Meet Techies judge James Eades, Wiltshire’s 37-year-old award-winning entrepreneur and owner of IT support services firm, Systemagic.
2019 is a landmark year for Systemagic as it celebrates 20 years in business.
We met James to discover his journey from joining Systemagic as an IT Technician at just 21, to becoming MD and owner – transforming a struggling company into a profitable scaleup.
When did you start at Systemagic?
I joined the firm in 2002 when it was just three years old. It was my first job as an IT Technician after leaving the University of the West of England (UWE), where I studied Business Information Technology.
I was ambitious from the start and wanted to be a manager. In three years I worked my way up to IT Operations Manager.
When did you become Managing Director?
I took over as MD of Systemagic in 2010. At that time it was struggling and I made a deal with the then owner that if I could turn the business around and pay back the £250K debt it had accrued he would give me half of the business.
One of the key changes I made that transformed the business was selling the web design part of Systemagic. It was the first time I’d ever sold a business, but we managed a successful sale and took our number of employees from seven to five, generating cash and creating a new focus at a critical stage for us.
In just two years I owned 50% of the business and in 2015 there was a buyout when I attracted the attention of a private equity investor. It was a great feeling to finally have full control over a business that I knew could finally start realising its potential.
What has changed since you took over?
The firm has grown from a team of 7 to 15 and we’ve continued to grow 30% year on year. We invested in new offices in 2017 moving in to the Old Gas Warehouse in Bradford on Avon and we’re continuing to grow our service offering and client base rapidly.
What has remained the same?
Three employees from the original team are still with us. Chris Sweet our Technical Director has been at Systemagic for 15 years, joining only two years after me in 2004 and the first person I ever hired.
Looking back at old marketing materials, although we’ve evolved, our core values have still remained the same. We used to say “Pay for what you need only when you need it” and we now say “Everything on a simple 30 day term”. This is our commitment to doing IT differently. Our USP is our 30-day rolling terms, I don’t believe lengthy contracts are necessary, we believe in what we do and our customers do too. Many of them have been with us since the beginning which I’m really proud of.
Tell us about your core services.
We offer helpdesk support and system maintenance, Microsoft cloud solutions like Office 365 and Azure, cloud storage solutions, online backup, IT security, and website hosting. We also offer business internet connections and telephone systems dealing with all the installation and data cabling. We pride ourselves on our service with an average response time of just 11 minutes. We understand that when you have an IT issue you want it dealt with as swiftly, competently and efficiently as possible.
In late 2018 we launched an SEO service which has been extremely popular. Search Engine Optimisation used to be part of our core service offering and after two years of successfully increasing the footfall to our website creating an exceptional number of inbound enquiries, we’ve decided to share our skills to help others improve their online performance.
What are your biggest achievements?
As a team we’ve won multiple awards for our commitment to being an apprentice employer. Recently we won SME of the Year at the South West Business & Community Awards 2018 and towards the end of last year we won Best Newcomer at the Microsoft Partner Awards. Being recognised by our own industry was a huge accolade.
I’m a passionate supporter of apprenticeships as they give young people a great opportunity to earn while they learn. As a company we have trained 11 apprentices working with our apprenticeship partners Yeovil College and City of Bath College.
Giving back to future generations is important to me. I also donate my time as a business mentor to students at Bath Spa University as well as for the Institute of Directors as part of their Start-up Success Clinics and their Young Business Forum. It’s really rewarding enabling the next generation to succeed.
What do you do outside of work?
Aside from being a busy dad to my four-year-old, Sophie, I love riding motorbikes, running, fishing and watching Formula 1.
I actually lead Wiltshire Bikers, a social hub for bikers across Wiltshire and further afield with regular meets, monthly rides and annual holidays – we have over 2700 members and have been going since 2006.
Tell us something we wouldn’t know about you
Several years ago, I grew and successfully sold a social media company. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and started by first business whilst still at school which made enough to pay off my student loans before I graduated.
What are you looking forward to in 2019?
We’ve recently taken over running the Bradford on Avon Business Breakfasts for BoA Business. I’m looking forward to building even stronger links with our community and meeting new local business owners.
I’m also looking forward to being a judge for the second year in the 2019 IT & Technology Awards for Swindon & Wiltshire – The Techies.
To find out more about Systemagic visit: www.systemagic.co.uk and follow them on Twitter @Systemagic
Visit the Techies website here: www.the-techies-sw.co.uk