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Grit, The Primary Ingredient for Success: “Be resilient” With Darren Roos, CEO of IFS and Phil Laboon

Be resilient: It’s extremely cliché but it’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters, it’s how many times you get back up. I have failed many times in my career in almost every role I’ve had. Everyone makes mistakes. Your ability to learn from them and then shrug them off and keep […]


Be resilient: It’s extremely cliché but it’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters, it’s how many times you get back up. I have failed many times in my career in almost every role I’ve had. Everyone makes mistakes. Your ability to learn from them and then shrug them off and keep going is directly proportional to the success you will achieve


Darren Roos is CEO of Sweden-based IFS, a global company of 3,500 that creates and manages component-based software for ERP, enterprise asset management and field service management initiatives.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Darren Roos, the CEO of IFS. The native South African recently joined IFS from SAP where he led the company’s cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) business. In his IFS role, Darren has an opportunity to lead the strategy for a company that, by all accounts, is already strong, growing and well respected by a cadre of loyal customers. But he’s not concerned – and he knows exactly what he can bring to the table to further accelerate growth. This confidence – and this grit – is exactly what got him here in the first place.


Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

I got a call from a head-hunter I knew asking me to meet with an exec from another company. I was settled where I was, but he sold the interview on the basis that I could walk from my current office. I thought what the hell, if it’s just a walk I’ll go. I ended up taking the role and over nine years rose from sales manager to international president and member of the board. The rest is history.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Early on in my career I worked for a marketing business in South Africa and was offered the chance to move abroad. I took a role which meant leaving my family behind and moving to Israel for a commission only sales role. At the time I was 22 years old and it was a daunting step, but I did it. I ended up living abroad for 4 years, I matured, developed incredible resilience and independence at a relatively young age. This period really seasoned me as a young leader and I learned a tremendous amount about people and myself. I learned to adapt to change and take nothing for granted.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

In this case I didn’t have a choice. It was either succeed or starve. Failure was genuinely not an option.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

I was ambitious and understood that to achieve what I wanted required me to “get it done”. There was no shortcut or workaround to getting the recognition, promotion, success that I wanted. With my back to the wall I worked harder and made sacrifices that other people may not have been prepared to make. I sacrificed all contact with my family and friends and committed to the task at hand 100 percent.

So, how are things going today?

Today I work hard and make sacrifices but relative to what I’ve done in the past it’s manageable. Today I reap the benefits. I have an amazing family and live a privileged life which I have personally created. I take pride in the fact my parents gave me a good moral compass, love, a strong work ethic and an education – but I had to do the rest.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?

  1. Get out of your comfort zone: My story about moving abroad is a good example of making that happen.
  2. Work harder than everyone else: I’ve always felt that I couldn’t control being the brightest or most creative but can control how much I do.
  3. Grit alone isn’t going to get you where you want to be so find a sponsor: Success throughout my career has been massively accelerated by having a sponsor who ensured my next opportunity would be possible if I delivered. Still, you shouldn’t assume that delivering great results will mean you get promoted, it rarely works that way.
  4. Embrace change: My parents moved every two years when I was growing up and as an adult I have lived in 5 countries. Remember that life is a journey, so enjoy it. I have always reflected that when I’m 90 and think back on my life it’s the adventures I will remember. Relish all change, these are your future memories, good or bad.
  5. Be resilient: It’s extremely cliché but it’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters, it’s how many times you get back up. I have failed many times in my career in almost every role I’ve had. Everyone makes mistakes. Your ability to learn from them and then shrug them off and keep going is directly proportional to the success you will achieve.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

A now great friend, Peter Casey, who is a successful businessman and politician in Ireland has had a significant impact over the last 10 years. Peter has taught me many invaluable lessons, some of which I’ve shared in this piece.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Yes, I am an active philanthropist supporting various causes from HIV AIDS to the Battersea Dog and Cat shelter in the UK to an orphanage which takes care of handicapped orphan girls in Moldova. I think giving back is important and something I champion in my personal capacity and professionally as CEO of IFS.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, as CEO of IFS I have initiated several new CSR initiatives which will see all employees of IFS being able to give back to the communities in which we operate. I am particularly proud of an initiative in Sri Lanka where we will be supporting several underprivileged rural communities with projects related to education and infrastructure improvement.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Two critical lessons for me…

  • Lead from the front, never ask anyone who works for you to do something you aren’t doing yourself
  • Hire people who are way better at stuff than you are and then focus on creating an environment in which they can succeed. Also remember to ensure they have clear objectives and remove any obstacles that keep them from completing their tasks.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

As I’ve said above, I’m passionate about giving back. Perhaps an idea could be to start a movement where by every person who is fortunate enough to live in a society which enables us to not have to worry about our next meal could sponsor just one other person who isn’t so fortunate. Perhaps this could be dubbed the #mybuddy movement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is no right way to do the wrong thing or wrong way to do the right thing, I experience this every day of my life.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Twitter: @darrenroos and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/roosdarren/

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