Since the first day I opened the virtual doors for business here at Netlink IT, we’ve always looked to partnerships with fellow technology companies to enable us to provide greater value to our clients. Partnering and collaborating with peers and other like-minded businesses has always felt natural to me, and I’ve never cared for the old school attitude of keeping so-called competitors as far away from your own business as possible. I’ve always believed there is enough clients for everyone!
Collaboration for one man bands
In the early days of the business and being a typical “one man band”, collaboration meant actively involving myself within the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community – writing a blog, attending user group meetings, building relationships with other Small Business IT providers, and offering advice from my limited experiences where possible, but mostly keeping my ears open and listening to experienced individuals within our Community who had faced the same challenges I was about to deal with. Acting upon their generous advice made growing a business just that little bit easier!
It also meant looking for Strategic Alliances – keeping eyes and ears open for opportunities within our client base wherein the client might need a service or product that we didn’t offer, but who we had a technology partner we could confidently refer them on to. Before long, those Strategic Alliance partners were doing the same thing at their clients and referring work back our way too.
As the business grew and I started to face up to the reality that Richard Tubb alone couldn’t work 24x7x365, I turned to some of these trusted partnerships I’d built and we worked together to solve mutual problems – issues such as sickness and holidays started becoming manageable instead of impossible, working with clients in geographical areas outside the standard became logistically possible, and those larger projects we’d previously shied away from as being “too big” started to look possible to tackle. As well as growth through taking on staff, our business naturally evolved to the stage where we treat our trusted partners very much like we would an employee – with induction programs, training plans and shared opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Peer partnership was taken to the next level last year when Netlink IT became a part of HTG – the Heartlands Technology Group. HTG is an organisation built on collaboration between trusted partners, and has both accelerated our own growth and helped us build new and valuable relationships with others.
I was reminded of just how far we’d come along thanks to the partnerships we’ve nurtured during a recent large project we collaborated on with Aparion IT, an fellow IT Consultancy based in Nottingham run by my old friend and colleague, Neil Wykes. Aparion are an experienced IT provider with a number of members of staff. They had recently won a large project based overseas that was keeping them very busy, but had come across another equally large opportunity within a large multi-national Transport company operating within the UK that they were under-resourced to tackle immediately, but loathe to pass up on as an opportunity. Neil got on the ‘phone to us and asked if we’d be interested in partnering up to help deliver a solution. Partnering up in this way is always a big step, as you’re basically asking someone else to represent you to your client, and I’m grateful Neil had enough trust in Netlink IT to place his trust in us that way.
The project was a large IT Infrastructure refresh, and involved re-locating a number of servers and network equipment from a Data centre near London to a new location in Birmingham, the replacement and refresh of a number of services such as e-mail, firewall, Citrix services, VPN and remote connectivity, and biggest of all, the refresh of Desktop Operating Systems on nearly 200 PC’s and delivery of new servers at approximately 13 locations around the UK. Oh yes, and there was a strict 30-day deadline for the work to be completed…
More Resources Required?
As well as offering our own members of staff time and energy to the project, it became quickly obvious that we needed more resource and expertise to complete the task, and so we specifically utilised the relationships we’d built up over the years at Netlink IT to enable us to call in the right people. In every case, whether we needed a resource based on expertise, location, or both, we knew exactly who to call and had no hesitation in picking up the ‘phone to the best people – and to me that shows just how important and rewarding having strong ongoing relationships with trusted partners are to us at Netlink IT.
The first place we turned for assistance was to Rob Savage of RobSavage.com – one of those very trusted partners I’ve already spoken about. Rob is a Business Consultant with lots of experience within Project Management and Citrix deployment, and we already treat him like “one of the team” here at Netlink IT. Rob began to tackle the mountain of planning required and was the definite “Man of the Match” of this large project!
We also needed more on-the-ground staff for those various UK site visits, and so we brought on-board Mick Davies of MAD Computer Solutions, another of those partners we have a long term relationship with and who, like Rob, is simply “one of the team” here at Netlink IT. Additionally, we turned to fellow Microsoft SBSC Paul Dadge of Stafford based PC Paramedic Solutions for some hard work and very very long hours from Paul and his colleagues, and we also had support from Tim Long of Tigra Networks, a Microsoft SBSC based in Wales – a part of the world where we needed experienced cover such as the type Microsoft MVP Tim is able to offer!
Then we highlighted the requirement for an unflappable cool head to look after things in the East Midlands, and Rob Franklin of JPT Solutions excelled our clients expectations with his quality service delivery in that part of the country.
High Calibre Partners
Finally, we had a special requirement for some high calibre service delivery in the centre of London, and so turned to fellow Heartlands Technology Group member Raja Pagadala of Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, The Final Step. Raja’s staff have a reputation as the best in the business when it comes to exceeding client expectations in the bustling English capital, and they certainly deserve that reputation based on our experiences of working with them.
I can’t thank the guys involved enough for their efforts – they worked exceptionally long hours over many days, including one particular bank holiday weekend when I’m sure they’d all have preferred to be in a beer garden somewhere relaxing. However through persistence and professionalism, the work got done and the client was ecstatic with the results.
So that’s a complete IT Infrastructure refresh, include a dozen or more new servers and 200+ desktop PC’s, at 13+ sites across the UK – all work completed within 30 days. I’m guessing even one of the massive worldwide IT Consultancies that are out there would think twice about that sort of job!
Aparion IT now have a client who have huge faith in them to deliver, whatever the size of the project, and all the partners involved in delivering this project, including Netlink IT, have a very strong relationship built on trust and experience working together that they can leverage for future opportunities between them all.
All of this work was delivered on the back of partnerships built between companies delivering similar services that many would traditionally look upon as competitors who shouldn’t, or couldn’t, work together.
I personally think it’s the perfect example of how partnerships and collaboration can work at the SMB level and I’m pleased to have been a big part of it!