Hastings-based Mint IT is on a measured growth plan, thanks to a little experience in the accounting business.
Father of three, 34-year-old Haig Flashoff began working in IT in 1999 but completed his Bachelor in Computing Systems from Napier EIT in 2002. Although the company is based in Hastings it services clients with offices all over the North Island and New Zealand.
“We started this establishment in 2004,” Flashoff says. “We actually started the company as a purchasing company for a group of clients. I was working for an accounting company at the time, and we started the company as a way to get cheaper kit for our clients. I was doing all the IT work across the client base back then and very soon after that I went and worked for that company and eventually bought it.
“It was really only me who was the only employee back then. I had been practicing IT for about five years before that, while I was finishing off my qualifications. It was a really good opportunity to make a bit of a mark.”
“We’ve got our offices in Farming House in Hastings which is nice and central and close to a lot of our clients which is good. We’ve got clients who have offices in Auckland and Wellington and some with offices in Australia, but we’re pretty Hawkes Bay focused.”
Flashoff says his main area of expertise is providing managed services to the small to medium sized business. “We deal mostly with Windows small business servers, and Windows operating systems. We do support Linux and Mac Systems but it’s on a very limited basis."
Flashoff says he made the move to become a Microsoft partner very early on in the business, based on the majority of the clients having Microsoft systems. He says it was easy to get the partnership but it has not been a completely hassle free experience. “Under certain circumstances they’re fine to deal with, but no,” he laughs, “we’re had our share of difficulties getting information out of them at times.
“The ethos is for us to be the internal IT department for all of our clients. The majority of small businesses aren’t big enough to have their own IT department or manager so we fill that void across all levels. We do everything from procurement onwards. Across our team now we have the full range of skill sets and we work really closely with our clients to make sure that everything is taken care of their IT requirement and that it’s in line with their business and I think that gives us a bit of an edge.
“Our smallest customer would be five or six users with a basic server, the majority of our clients are between 15 and 30 users with small business servers, and our largest customers would be in the 60s. We focus between five and 55 users.”
Moving ahead Flashoff says the future is in a type of hybrid cloud service. “We have a cloud offering. We're a small business ourselves and obviously diversification in this industry is vital to success and longevity, so we have aligned ourselves with some strategic partners for cloud services.”
However Flashoff says that cloud can be challenging as it’s not right for everyone. “There’s been a lot of push from our competitors in the market about how cloud is the be all and end all of everything. However it’s all very well having the benefits of cloud services but there are challenges and limitations that come along with that. If it doesn’t suit the business practices then we’ll use a phases approach. We’ve got some clients who just use cloud for their back up for example. And others who are just using cloud for their files and Exchange. We’ve certainly heard some horror stories of customers who have moved to cloud services completely and then for the three users who are on dial up, well... they’re having issues.”
Flashoff says he really can’t move ahead with pushing cloud until the infrastructure improves.
“That is probably the biggest challenge in New Zealand, especially Hawkes Bay. If you don’t have a reasonably good and reliable internet connection then certainly it is a challenge to move to cloud services.
“A lot of people don’t understand that. Why can’t I keep my $60 broadband connection and just move to cloud services? The likelihood is that you’re going to have a much poorer performing system having spent a lot of money than if you were to wait until services improve.
“It’s coming. New Zealand is going to have a reasonably good backbone to allow cloud. Most business have their internal servers and their used to gigabit Ethernet speeds, which cloud computing does present challenges for.”
On the hardware front Flashoff says it’s all going portable.
“We’ve seen a huge influx in the last 24 months of smart phone devices and that makes up a reasonable amount of our operation at the moment. Maintaining and installing and supporting those devices. I see that becoming bigger. The amount of function you’re able to perform on those devices will increase and people's dependence on those devices will increase as well.
“Coming out the back of people tightening their belts and not spending much money, there’s been a big shift from people who would normally buy their hardware outright to people who are looking more operating leases and that in turn will have a flow on effect for supporting the case for a cloud environment.”
Looking ahead Flashoff says they have a very controlled growth model.
“We have key indicators that are identifiers for requiring additional technical expertise. Our growth model is very structured and controlled. It’s a fine balance sometimes between available resources and the amount of work.”