In the latest of our ‘Meet the Shortlisters’ series, CRN catches up with managing director James Lake (pictured), who talks about his pride in how his team handled unprecedented pressure during the pandemic, how everyone pulled together under exceptional circumstances, and what it means to be in the running for a Channel Award
Give us a flavour of your business - what verticals/product sets are your sweet spots, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition etc
JLC are a distributor of IT peripherals, we are a really tight knit team and our culture is what makes us so special. Everyone within the company has gone above and beyond to ensure that keyworkers and UK businesses can continue to operate in world of uncertainty.
Our main focus over the last eight months has been predominantly working from home kit such as notebooks, webcams & headsets, PPE, and we have now started to supply other products such as monitors, SSDs & ram. We felt it was important for us to utilise our supply chain to the best of our ability, in order to keep keyworkers within their roles and support our economy.
We set ourselves aside with our ability to quickly change direction depending on the current market, our rapid service, great quality products and we have ensured that we hold constant high stock volumes that many of the larger distributors have been unable to fulfil.
We have a great culture and atmosphere at JLC because all of our team are working towards the same goals, have the same core values and everyone is a team player. For us JLC feels like a family in which we all support each other. We are proud to say that everyone loves working at JLC and it shows in our passion and attitudes towards our customers. It is one of the many reasons that our resellers choose us time and time again - because we are able to deliver that individual level of customer service.
How have you supported your customers during the pandemic? Has it made you change your strategy in any way? If so, how?
We have worked with our customers to support their distribution centres (many of which are closed) by sending direct to their end users, even sending to the end users home address singularly in some cases. We have worked with new suppliers and done our utmost to ensure that our customers haven't lost business & been as flexible as we can be.
We managed to keep our operations up and running during the pandemic due to our amazing team and it's what's helped us get a strong foothold of this market.
Many of our resellers were struggling with stock, but we have managed to aid our customers by keeping stock of all of their key products.
We struggled with the top tier couriers being unable to meet our customer's needs, so we decided to work with a local courier to ensure we could offer our resellers the same dependability they are used to, while also supporting a local company.
We have expanded our operations team, and even adapted and extended our working hours to ensure we can support our resellers and do our upmost to provide a high level of customer service.
What has been your company's biggest challenge during 2020 and how did you overcome it? What role did your own teams play in that?
Back in April we turned over circa £1m, with many of our staff working from home and we really struggled to get it out of the door with only five people working on the premises. Typically to do this number we would need 20+ people but our dedicated team went above and beyond to ensure we still delivered the same level of customer satisfaction.
That month really sent us to hell and back and saw us working nearly every waking hour; we all mucked in where we had to. But it was worth it, as it created the platform that we subsequently built our business from and ensured that essential key workers were still able to work
What lessons have you learned from this year?
2020 taught us to never be complacent and how being adaptive is crucial to growth and survival. If we hadn't altered the company's direction we would have shut down, and this would have had a huge negative impact on our team, our resellers and keyworkers. However, our ability to adapt and change direction during the lockdown meant we also grew the business significantly. We are now a trend focused business within the IT sector and our aim is to go above and beyond to meet our customers' needs.
What has been the highlight of 2020 for your business?
The highlight of 2020 has been our JLC Family and how hard we have all worked together to keep the company going. We have grown the business from a turnover of £3m per year to now upwards of £15m, which has enabled us to take on new essential team members. We are all really proud of the journey that JLC have taken during Covid and I couldn't be more impressed by our dedicated team.
What does it mean to you to be recognised for the shortlist/an award?
It means so much for us to even be considered for the award, as we have always watched the CRN results in awe. We believe we are on our way to becoming one of the key players in the IT Market and it is great to be recognised. We are also really proud of the fact that our category is sponsored by Samsung.
How do you think the industry will change as a result of Covid-19 and how do you plan to thrive/grow?
I think working from home will become the new normal - and in lieu of this JLC is working on catering for a new world, a world where huge companies no longer have bricks and mortar presence but where they will conduct their businesses from home. We will work alongside our resellers to grow with them and subsequently help their end users conduct business just as efficiently as they were pre-Covid-19. This is how we will continue to grow and hit our ambitious growth plans over the next three years, and expand our team to help those who have unfortunately become unemployed during the pandemic.