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View from the Channel with Nigel Potter, Managing Director of Select Technology

Select Technology, based in Paddock Wood, Kent, has just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Managing Director Nigel Potter founded the family-owned business in Sevenoaks in 1994, since when it has grown to become one of the Top 25 Managed Service Providers in the UK, delivering IT support and consultancy to businesses across the south-east. It was recognised as a Microsoft Gold Partner in 2006 and achieved ISO 9001 accreditation in 2015 and ISO 27001 accreditation in 2019. Technology Reseller asked Nigel Potter for 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?
Nigel Potter (NP): Business is very buoyant, with our service sales revenue up 7% 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

TR: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?
NP: With multiplying security threats facing business, 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.

TR: Where is business proving most difficult?
NP: Our business’s roots are in hardware sales and, over the years, as IT has become more commoditised, profitability has been squeezed, which has been challenging. The rise of Hardware-as-aService offers an exciting opportunity to grow this side of our business, giving us a better and more controlled return and our customers the most modern technology at an affordable rate. In our personal lives, subscriptions are now the norm – Netflix, mobile phones, cars – and this model is now starting to be adopted within the business world. We see HaaS as a big area of growth and will be offering our customers this option.

Another key challenge is knowing which technologies to invest time and resource in. Our target market is SMEs and it is vital that we understand how new technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, can scale to our customer base so that we make the right calls for our business goals and theirs.

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

TR: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?
NP: Although we are very much services 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.

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

NP: 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.

TR: Are customers becoming more demanding, and, if so, in what ways?
NP: With the technology industry moving so quickly and more pressure being put on businesses in general, there is definitely a sense that more is expected from our service, particularly from a business strategy perspective. Our role as an MSP is to help our customers adopt and consume technology that makes them more effective and more efficient. One of the most proactive things we have done recently is to introduce a dedicated Digital Transformation Consultant to the business. This technology specialist is there to make recommendations based on each customer’s specific business goals. It isn’t just about the technology, but is much more focused on the business outcomes of those technology solutions.

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

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