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View from the Channel

With Leon Wheeler, MD of The ICC Group 

The ICC Group is an IT solutions provider headquartered in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, with branch offices in Basingstoke, Castle Donington and Glasgow. Established in 1998, it meets the IT needs of SMEs, enterprises and public sector customers across the UK by providing IT hardware (including servers, storage and infrastructure), maintenance & 24x7x365 support of business-critical systems, and managed services. The latter is a fast growing part of the business, in which The ICC Group continues to invest with additional headcount and new partner relationships, most recently with managed EDR specialist Custodian 360. This will enable The ICC Group to provide new and existing customers with effective and managed endpoint detection and response, on top of its existing network monitoring services. Here, Managing Director Leon Wheeler gives his view from the channel.

Technology Reseller (TR): How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future? 

Leon Wheeler (LW): Business over the past 12 months has been somewhat like a rollercoaster. At ICC, we are fortunate to have a broad spectrum of offerings within our portfolio and we have never been solely reliant on one customer type or revenue stream. While we have seen certain divisions within the group, such as hardware, drop off due to ‘physical hardware’ projects being put on hold, others have thrived. On our services side, for example, we have seen growth of some 40% year-on-year due to demand for extended services, such as uplifting SLAs to ensure business continuity and to minimise what has been a disruptive period for all businesses. 

Moving forward, our pipeline has never looked so strong. We have employed a further 15 people during the pandemic and have continued to assess and expand our offering so that we are ready to seize opportunities as they come into the business. I truly believe businesses that haven’t been badly damaged by the pandemic will come out fighting fit. Our vision for the future is to provide a personable approach, offering flexible services to enable businesses to achieve their objectives and become leaders in their sectors.

TR: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?

LW: Managed services, with high levels of interest in cloud services such as M365 and DR/BC solutions. The ongoing evolution of our offering to provide a true end-to-end service covering all aspects of the IT lifecycle – for the SME market and our partners – is generating considerable demand, be it for cloud, hybrid or the outsourcing of a company’s entire IT resource.

TR: What recent wins are you most proud of? 

LW: Being awarded a full outsourced managed service contract for a 500-user base, 100-year-old, multi-site organisation was great, especially considering they had been with the incumbent for some 25 years. It’s a real credit to the team at ICC who worked together to get the deal over the line and, more importantly, to give the customer confidence in the handover. We have also had some good wins in the channel, helping partners who, due to the pandemic, were let down by an incumbent. These wins are a real testament to our stability.

TR: Where is business proving most difficult? 

LW: Sifting through the various offerings that vendors keep bringing to market and ensuring that we choose the ones we feel are most relevant. As a mature MSP/VAR with more than 23 years’ experience, we have seen some big tech failures in our time and have wasted a lot of time and energy pushing a vendor unicorn. Now, our focus is firmly on the client. 

Another problem, given recent events, has been getting customers to commit to spend. We see this purely as a short-term problem and, as soon as businesses start to get into the new normal, we expect this to change. Whatever happens, we won’t be pushed into a price war that ends up in a race to the bottom. Cheap comes at a cost.

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

ICC Wetherby

LW: We are constantly evaluating the position of our company to ensure that we remain relevant and continue to deliver what we say we can deliver. We see far too many organisations that promise the world, but actually partner out a large percentage of their offering, which can create problems around service delivery. Here at ICC, we invest heavily in our skills and infrastructure, so we can deliver what we sell. Some organisations seem to disagree with this approach, but I would say it’s the reason we are still in business after 23 years.

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

LW: Partners that lack transparency and, again, partners that are involved in a race to the bottom. Every organisation should have a USP, and I do think there are a few channel players that don’t really have one. From our point of view, that is also a good 

TR: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome these challenges? And if so, what? 

LW: I would make the same point about vendors and distributors. Being more transparent and giving a fair and honest playing field to all their reseller partners is the best way to ensure the end client receives the best available solution.

TR: Are customers become more demanding, and if so, in what ways? 

LW: Yes, for sure, and rightly so. The customer is and always should be at the heart of everything we do, and now, more than ever, customers are looking for more from their supply chain. This is a good thing as it sorts the wheat from the chaff. When it comes to engaging with a supplier and entrusting IT critical functions to them, you want a company that is going to be here not just tomorrow but next year and the year after that. One thing that should never go out of fashion is providing excellent customer service and part of our mission is to build relationships so that we fully understand the needs of our partners and our customers.

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

LW: In all honesty, I wouldn’t change a thing. We have an open-door policy at ICC and staff empowerment is key. I love to see every member of our team push themselves to grow and develop. There is nothing better than seeing a team member who started as an apprentice or with zero knowledge of our industry grow, develop and obtain the nice things in life. That is what I enjoy about being a business owner.

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TechnologyReseller: 2021