This month TBE interviewed Simon Rance, Director of Royal Wootton Bassett based IT business ISN to find out more about the man behind the company, what services ISN offers and their exciting growth over the last year.
What did you do before ISN?
Straight out of University I started my first job in an admin role at local Internet Service provider (ISP) in Reading called I-Way ltd. There, we moved quickly from servicing lots of home users in the early days of the internet (users turning up at our door to pay cash every month for their dial-up connection!), to becoming a business-services ISP servicing clients like Reading Football Club and NME Magazine. I made a choice at I-Way to move into a Sales role, rather than take a “Techie” path and soon moved into a channel sales role helping resellers add Internet services to their portfolio.
I have been pretty much doing that since with various different organisations, but more recently have been the integrator myself, so seeing life from the other side of the fence has been an interesting one. The Internet is now just a utility that everyone expects as fast and reliable automatically, so we then get to play with the fun toys and technology at the end of it.
When was ISN formed?
ISN was formed in 2008 and after much plotting and planning (and panic) our first client Purchase Order happily arrived from a client in January 2009.
Where did the idea come from to set up the company?
At the time I was working for a relatively new, larger outsourcing provider. I had been there two years and was working with a lot of customers who were known to me for many years previously who had followed me there, however the balance of service versus expectation from customers just wasn’t right. My clients were used to attention to detail, flexibility and responsiveness, and a larger supplier like that could just not offer it. I could see my customers walking away from me and I had one last chance to keep them onside – i.e. do it myself.
An “emergency summit” was held in a beer garden close to our office between myself and my now co-Directors at ISN, as we felt that there was a way to simplify the approach to IT given to some fairly large customers, but our current company was not the place to offer this. We scribbled some notes, had a few sleepless nights, and then made the decision to start-up ISN on our terms and do things the way we felt were right and that customers would ultimately appreciate.
What does ISN stand for?
As an acronym, we are Intuitive Systems and Networks Limited (we had the isn.co.uk domain name so had to make up something that fitted!). However, as a philosophy, we just need to keep flexible and responsive – it is what customers want and will happily pay a premium for if they can get good technical work done in a way that they’re not otherwise used to. The ISN team should be considered a vital part of our customer’s teams and each one of them is seen as a “trusted advisor” to our clients when looking at what IT can bring to improve their business.
What makes ISN different?
It’s odd, we don’t feel like we’re doing things massively differently to how I would expect a supplier to treat me. But in working for a larger organisation for so long and seeing how simple mistakes can affect your relationship with a customer, we’re forever mindful of the traps to avoid.
Not technical mistakes, but the basics. Communicating with your customers. Good planning and honest delivery. Engineers popping in to just chat – drink tea and eat biscuits with customers. Nothing earth-shattering, but when we work with our larger customers who still have such outsourcing arrangements in place you DO realise that this approach is seen to be “different”, which really does still surprise me.
Amongst our customer base we look after customers as diverse as Moto Hospitality, North Lincolnshire Council, London Fire Service, ISS UK and Marie Curie Cancer Care. Not because we’re the cheapest or because we’re local, but because they trust our guys and they trust our general approach. We’re seen as part of their team.
What are the range of services you offer?
ISN cover all bases of IT. My background with Internet Services means we often take a starting point of how a customer is connected to the WWW. We then go off in a multitude of directions, from Voice over IP, to Datacentre and the “cloud”. We support and maintain Desktop and Print environments, while also being able to provide the design consultancy for large NHS or Emergency Services projects. We’re anywhere in-between. It is nicely diverse and our customers benefit from a broad range of experience across sectors and technologies in both larger and small organisations
What is the most exciting project you have worked on?
We had a call in January asking us to fit out the IT in a new floating Hotel that was being commissioned in Docklands – The Sunborn London. Again, a solution which could have been supplied by a larger IT provider, but ISN were chosen to allow for flexibility around the project. Unlike a normal hotel that is built and project-managed over time, this hotel would just sail in one day and expect to be operational a few days later!! We love challenges like that – it keeps things interesting.
What does the future hold for ISN?
Exciting times. As we’ve grown these last couple of years we have finally hit full capacity in our Managed Office Space and so are moving to a new building in Coped Hall later in the summer. We have had 2 new sales roles filled in the last month and seeing how they will build on our success so far, all from our new building, will be really fascinating.
What is it like being based in Royal Wootton Bassett?
We love the town and it has served us well and with our office move being 100 yards down the road it looks like we’re here for good. Looking after the Motorway Service Station Network gives us good access onto the M4 and the team we have built up locally is excellent. We have just completed a major office move for Openwork Ltd as they relocated to Lydiard Fields in Swindon, so through luck we’re now a couple of miles from our biggest client. What’s not to like?
Who would be your dream client?
In a sales role in the services sector I always get an urge to build real things. As a result I’ve got quite into Lego with my son and last autumn had my wedding reception at Legoland. If Lego called through asking us to look after IT, I’d be there for the meeting in a flash!!
Haribo would be good too – the office always needs more Haribo, so I am sure we can find a happy reciprocal business arrangement. In fact, I’ll call them now…..