Napier’s Devine Computing is capturing a specialist part of the local IT market by combining accounting software with hardware sales.
Owner and managing director Chris Devine formed the business in 1993, capitalising on his extensive experience in the financial and IT sectors.
He worked as a consultant for the former Rural Bank in Waikato in the early 1980s, setting up Lotus 123 spreadsheets. “I was the main one there with an interest in IT,” Devine says.
The Canterbury University commerce graduate then went offshore, doing audit work for Citicorp in London that involved dealing with spreadsheets and data manipulation.
After a year he returned to New Zealand to be a computing specialist for financial services firm Coopers and Lybrand, installing the first 286 computers.
By 1993 Devine had identified an opportunity to help businesses, and further his own interest in hardware, by launching Devine Computing.
“I have always been a total solutions provider to small business, but the businesses were smaller in those days. I dealt with many one man bands, plumbers and electricians. As I grew with [better] knowledge and experience, I grew into servicing bigger businesses.”
Devine hired his first employee after a year in business and now has six staff.
Customers include firms ranging in size from one to 50 employees.
“For Napier they are medium-sized businesses, but nationally they are small businesses. Half of the team specialises in small business server type solutions, with the networking and peripherals around them. The rest of the team specialises in accounting software, particularly MYOB, Exonet and Infusion,” Devine says.
“Our point of difference is the accounting software mixed with hardware solutions. Locally, the only other accounting work is done by the accountants but we are the independent consultants for accountants. We have a moderate amount of point of sale and we have an in-house programmer to enhance the software.”
Devine Computing serves an area covering Napier, Hastings and central Hawkes Bay, including Waipukurau and Dannevirke. It also looks after some remote sites in Gisborne and Blenheim. Devine says such work accounts for about five percent of the business.
Employing experienced staff is a challenge, he says, adding that every year or two the company will take on a graduate, but they tend to leave after only a short time in their roles.
“We have had eight graduates and they have all gone overseas. We do get some people who want to move to a smaller town for varying reasons, but they have expectations of salary and we are a jack of all trades and do everything.”
The company aims to employ another one or two staff, saying the recession has prevented this to date.
Devine believes the lifestyle benefits of living in Hawkes Bay offset comparatively low wages. These benefits include cheap housing and that company employees don’t work on weekends.
There is some strong competition locally, he says, including specialist computer stores, businesses similar to Devine Computing and big box retailers.
The company sources stock from Ingram Micro and Dove. HP is its main PC and server brand, with software mainly Microsoft. Viewsonic supplies its monitors, Kyocera its printers and D-Link its networking products.
Devine says the recession hit the company’s hardware sales, but its margins remain strong.
“We have tightened our belts and kept our margins strong and kept our bottom line on a similar basis.”
He believes customers will spend judiciously in 2010 and they will seek business intelligence products to analyse their financial data and improve business decision making.
Devine observes remote management of networks is another trend and while many firms have kept their XP operating systems, they are shifting to 2008 server and terminal services.
Web-based accounting software, including Xero, is increasingly popular, he says.