Reseller Softcat is planning more expansion across the UK, but has poured cold water on the idea of bringing in private equity investors.
Chairman Martin Hellawell revealed earlier this year that the VAR - which has more than tripled sales inside four years to a projected £480m in FY14 - has begun to consider long-term options to support its continued evolution into a large company. To that end the firm has already undertaken moves such as a rejig of the directorial set-up.
"We are keeping all our options open, we want to be able to do something at some point in the future," explained Hellawell . "We would want to either stay as we are, or do an IPO. I cannot see the benefit of private equity; I do not like the idea of selling the business to someone that doesn't understand our ethos - we are more skateboarders than industry suits - so the IPO route would probably be the one."
Hellawell added that, if the firm did ultimately float publicly, answering to the markets twice a year would not inhibit the firm in the same way.
"While you continue to do well, it would not be a problem at all. You just have to keep delivering the numbers," he explained.
The larger Softcat grows, the huge growth levels posted by the company in recent years will surely become harder and harder to replicate. Hellawell stressed that the firm is still "looking for strong growth" in FY15, which began for Softcat two months ago. To that end the firm is shortly to open a new office in Leeds, to add to digs in Marlow, London, Bristol, and Manchester.
More UK expansion may follow over the next year or two, said Hellawell, with Scotland earmarked as a probable location. But he added that he is not overly concerned with chalking off the next sales milestone.
"How big the turnover becomes is not something I care passionately about, and I am not fixated on getting to £1bn or £2bn," he said.
While it has branched into the services space, Softcat has been notable in the channel for not seeking to distance itself from product resale. And, wherever its sales are drawn from, its profit margins have always compared favourably with its competitors.
"First of all I think people hugely underestimate how hard it is to get a profitable services business," explained Hellawell. "Every reseller is told that they have to get out of product and into services. If you factor in the cost of building a services business and looked at the real profitability, most organisations would get a nasty shock.
"We have made good money by always focusing on higher-value areas [such as] security, datacentre, and networking, and less of the commodity stuff we see a lot of at other organisations. We are happy to sell that too, but our mix is much more geared towards the higher end."
The VAR has always been well known for its commitment to recruiting graduates, and recently took in its largest-ever intake. But Hellawell admitted that the task awaiting fresh-faced new recruits is a tough one, with sales staff required to prove their mettle on the phone in unyielding circumstances. The difficulty of the job is what makes it crucial to foster the colourful and often frolicsome working environment the VAR prides itself on, claimed the chairman (pictured).
"From day one we get them really interested in technology, and how they can position it with the customers. But there are not necessarily customers out there waiting for that call from Softcat - we are an annoyance," he said.
"[Sales recruits] have got to find that hook, that way in. The job would be even more difficult if you were in a hostile environment, and a company that did not really care about you. You have got to have an environment that is fun and supportive."
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View photos of last night's awards ceremony in London
View photos of all the winners from the 2018 Channel Awards
After a glittering awards evening in Battersea celebrating 25 years of the Awards, we are pleased to share the list of winners and judges' commended winners