The first time I met Joe McNally, who has died aged 69, was in 1984, when he had just set up Compaq's first UK office in one room in the centre of London. At the time, it was a one-man show. He apologised for the fact that he didn't have a chair for me to sit on, and he was shipping PCs to customers in black cabs. By 1995, he'd grown that business to $1 billion in annual sales, with an average annual growth rate of 51 percent.
And that was only part of the success story. McNally actually grew Compaq UK into a $6 billion business employing around 6,000 people, if you include Erskine -- the town where Compaq built a factory on a greenfield site. Erskine became a leading source of UK exports, and Compaq UK made up a substantial chunk of Compaq's global turnover.
McNally was born and raised on Tyneside, and was sacked twice by steel stockholders Miles Druce, where his father was managing director. He spent the next decade as a computer programmer with ICL and a computer salesman with Honeywell, who were among the mainframe giants of the day. He then ran southern sales operations for meat processors, FMC Harris, where he became CEO. He was literally bringing home the bacon.
A headhunter who noticed he had experience of both computers and general sales thought he might be a good candidate for the Compaq job. After visiting the company's head office in Houston, Texas, he was delighted to get it. He stayed with Compaq for 17 years, before retiring in 2001.
A couple of months after McNally left, HP bought Compaq in a $25 billion deal that effectively killed the company.
McNally had other interests including golf, shooting, and fast cars (he owned a Ferrari). For more than 20 years, he was also closely involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, and in 2011 was made a Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO), an honour that is in the personal gift of the Queen. By that time, he was already fighting cancer.
McNally is survived by his wife Anne, nee Buglass, whom he married in 1968, their two children, Kirsten and Joseph Daniel, and two grandsons, Millen and Joseph Jack.
Joseph McNally Born: 17 July1942 Died: 1 March 2012
Joe and Anne McNally collecting his CVO