaurants, and they all had different needs and requirements.
Though Phil enjoyed his job he didn’t see it as a long-term career, and so 18 months later he left the market to become a trainee negotiator for an estate agent. The property market was booming at the time but more importantly for Phil, there was another company car involved.
“The company was revolutionary in its approach to property management. They were customer-centric and pro-active in the way they helped clients buy and sell property.” In no time at all, Phil was promoted to a senior sales position, before becoming the company’s youngest manager of a newly-opened branch in Fulham. A couple of years later, however, the company was acquired by a large bank and all of a sudden, it lost that sense of entrepreneurship, energy and customer service Phil loved so much.
“My first jobs were sales positions, but it never really felt like I was selling. What I was more focused on was engaging people. It was more about understanding customers’ needs and ensuring they were satisfied.”
Phil’s first foray into the leasing market came when he landed a job as a sales assistant for a leasing firm. The firm specialised in leasing cars to SMEs and corporate businesses and Phil soon learned that it’s better to get the best out of what you have, instead of continually looking for more. “I realised that once you supplied and leased to customers, they had other needs – plant, machinery, technology needs, for instance.”
Phil worked for the leasing company for a short while before moving to MSB International. He had developed an interest in the IT market and this new role offered a fast-track into understanding more about it – what it was, what it did, and how it could serve different businesses.
With a sound knowledge of the leasing industry and the IT sector, Phil secured a job at Systems House Group, now Syscap, in 1993. Despite knowing all about the IT sector, Phil had little experience with the technology itself and so felt daunted when he was presented with an Apple Mac Classic on his first day at work. “I didn’t want to admit that I was basically computer illiterate.”
Phil’s first job at Syscap involved engaging with dealers to help them sell their equipment. Phil’s computer competency improved over time and he began progressing through the business, helping to lead the company into different markets. “You’ve got to be prepared to do the hard yards. I noticed huge growth potential in Syscap, and I wanted to be part of that growth story.”
It’s been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for Syscap, which has survived buyouts, restructuring and an economic meltdown. “We have some of the best people in the industry and it is their customer-centric approach and loyalty that has resulted in our success. As we enter our next stages of development, I can’t help but feel incredibly excited.”
Phil admits that he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for his wife and four children. “They have been incredibly supportive and have given me the platform to invest time in the business.”
Phil’s three sons and daughter all support Crystal Palace and hold season passes. “Whether it was a case of me influencing them or inflicting it upon them, I’m not too sure.” Phil’s youngest son manages his own football team, and Phil finally managed to get out on the pitch last month.
“As I sit here, thinking of my family and looking out over the office floor, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed. Sometimes we just get lucky, and we’ve got the make the most of that luck.”