The Entrepreneur who Rebooted his Business with Old IT Equipment

Find out how an abortive chemistry degree led to an industry-leading organisation that now ships to over 100 countries, employs over 140 staff and has seven sites around the world but still retains its proud Harrogate roots. Read how Kevin became the ‘entrepreneur who rebooted his business with old IT equipment’ and grew the business from a two-man operation into an international market leader.

1. In a nutshell, what does your company do and how did it start? We buy, sell, refurbish & reconfigure business IT equipment – servers, networking equipment and spare parts. We started out selling new products 13 years ago – but after a short while, we found a real niche in providing businesses with used/ refurbished equipment instead. We now work across the globe, with office & warehouse locations in Europe, USA and Asia Pacific.

2. What's the most surprising thing about it? For our customers, it’s that they get top quality refurbished IT equipment at a fraction of the price for new – and it works a treat! They get branded goods at unbelievable prices – and we add our own warranty for 100% peace of mind. What also surprises our clients is that we will buy back their older equipment – giving them money to spend on other things.

3. What do you do? I’ll be honest, this is a question that I sometimes find hard to answer. It’s not that I don’t do anything! – it’s just that there is so much going on that I struggle to recall! In short - all sorts?! These days my focus is upon doing my best to ensure that all our staff know that they are valued and appreciated.

4. How did you end up here? (i.e. what's your career background?) I started a degree in chemistry but spent more time in the pub than in the lab – so that was the end of my short stint as a scientist. Pondering a return to university I got a job in IT sales and got some great tuition from my old bosses at InTechnology (also in Harrogate). After that, I owned another IT business but after 6 good years, it failed – that taught me a LOT. After that, nearly 13 years ago, I started this business – and I am lucky enough to work with some truly awesome people.

5. If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing? (i.e. in your career) If I wasn’t typing this right now, and I could choose anything, I’d be snowboarding with my wife or kids – or playing tennis with them. Or playing football – the greatest game in the world. If I weren’t working in IT, I’d be making a living from snowboarding – if only I were good enough.

6. What motivates you? When I started this business, and for the first few years, it was really just about doing deals, to keep the business going. I worked a lot of 18 hour days – as my gorgeous wife will testify – but it paid off in terms of laying the foundations for the business as it is today. Right now, my main motivation is in helping our team to develop and progress – and to continue doing good deals for our customers & suppliers, of course! We also get involved with a fair amount of charitable stuff – I think everyone in our team finds that motivating.

7. What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in business? To trust my own instincts & intuition – as much as listening to the experts.

8. What excites you about business? I like new challenges, new people, places & opportunities. I like building things and helping them grow – overcoming obstacles. Going above what is expected of us as a business – creating genuinely happy customers & suppliers. We have sold in over 100 different countries now. Each time we get a new customer it’s exciting – but we also work very hard to maintain & build existing relationships. Some clients have been with us for 13 years now – that’s exciting.

9. What is your pet hate in business? Don’t hate anything but people using meaningless business jargon can waste time! “If you have nothing to say, say nothing” is a phrase I like… Having said that, some people say I should talk more!

10. What advice would you give to people just starting their careers? Be the best you can be. The more you put into whatever you do, the more you will get out of it – “The harder you work, the luckier you get!”. Also, be patient; don’t expect too much too soon. My advice to people starting out is to get your head down, work hard, go the extra mile and stand out for all the right reasons – and progression undoubtedly follows.

11. Who in business do you most admire, and why? I admire anyone who works hard and makes a difference. Anyone who makes an honest contribution by doing their work well, deserves admiration – whether that’s cleaning the floors, leading a team or developing a new way of working, it’s all making a worthwhile contribution to something.

12. What moments of your career so far stand out? I am most proud of my part in helping the younger members of our management team develop over the last 5-12 years. We have young guys without degrees who have progressed up through the company and now look after 10, 20, 30 or more people. They came from jobs in retail, hospitality, nightclub bouncing and more – and are now fantastic business professionals. That’s really cool. Opening warehouses in the USA and Germany was also exciting and now Australia, New Zealand and France too; that's amazing and a credit to our team. I’m very fortunate to have lots of stand-out colleagues and also stand-out moments – long may that continue!

13. What sets your company apart from the competition? In summary - our people and our commitment to being the best that we can be. Continual evolvement. All our team are encouraged to present any ideas for improvements to processes & activities – and with over 140 staff, we implement many improvements every day. We also do some pretty clever stuff with our internal systems that give us an edge in many different areas – we have some very innovative & creative people; it’s all about the team!!

14. What is the most difficult challenge your company has faced? And what challenges are you experiencing at the moment? The biggest challenges have all come as a result of growth. So, we had a warehouse that was far too small for 2 years – because there was no other available space in Harrogate. Then we moved and business went through the roof – and then we struggled to find the staff to keep up. Right now, we have a great warehouse, great people – but a lot of people – so we need to work on communicating with each other. Not as easy as you might guess with 100+ people.

15. Have you got a five-year goal for the company? Yes and no. I have a loose plan – but it grows and changes as the company does. Personally, I prefer short term goals anyway – they are easier to focus on. Most importantly, we just need to keep doing what we are doing; and keep improving.

16. Why is it good to do business from Harrogate? Harrogate is a beautiful place to live and therefore attracts a lot of talent. Hornbeam Park has a lot to offer – very pleasant, great travel links – I love Indulge and Al Bivio (also located on Hornbeam Park). The guys at the council have also been very supportive of us as well. All good!

Please note: This post originally appeard in the Harrogate Advertiser.