Southlander Ray Bricknell is making the most of his extensive experience as an IT company staff member and owner, and two decades as a Telecom technician.
He set up Southern Computer Services five years ago and is now upgrading his premises. He employs two staff and aspires to recruit more.
Bricknell specialises in serving the higher-end business market with a broad range of services.
“We specialise in providing a whole service, right from the hardware side, including printers and servers, through to networking, routers and VPNs [virtual private networks]. We do website development and we write miscellaneous software to solve those specialist issues that pop up from time to time. We do some web hosting on a small scale as well,” he says.
Before starting Southern Computer Services, Bricknell spent 20 years as a technician at Telecom after leaving school. He also previously ran Bricknell Electronics, which specialised in alarm monitoring and designing and building microcontroller equipment.
The company’s main customer was Telecom, though the venture didn’t last.
“Once I flooded Telecom, that was it. I basically had a single customer and once they completed what they wanted to, that was it,” he explains.
Bricknell then spent six years with Advantage Technology Support, servicing the retail sector, before joining another business that subsequently closed.
The closure prompted him to start Southern Computer Services, initially at home and two years later from a small office in Dee Street, close to the centre of Invercargill.
Eighteen months ago the business shifted to its current site in nearby Esk Street, which is now being upgraded.
Its customers are based throughout the South Island and on Stewart Island, and among them are some primary schools. Bricknell says most customers use Microsoft Small Business Server.
However, the customer base is expanding.
“Recently we found a market in providing a technical resource for corporates and local bodies, where they don’t have a requirement for a full-time staff member. We contract on a time basis to them, doing the day-to-day stuff while their staff are on projects, and we fill in for staff who are away.”
Bricknell says visits to service Lotto equipment on Stewart Island are a good excuse for his staff to get away.
The company’s staff are allocated customers, which Bricknell says helps make the business run efficiently.
Business has been steady and he says customers continued to upgrade IT equipment during the economic downturn last year. “They replaced their servers as they realised their businesses were stuffed without good computers,” he says.
Most customers are referred by other clients, says Bricknell, adding the business does not advertise except in the Yellow Pages.
He says it’s easy to find staff, saying those he currently employs each approached him for work. He also regularly receives enquiries from overseas about possible work opportunities.
Once the existing premises are converted, Bricknell expects to recruit more staff.
“The type of people I need have to hit the ground running. If we become larger, we could take juniors on,” he says.
Bricknell is confident of attracting new staff and of growing company turnover. This will happen in part by doing more remote network management and monitoring, he says. “We are proactive about what is going on instead of reactive.”