Q: How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?
A: Business is very buoyant, with our service sales revenue up seven per cent compared to this time last year. Over the past 12 months we have seen significant growth in our managed services portfolio; consultancy projects have also increased substantially, particularly within the last three months; and our professional services team are currently booked up until March! We have just celebrated our 25th year in business, so with all of this in mind we are excited and confident about the future and the year ahead.
Q: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?
A: IT security is without doubt the number one technology concern for any responsible organisation. As an MSP, this represents an excellent opportunity for us and one which we will be focusing on over the next 12 months. The challenge for MSPs will be to re-define themselves as MSSPs without diluting their profit margins by bundling security into the existing managed services. Our strategy is to optimise our security offering and ensure that essential areas of security are delivered as part of our managed service plan, but we will also build a more comprehensive security package for businesses that require a standalone solution.
Q: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?
A: Our ethos has always been to provide excellent customer experience and over the past five years we’ve been on a journey to become a truly proactive MSP. Instilling a number of best practice frameworks has allowed us to achieve this and we now have the right elements in place to ensure we have credibility and authenticity when recommending the best technology for our customers. This has included re-shaping our support framework and adding new roles to the team, such as a CSI Manager and a Digital Transformation Consultant.
We are already reaping the benefits of our hard work, having been recognised as a top 25 MSP in the UK in the Channel Futures MSP 501 for two years running. In 2019 we refined our brand identity to ‘Your Lifetime IT Partner’ to reflect the collaborative relationships we have with our customers and we’ve already received some really positive feedback on our new look from customers and peers alike
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?
A: Although we are very much services driven, making a reasonable margin out of product fulfilment can be challenging. Our customers expect us to compete with online prices, which can drive our margins down and affect profitability. Secondly, the IT industry moves at such a fast pace that staying ahead of the curve is a constant, but exciting challenge.
Q: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome them? And if so, what?
A: Vendors and distribution need to ensure our trade pricing allows us to make a reasonable margin so that we can offer our customers a sustainable product fulfilment service. Regarding the speed of change in the industry, it would be great to have more support for sales, technical and marketing, as well as guidance through thought leadership. A great vendor or distributor is one who understands us and our market better so they can push the appropriate solutions to us.
Q: If you could change one aspect of your job what would it be and why?
A: To have more time to meet with peers. Occasionally, I am invited to trade events where there is an opportunity to network with industry contacts. On the rare occasions I find the time to attend, I always find the experience of comparing notes and bouncing ideas around very rewarding. I am always impressed by everyone’s openness and candour.