Robert Elcombe moved from England to New Zealand three years ago. Like many other migrants, he came looking for a quieter lifestyle, with some part-time work and free time to enjoy the outdoors.
Instead, he ended up setting up a new business, two years ago, as the country, like the world, was facing one of the worst financial crises in history. “I ticked all the wrong boxes but we made it,” he says.
After moving with his wife and small kids and finding a house on Auckland’s North Shore, Elcombe worked for a while as a Microsoft Certified Trainer before Dell suggested he should become a reseller of its hardware. At the time, Elcombe recalls, there were no Dell resellers in New Zealand so he took on the chance. “I became the first Dell reseller in the country.”
Elcombe already had an extensive relationship with Dell in the UK so he knew its products well. The deal led to the creation of MiIT. Partnering with Tolla Baroutsos, who was working in software, led to the creation of sister company MiFind and so the Mi brand was created.
“We’ve been going from strength to strength, there is so much business coming in,” says Elcombe.
According to the MiIT founder, who was once a mechanical engineer for the Royal Air Force in the UK, “trying to sell Dell hardware was a difficult job, more difficult than anticipated”.
“I was new in the country and had no network contacts. Plus, I started the business during one of the worst financial crisis in history. But we did very well, exceeded our targets and became one of the top ten Dell resellers in the country,” he says.
Six months ago, Elcombe saw a new opportunity in front of him, and launched a managed services offering alongside his Dell business. “It appeared as if my whole life had been built for that moment six months ago. It all came together for that. I was in the right place, at the right time,” he says. He’s confident that managed services is the right direction to move into.
“Everybody is presented with opportunities and we took ours and haven’t looked back.”
The difficulties Elcombe experienced at first trying to break into New Zealand’s tight-knit IT community, are now part of the past and the company has recently expanded to South Africa. “We tied in with an ISP to provide managed services there. We’re one of the first managed services providers there, if not the first. We did our research and couldn’t find any competition.”
Despite the overseas expansion, they remain fully committed to New Zealand.
It was, in fact, his passion for the company that made him wait six years to be able to move from England, as, like many migrants, Elcombe was caught in the catch-22 of needing a visa to get a job and a job to get a visa. “I had a young family and didn’t want to run the risk of moving here without a job,” he says. In the end, it all came together.
The next step was getting used to the way business is conducted in the new country. “Sales are very different here in New Zealand. All of my professional sales training from the UK doesn’t work so well here. Here is more of a social community, you need recommendations and referrals. Don’t try cold-calling because it just does not work,” says Elcombe.
Since setting up MiIT, Elcombe has been working non-stop on building up the business. “The question is never so much whether or not I’m working but where I’m working from,” he says.
Family is, however, the most important thing for the business owner and Elcombe makes sure they spend quality time together. “My son is a natural-born kiwi with a love for the outdoors and I discovered I was too and didn’t realise it.” Fishing and kayaking are some of the activities that are always sure to help the businessman disconnect from the IT world.