Julius Chepey of APi Group spells out why it’s imperative to always think like a business guy
Growing up in South Texas, Julius Chepey’s original career plan was to open his own restaurant. But after working ten years in hospitality and faced with a relatively dry local infrastructure, it was time for a change.
The road leading Chepey from restaurant management and general construction to acting as CIO of the APi Group was a long and winding one. But according to Chepey, every lesson he learned along the way was fuel for the fire.
“First and foremost, I am a business leader. I just happen to use information technology as one of the areas of focus or specialty, but I’m not limited by that.”
“Working in the hospitality industry with the demands of customer service teaches you that when you have a business to run, it’s about the basics of how to make money,” he says. “Manage stakeholder satisfaction, keep customers happy, etc.” Handling vendors, hiring a good crew, making payroll, and meeting quarterly goals are the basics of running a great restaurant—just like running a great IT department. “It’s never about super heroic efforts,” Chepey says. “It’s about building a team and creating a sustained, enduring capability.”
In 2010, Chepey came on board to APi Group, a major holdings company that plays parent to more than forty independent industrial and specialty construction businesses in the United States and the United Kingdom. As CIO, Chepey is responsible for strategic IT leadership and value generation. Orchestrating the nuts and bolts of technology for the company is certainly part of the job, but it’s not his primary motivation.
Reduction in overall IT baseline spend per head from 2010 to 2014
Reduction in time for service businesses to quote new work and issue accurate invoices
Locations, spanning forty companies, for which Chepey’s department deployed company-wide voice, video, and communications capabilities
“First and foremost, I am a business leader,” he says. “I just happen to use information technology as one of the areas of focus or specialty, but I’m not limited by that. That’s why I went and got an executive MBA—to get equipped with the tools and knowledge and ability to understand advanced business concepts.” You won’t ever hear Chepey say he can’t tackle a project because it’s not tech-oriented. “Technology is merely an enabler or an accelerator—it helps you achieve the business goals,” he says. Chepey adopts this attitude for every task, no matter how big or small.
For example, when faced with the task of implementing new field service software for all of the group’s service companies, his IT team partnered with business leaders to select and install the new system. Then he went above and beyond the tech side, taking on the role of project leader as well. The team tracked and published metrics and measurements to follow how well each company was using the new processes and software.
“This project was not something that IT ‘did to them,’ it was a combined, team effort,” Chepey says. “We accelerated the business initiatives and strategies and helped them achieve their goals.” One company that implemented this system has reduced the time it takes to prepare and send invoices by two-thirds.
Making everything with minimum effort is Chepey’s primary goal for every project. The approach provides a solid foundation for growth and profitability, something that’s hard to achieve when a CIO limits their role to simply acting as a technology fixer. It’s also what makes Chepey enjoy the job the most. He likens the feeling of success back to his early days in hospitality, using the perfect Mother’s Day service as an example: sales records broken, happy guests, satisfied cooks, and servers leaving with pockets stuffed with tips. That mirrors the feeling Chepey gets when an initiative concludes on budget and on time. “When it all comes together and we’ve achieved our objective, to me, that is the best,” he says.