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​EXCLUSIVE: Why Plan B bought ICONZ

​EXCLUSIVE: Why Plan B bought ICONZ

Plan B’s Managing Director Ian Forrester sits down with Reseller News to explain the acquisition of ICONZ.

Ian Forrester - Managing Director, Plan B, at the 2015 Reseller News ICT Industry Awards

Ian Forrester - Managing Director, Plan B, at the 2015 Reseller News ICT Industry Awards

“We have a good handle on the market and constantly conduct local research and we believe there’s more consolidation ahead as the smaller players either get mopped up by the big guys, or merge to create large organisations.”

For Forrester, the future is clear - “you can’t be a niche player in a small market.”

“You have to offer more services,” he claims. “I’m not saying you have to be a big player, but you can’t just for example, be an ISP. You’ve got to have that critical mass and we have it, the ones that don’t are going to struggle and it’s only going to get harder as the market becomes more competitive.

“Our aim is to push even harder to grow our critical infrastructure platform and with that, they’ll be more acquisitions. I’d by lying if I said there wasn’t but for the time being, and during the next six months at least, we’ll work hard on fully bringing ICONZ into the Plan B fold.”

ICONZ

Terms of the acquisition will see both companies operating separately for the coming months, and while the two companies will become one where it makes sense operationally, Forrester says the two brands will remain separate.

At present, Forrester says the key task at hand is ensuring the efficient running of both back-end systems, with ICONZ’s financial systems eventually coming over onto Plan B's.

Another primary focus is to ensure customers - of which Plan B now has over 2,000 - will work with one dedicated account manager and receive on bill, regardless of whether they are a Plan B or ICONZ customer, or both.

“We will provide one account manager to provide access to all services from all companies, and for the common customers we share, we’ll have one touch point,” Forrester adds.

Forrester says a total of 31 staff will come into the Plan B fold, including Jack Talbot who will remain as General Manager for ICONZ.

“Jack is coming over and has committed to us for the transitional period and the foreseeable future,” Forrester adds. “Legally we’ll still be two companies so Jack will continue in his role but will also become a member of Plan B’s senior management team.”

While the deal was confirmed on February 1, 2016, Forrester says talks have been ongoing for the best part of a year, with the company expressing an interest as early as April 2015.

“It’s been on the cards for some time, we’ve just had a few challenges along the way,” adds Forrester, alluding that the barriers were “mostly circumstantial.”

“We’ve put in the hard years to make sure we got what we’re after.”

Ian Forrester - Managing Director, Plan B, at the 2015 Reseller News ICT Industry Awards
Ian Forrester - Managing Director, Plan B, at the 2015 Reseller News ICT Industry Awards

The acquisition was made complicated by the fact that ICONZ and Free Parking - the domain name registrar purchased by ICONZ in February 2004 - were in essence, divisions of the same company, despite trading as separate brands.

As such, Forrester says the divisions needed to be separated before being sold.

While Plan B initially looked at acquiring the whole business, with the web domain space no doubt providing a sound cash generator, Forrester admits that it simply wasn’t “core business” for the company, and decided against the purchase.

Critically however, ICONZ staff were informed of the acquisition plans as early as December 23, in a bid to ensure all staff remained on board at the time of the deal was closed.

“It would have been a big frustration if staff had left the business during the past few months,” adds Forrester, who acknowledges that January usually represents a month of great job changes within the market.

“It would of course made the deal less attractive because customers enjoy a continuity of services and like to deal with the same people, so we’re delighted to welcome the staff over to Plan B.”

With ICONZ - who dropped Webvisions from the name late last year - currently based in Airedale Street, Auckland CBD, Forrester says there are no plans to uproot the staff and bring them to Plan B’s Albany-based office, which lacks the capacity.

“We have a lease on the city building until 2020 with options to renew beyond that so we don’t envisage any change,” he adds. “We don’t have capacity in our Albany office, unless we built an extension, but we’re conscious that we have staff living on both sides of the bridge so I actually believe in time, staff will swap locations depending on their roles.

“The city location also gives us redundancy across our offices and means we can launch more business continuity services as a result, which will include three standby suites.”

2016

Looking ahead, Forrester predicts “exponential growth” for the company during the next 12-18 months, with plans in place to “grow slowly” and ensure “we take our time.”

As always, future acquisitions remain on the cards for Forrester, but for the time being, the core focus centres on ironing out the ICONZ acquisition and focusing on providing customers with access to a wider breadth of services.

“If something knocks on our door that’s too good to be true we’ll take advantage of that, we have the capacity to do that but it’s not a priority,” he adds.

The DNA of a future Plan B acquisition centres around the hosted infrastructure space, with Forrester unwavering in his outlook for the company in 2016 and beyond.

“We’re not going to be a Jack of all trades,” he adds. “We know what we do, and we know what we don’t do.”


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