Comms Dealer Article – Christie Branches Out
Infrastructure is the future of communications. It’s the new kid on the block and the nation requires more of it. With that in mind, Neil Christie, Managing Director of Aberdeen-based Converged Communication Solutions, aims to ensure that his customers get what they need.
Christie hopes to establish the first peering point in north east Scotland, an ambitious challenge that shows his determination to provide businesses with infrastructure that is fit for purpose.
“Currently, nearly all data that is generated in the region is sent via a peering point in Edinburgh, or more often London, before it reaches its end destination,” he explained. “With a local peering point, emails and phone services could be delivered faster for local businesses. Over the coming decade there will be more self-employed people working from home, with many based outside our towns and cities. Therefore, connectivity for our rural communities is crucial.”
Over the past two years Converged has invested in developing its service standards, facilities and connectivity network. It has access to Brightsolid’s new tier 3 data centre in Aberdeen and CityFibre’s superfast Internet network in the city. Converged has also invested in unbundling nine Openreach exchanges in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. “This gives us access to more customer bases, but we need to win new business to recoup the outlay,” said Christie.
The company was established in 2005 by Christie who adopted a technical role and a co-director who worked in a business development capacity. The firm launched the same year as YouTube and Google Maps, a time when more people were accessing the Internet via broadband rather than dial- up. “Our goal was, and still is, to provide a single point of contact that can take care of telephony, Internet and
IT support,” said Christie. “We wanted to reduce the number of suppliers or contracts a customer would need, and by providing passionate customer service we hoped to eliminate the grey areas that otherwise existed between a customer’s IT support, Internet provider and BT/ Openreach. We also aim to provide as many services as possible in-house and not just act as a middleman between the customer and ultimate supplier.”
Converged’s support model is based on the industry standard ITIL framework, with all of its support team ITIL-certified. The firm’s customers range from small local businesses to large companies operating in multiple locations throughout the UK and internationally. The client base currently numbers around 300, and in the last financial year (to the end of November 2015) Converged generated over £2.2 million turnover. “We have experienced steady growth throughout our history, adapting as the industry itself has developed,” added Christie. “Bundling of services and more service level orientated decision making by customers are areas we’re working hard to explore.”
In a move to advance this strategy, Converged snapped up Aberdeen-based IT provider Century Business Systems (CBS) this summer, its first acquisition. The deal, valued at circa £500k, significantly strengthens Converged’s in-house service operation. CBS was established in 1999 by Brian West and Kevin Sinclair and supplies computer hardware, software and technical support to businesses across north east Scotland. The firm’s team have transferred to Converged and relocated to its premises, increasing the workforce at Converged to over 25.
“This is a notable move for us,” commented Christie. “To date, we have grown and expanded naturally, so our first acquisition is a major step. Brian and Kevin, supported by a talented team, have built a strong business and its integration into Converged will enrich the service that we offer to clients.”
Christie plans to continue to grow Converged at a steady pace while staying in touch with established service values. “If we try to grow too quickly we may lose what our clients like and respect about us,” he commented. “In five years, I would like to see us being regarded as the leading connectivity provider in north east Scotland and having grown our market share across Scotland and parts of the UK. Aberdeen will always be our home, but as we expand across we need to look at how we deliver our services while remaining local to our clients. Continued hard work by the whole team, along with investment, evolution, innovation and putting the needs of clients first will take us there.”
Neil Christie, Managing Director
Just a minute with Neil Christie...
Role model: Steve Jobs and Bruce Springsteen, both excelled in their fields
What talent do you wish you had? Time management
Your strengths and what could you work on? Juggling lots of projects comes naturally, but I have a tendency to leave things to the last minute
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know: I started using computers because my handwriting was poor
What do you fear the most? Being left behind
One example of something you have overcome: A reluctance to rely on others
If you weren’t in comms what would you be doing? Long distance lorry driver
Top tip: Work in the customer’s best interest and try to differentiate
Three ideal dinner guests: For their amazing stories: Billy Connolly, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Alan Sugar