Growing in Tough Times

Pas-Ruggiero-Integra-ICT

Comms Business Magazine met up with Pas Ruggiero, Managing Director of Sandy, Beds based reseller Integra ICT, to find out how the firm had changed its business model following the economic downturn of 2008.

With a turnover today of around £6.0million and some 39 employees Integra ICT was known as Anglia Telecom up to 2008. ‘And then things changed,’ says Managing Director Pas Ruggiero.

“As the economic downturn kicked in at the end of 2008 we introduced a new go to market strategy. Overnight people had stopped buying shiny new replacement PBX systems and began demanding more from their suppliers for less money. We changed from being a supplier of voice-based PBX systems to become a more rounded provider of integrated voice and data solutions which delivered the productivity and efficiency gains that users were looking for – hence too the name change to Integra ICT.

Today we are growing in tough times, which shows the strategy change is working. In terms of technology, of course things move on at a pace and the last great shift in technology, the move to VoIP is still washing through the market with many of our clients now installing SIP trunks and changing out from TDM to VoIP solutions.  Undoubtedly the next shift will be to cloud based applications and solutions but, just like the move to IP that began 8-10 years ago, cloud will take time to become ‘the norm’.

Mitel 3000, Siemens and Microsoft form the core brands that Integra ICT brings to the market.

“A year ago we took over an IT firm which was a Microsoft Small Business Partner. Our intention was to cross sell solutions between the client bases. We are now a Microsoft Gold Partner selling Office 365, Lync and general network support to clients.

As part of our new marketing strategy Integra ICT also formed a strategic relationship with Nine Wholesale. We came late to lines and minutes business as we had always been a technology and systems based reseller. We were essentially a comms company and needed to expand into network services. This move, and the relationship we formed with Nine, has proved significant for our business.

Today, with great products and support from Nine Wholesale we have a new set of income streams from additional network services sold to our existing base of customers.

What customers want from us is reliability and to have just one throat to choke if anything goes wrong. We can now provide this. Nine Wholesale has done a really good job for Integra ICT, which is why it all works so well. We decided not to deal directly with the likes of say BT choosing instead to provide what the user needs by utilising Nine Wholesale’s skill sets. Nine care about our business and our clients as if they were their own and are genuinely keen to see us succeed and grow.

Nine’s Purple Partner Programme has worked for us. As a medium-sized business it can be difficult for us to take on and train new people with the right attitude- it needs some form of ‘academy’ to help.”

Paul McEwan, Channel Sales Director for Nine Wholesale commented, “I am buoyed by the success of the relationship between Integra and Nine and the value which Pas places on our support.  Nine Wholesale recognises the importance of unit price, but we are obsessed by the need to go further than pence per minute, so we can help resellers to develop a profitable business and secure sustainable relationships with their customers.”

Looking ahead Ruggiero acknowledges that the market today is very challenging and still changing fast.

“You can differentiate however through your skill sets. We like to advise our clients on their adoption of new technologies to help their business – encouraging them to invest in the winning solutions as we see them. It’s very satisfying to see this happen and succeed for our clients. Microsoft Lync for example is a great unified communications add on and enhancement but in most cases not a PBX replacement.

We find that flexible working practices have taken a while to take off in many firms. CEOs are often highly suspicious – are their staff really working when at home? We are however beginning to see more and more uptake of unified communications applications. Again, this has taken a while to gain traction but is now a major opportunity for us.

Connectivity and access are key to today’s competitiveness. It’s all about doing more things from wherever you are and with whichever device suits you. I don’t take a laptop out anymore – I prefer to use an iPad. It’s my device of choice.

4G will undoubtedly also have a key role to play in the future of communications and I wish it were here now. The big issue for firms such as ours, i.e., located outside the M25, is coverage as it will impact our business. However, I believe the 4G that is being promoted now is a little disingenuous. It’s all about getting users to buy new handsets and take out new contracts without putting over the business benefits. It’s got a long way to go yet.”

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