A foray into flat-fee, managed services is paying off for Decision One IT Solutions in Dunedin.
The company launched the offering earlier this year and managing director Victoria Murgatroyd-McNoe says many of the company’s clients have signed up. The service involves managing customers’ networks and servers, and provides consistent monthly revenue.
“[The clients] are in the same position as us, trying to make regular payments, not knowing when their server is going to go down. It’s working very well for both us and them,” she says.
Decision One is owned by Victoria and husband Mark. The pair started the business nine years ago after finding each had effectively reached the end of their careers, and neither wanted to leave Dunedin in search of employment.
Both are involved in pipe bands, which is how they met.
“IT and pipe bands are pretty much our life,” she says.
Victoria worked in the IT department of a local accountancy firm, after starting work as a sales assistant at Computerland, while Mark was network IT manager at a local college of education.
When they launched Decision One, they were renting a small office close to their current site.
“We were mainly installing and maintaining servers, pretty much what we are doing now,” Victoria explains.
Now, Decision One employs six people, serving the business sector rather than the consumer.
The clientele includes medical centres, schools, manufacturers, fund managers and other financial institutions.
The business serves the Otago region, along with a few customers as far south as Balclutha in Southland and as far north as Timaru in South Canterbury.
Victoria says there is plenty of competition in Dunedin, though it is not fierce as each operator tends to stick to their own areas.
“We tend not to come across competitors unless there is a big tender to go for. It’s safe and steady in Dunedin.”
However, last year was “pretty tight” for Decision One’s finances.
“We decided we needed to look at how we could streamline our incomes as in IT, incomes fluctuate. We looked around and noted internationally that very few companies were offering these flat fee services. We thought it would be very viable for us to jump on board,” Victoria says.
Another trend is virtualisation, as companies find they can get more work out of less hardware.
Elsewhere, Decision One sticks to selling servers, workstations and peripherals, plus installing and servicing.
“PC workstations have gone out of fashion. Laptops are pretty much most of what we sell,” she says.
Exeed and Ingram Micro are the main suppliers, from both Wellington and Auckland.
The company differentiates itself through its service standards, says Victoria.
“We also take very special care of our clients. We make quite an effort to make relationships with our clients. They become good friends with our techs and sales staff. That’s how we treat them. We try and build up strong levels of trust.”
Now, business is doing well and Victoria is excited about the coming year.
Alongside the managed services the company has “a few other projects in the pipeline”, Victoria adds.
However, the couple finds it difficult to recruit and keep experienced staff in Dunedin. They say students typically move to Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch after their studies in Otago.
Decision One has hired immigrants in the past, or Kiwis returning to New Zealand to start a family.
A few years back, they employed a New Yorker but after a couple of years, the US native found the cold weather in the south of New Zealand was too much. “We try and have an open and friendly office here and make things nice for staff,” Victoria says. “It’s not a major problem if you want to take a day off. The beaches are great, the skiing is a few hours away. It’s a good, easy life.”