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View from the channel

Jo Berry, co-owner of IT support and services provider Central

Q: How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future? 

A: As a managed service provider, 2020 was an extremely busy year for us. Lockdown and the resultant move to remote working meant that a lot of our customers required support to update systems so staff could work from home and remain safe. As we’ve moved into 2021, this has remained consistent and we’ve continued to perform well as organisations have looked to put in longer term IT infrastructure strategies to manage new working practices, now and in the future. We’re confident that we’re going to have a great year ahead, too. We’ve celebrated a milestone trading anniversary of 30 years recently, so we’ve spent some time qualifying who we are as a business and putting into words what we’re all about. This – alongside a rebrand and new website launch – means we’re really excited to see what the future holds.

Q: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand? 

A: Social housing and manufacturing have been key verticals for us for a long time, as we’ve got a lot of expertise in these areas. In fact, we have over 20 years’ experience in the housing sector alone. We’re known in the industry to be a safe pair of hands – we’ve got a lot of heritage dealing with these organisations and have many long-serving members of the team who are known as experts in their field. 

In terms of services, we’re experiencing a lot of demand for infrastructure updates, as mentioned above, as well as cyber security as a ransomware pandemic has been happening at the same time as the virus!

Q: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities? 

A: We’ve always worked on quality rather than quantity, and that means seeking out the right opportunities, rather than just any opportunity. When we find the right client, with the right project, that’s when we can do our absolute best work – providing value to the customer and satisfaction to our teams that we’ve done a job well. This is reflected in our rebrand, which has allowed us to tell our story and showcase our values a lot better – hopefully resulting in the right clients being able to find us, and us being able to find them.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today? 

A: The same as it always has been – the increasing competition and being able to cut through the noise so that we can stand out. We want the right projects where we can harness the power of our specific expertise and do great work. We really do stand by our values and genuinely care about making a difference. For us, it’s about the human connection and relationship as much as it’s about the technology. Technology is a given and for Central it’s about demonstrating that we want to make a positive impact.

Q: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome them? And if so, what?

A: Vendors and distributors could possibly help us to overcome this challenge. Once they learn what Central is good at and understand our fantastic team, they’ll know where we’ll be the right fit and can refer us accordingly. That’s why it’s vital for us to listen to our partners and make sure the relationship is a two-way street. As we’re operating in a number of niche markets, it’s crucial that our vendors and distributors understand what we do well, and where we do it to the best of our abilities. As mentioned earlier, our differentiator is our people and desire always to go the extra mile.

Q: If you could change one aspect of your job what would it be and why? 

A: The time spent on busy motorways – that was the one great thing about lockdown!