Technology continues to transform the business world – and with it the scale and scope of its leading edge exponents.
Potential dark clouds of Brexit may be gathering, but in the Thames Valley it appears the ‘cloud’ of modern technology is continuing to advance with a very profitable silver lining.
Today’s digital world of virtual offices, multi-channel online communication and ‘in the cloud’ operational systems is providing entrepreneurial opportunities and ample examples of successful growing businesses – companies having willingly embraced and harnessed this fourth industrial revolution.
Yet interestingly, the growth of these digital-savvy companies at the head of our contemporary change appears to be underpinned by traditional business principles and values.
While today’s technologies can connect the businessworld to billions more consumers within worldwide markets or drastically improve production, organisational efficiency and asset management, those age-old human values of good business remain vital and underpin sustainable growth.
Managing business growth today often depends upon conventional management:
‘Keeping the customer satisfied’ with trusted industry knowledge and advice, staff skills and great teamwork, client service standards and reliable performance, consistent quality and ‘value for money’.
At least, that’s my opinion, writes John Burbedge. Judge for yourself.
Read how the managing directors of five fast-growth companies that standout impressively within our dynamic Thames Valley economic region, responded when we asked them for insights on their successful growth.
Colin Blumenthal, MD of High Wycombe-based Complete IT
For over 25 years, Complete IT has provided local IT support to more than 400 SME clients, building IT services that meet their specific needs and priorities, and helping to plan their ‘future IT Roadmaps’.
Turnover £11.9m; Previous year £10.4m; Growth 14.4%
“The ‘cloud’ has been a major turning point for Complete IT over the past few years with many of our clients migrating at least some of their systems to the cloud. We have invested heavily in research, training and development to ensure our teams are fully up to speed on new technologies and that we are recommending and implementing the very best solutions for our clients.
“We have also started a series of educational seminars aimed at helping our clients to educate and enable their teams with the tools they need to keep their businesses safe and secure. The rise in ransomware and other cyber crime has meant that this has to be at the very top of our priorities for all clients.
“We have acquired two businesses within the past 12 months – PlusTech, an Aylesbury-based IT support provider and AMA Business Systems, who are Bristol-based experts in the supply, support and training of ERP, EPOS, hardware and cloud services. These acquisitions have meant we can further our reach within those locations and have added valuable resource, expertise and solutions into our portfolio.
“One of the challenges we face is ensuring our clients understand the importance of a multi-layered approach to securing their systems and data.
“With cyber criminals continually coming up with new ways of infiltrating business systems we have to make sure our clients are as clued-up and protected as they can possibly be. If their data is stolen or the business goes down with no backup, it could mean significant downtime or in the worst case the end of that business.
“Complete IT works in a consultative way, really getting to know our client’s business and systems before entering into a partnership. We become a part of our clients’ businesses ensuring we work together to help them meet business goals.
“We know that people want to be rewarded for what they do, but we know that our team also want something more, something sustainable and valuable in the long term for their career. That’s why we have a clear people strategy and plan which delivers that support and development, alongside a culture where people have fun and are rewarded and recognised for their contribution.”
Lee Biggins, founder and MD of Fleet-based CV-Library
Launched in October 2000 as one of the country’s first employment websites, last year CV-Library had a database of nearly 12 million CVs, was the third-largest UK job-board, and worth an estimated £100 million.
Turnover £30.5m; Previous year £24.7m; Growth 23.8%
“A huge driver of our growth over the past 12 months has been the expansion of our client-base to more corporate and SME businesses, which brings in greater revenue and contributes massively to our bottom line. Alongside this, we place high importance on client retention, which is driven by our outstanding customer service offering.
“Like any growing business, we’ve faced some challenges along the way, but establishing a strong senior management team, built-up with key directors from each area of the business, has helped significantly. Each head of department is there to help guide staff and drive the business forward; working closely with myself to ensure we are the best that we can be and that employee morale remains high.
“With an effective leadership team in place, we are in an extremely positive position when it comes to pushing our business to new heights. Through a combination of strong sales, marketing and e-commerce work, we have maintained an extremely impressive financial standing over the past three years – establishing ourselves as a leader in the industry.”
David McLeman, CEO of Bracknell-based Ancoris
Ancoris is cloud services provider with a successful digital transformation practice. Its certified specialists guide customers on their ‘cloud journeys’, away from legacy systems to affordable cloud and mobile services.
Turnover £7.5m; Previous year £5.04m; Growth 49%
“Back in 2008, we saw the advent of cloud computing combined with the arrival of smart mobile devices as the next fundamental computing evolution. The transition to an “as-a-service” subscription business model relies on developing services that meet our customers’ ongoing needs.
“Ancoris has grown by 49%, our highest growth yet, arguably due to our unrelenting
commitment to customer success. This is best demonstrated by our exceptional Net Promoter Score of +67% and recognition by our own industry. In September, Ancoris won the Computing Cloud Excellence Awards top prize as Most Innovative Cloud Vendor of the Year.
“We are one of a handful of UK Google Cloud Premier Partners, and focus on transforming our customers’ workplace. We enable modern and flexible working practices, allowing people to work from any device, anywhere, anytime with real-time collaboration tools and applications.
“Working with Google Cloud, we use our specialist development skills to create web and mobile SaaS applications that provide greater flexibility, performance, and resilience. This means we can enable a faster pace of technological change and help drive our clients’ evolving business models.
“We foster an agile and collaborative culture, delivering measurable benefits to customers by being bold and innovative in both our thinking and approach. We are determined to help customers transform their business in the way that works best for them, not us.”
Matt Franklin, MD of Newbury-based Roc Technologies
Roc is a privately-owned, award-winning transformation and IT services provider that is helping organisations in the UK and internationally to change successfully.
Turnover last year £25 million; Previous year £15.8m; Growth 58%
“Roc has a deep heritage in technology solutions and in 2014 developed a business process transformation capability. This combination of process and technology transformation is unique in the market.
“Business change and IT projects are notorious for running over time and budget, often with catastrophic effects. Roc’s growth has been due to our capability to guarantee successful outcomes to clients by applying our unique process, projects and technology services.
“We employ some of industry’s most experienced subject matter experts who use our toolsets to deliver change up to 70% faster and significantly more cost effectively than our competitors, who often are not able to combine the business process with technology solutions.
“Establishing and sustaining a fast-growth business is not without its challenges. We have re-invested all of our profits into building efficient operations in many cases ‘drinking our own champagne’ by using the solutions we sell our customers.
“Our aspiration is to build a sustainable business that transforms the world – one organisation at a time.”
Supporting its growth plans Roc recently gained investment from BGF, which provides access to a £2.5 billion fund. Roc has used this initial investment to secure its first acquisition.
David Griffiths, MD of Reading-based FISCAL Technologies
FISCAL Technologies award-winning forensic accounts payable software has been safeguarding organisational business-spend for more than 14 years.
Turnover £4m; Previous Year £2.6m; Growth 53.8%
FISCAL’s rapid growth is a culmination of leading-edge technology that delivers rapid return on investment, dedicated management, and engaged employees focused on driving growth throughout the business, explained Griffiths.
“Austerity has sharpened the resolve of many organisations to protect spend and reduce risk. This has provided a compelling opportunity to demonstrate the potential savings and risk management
benefits of FISCAL’s products, especially in previously untapped business sectors like healthcare, education and local government.
“So far FISCAL Technologies has reinvested for growth, avoiding the need for external funding, but the key challenge has always been education. Not within the company, but among organisations that are unaware of the magnitude of losses that can occur when invoice processing and supplier management are not closely monitored. Even organisations with robust internal controls and procedures can benefit from continuous forensic monitoring, as our ROI track record attests.
“FISCAL Technologies is very proud of the cohesive and dedicated team that underpins our continued rapid growth. We encourage staff participation and engagement, which enables our driven, agile employees to continuously develop the best technology and provide the best service.
“Our core strength lies in unmatched forensic technology and the proven cost savings and risk management benefits this technology affords. We are expanding our reach through new partnerships and into new geographies such as Europe to build on the strong growth we have achieved so far.”
Penningtons Manches’ view:
Growth can begin a journey of fresh business experiences, even for proven competent management teams.
And, like any venture into the unknown, it’s wise to take advice from those who have already travelled that journey, overcome the pitfalls and discovered the safest routes to desired destinations – professional ‘trip advisors’ who know the lie of the land.
As Justin Starling, partner in the Reading office of leading law firm Penningtons Manches, highlighted: “Business clients can be expected to be highly skilled in their own fields of expertise, but rapid growth – bringing new challenges such as funding and M&A activities, employee incentives, or international expansion into new jurisdictions, for example – can put pressure on management teams, processes and ultimately the entire business.”
He went on to add that the knowledge, business awareness and capabilities of professional disciplines – in particular law, finance, and accountancy– can help remove those pressures, resolve issues and ultimately save a client management time which they can then direct to their core commercial priorities. Impartial professional advice also provides confidence and certainty, underpinning key growth decision-making.
Commenting on the strength of technology businesses in the region his colleague Nicola McConville, a partner based in the firm’s Oxford office, said: “The Thames Valley is an incredibly fertile ground for tech companies and I feel privileged to have been able to work with so many innovators in the sector. From start-ups to well-established groups, local tech firms continue to blaze a trail both in the UK and globally. A lot has been achieved and there is a great deal to be proud of, but it’s rare to find a business that’s become complacent about its success – the drive to continually improve and reach the next level is a common factor.”