Roger Barclay recalls the pivotal moment when he knew his 40-year career at IBM was ending.
“I was at the company’s annual kick-start to fire things up,” says Barclay. “There was this big rah-rah from speakers and I remember thinking I’d heard this all before.
“As one of older guys, I felt it was my time to go.”
Barclay’s started in IBM’s technical area, maintaining the room-sized computer systems; he finished up leading IBM’s Australia’s Technology Strategy consulting practice.
The company offered him to stay on in any capacity, regardless of whether that was one day a week or more.
“I felt intuitively, if I didn’t cut ties, it would be difficult to transition into something else, otherwise I was anchored back to what I was doing.”
In 2009, aged 59 years, he retired.
In the early days of his retirement, Barclay built a website to store vintage aerial photos which belong to his wife, Beth’s family.
“There were 50 years of New Zealand vintage photos in the collection; almost a national treasure. As I built the website, my technical expertise grew. I came through with an understanding of how to enable a website.”
Another project involved giving back to his beloved tennis community.
In 2011, Barclay joined the management committee at his local tennis club, the Eastwood Thornleigh centre.
“I wanted to give back to an organisation that had done a lot for my family over the years. Beth and I both played competition tennis and our kids played there too. It was big part our life and community.”
His first project there was to develop a business strategy and identified the paucity of business systems that were available to community tennis centres.
“I tried to source an online booking system for them but there was nothing available that fitted properly so, in a weak moment, I decided to develop one.”
Barclay Consulting took on the task of developing a low-cost on-line booking system. The system was subsequently implemented at the Eastwood Thornleigh centre in 2011.
Amongst the insights gained, he realised that there were few affordable business systems available to community tennis organisation to achieve administrative efficiencies.
Beth Barclay chimes into the conversation.
“It’s important to note that during this period, tennis was hemorrhaging. Young players were turning to soccer, netball and other sports. If something wasn’t done to change the way tennis was managed, it wasn’t going to survive.”
As time went by, Roger adds, it became obvious that tennis centers were requiring more automation and the focus shifted to enabling the automatic control of gates, lights and the ability to remote manage centres.
“At the time there wasn’t much in the way of automotive products in the market and, those that were there were extremely expensive.”
The Barclays developed software and hardware programs that enable players to book courts online and access the facilities without having to have someone on hand.
He adds he was fortunate in that Beth was working for an international software provider and was able to help with the development work.
“I could also see a place for her in the business when she retired.”
In 2017, Beth joined Roger in the business as more organisations implemented their program.
“It took off organically,” says Roger. “That booking system has become the core of what we offer, today we have around 40 clubs in three states running our software.”
As interest in the booking system grew, so did the range of products the Barclays developed; which were developed quite cheaply and funded in-house.
“We produced an automation solution that was a fraction of the cost of the alternatives, and that’s why it’s being picked up.”
In particular, the community clubs benefited as they are run by volunteers and they do not have large funds.
In 2018, the Barclay Consulting Services tennis systems were consolidated under the TennisBCS brand name.
The pandemic lockdowns have worked in their favour as more sports clubs such as bowling and cricket implemented their systems.
“We been able to re-fit the platform and adapt to each sport requirement,” adds Beth.
“We may be in lockdown, but tennis is one of the few sports that you can still participate in, albeit single only, so we have been kept very busy. It's very satisfying to see tennis players accessing the courts via our technology.
“It has been a labour of love for many years and now it’s got legs.”
Through his transitioning experience, Roger offers the following tips:
· Giving back increases your exposure to stimulating ideas.
· Welcome the slowing down that happens when you retire - it creates room for new things.
· You’ve got to get bored to drive some sort of change; being bored is not bad.
· Examine all the skills you have developed over the years and look at what you enjoy doing. It’s the intersection of these that provide insights into what you could do.