Netlink IT to merge with

A snappier title to this blog entry might be “Cash and Tubb”, evoking images of a ‘70s Cop Show, but I decided to keep the more straight forward headline…

The title of this blog post says it all – my company, Birmingham based Netlink IT, has merged with nearby Dudley based – owned by James Cash!

Netlink IT started in 1999 as “Netlink Trading Ltd”, essentially a vehicle for my 9 to 5 IT Contracting at companies such as Ernst & Young, GE Capital and the NHS. By 2004 I was regularly undertaking out-of-hours projects for those clients and other small businesses, and so I took the plunge to give up the IT Contracting and work for myself.

I continued as the “IT Guy” until 2007 when I became aware of something called “Managed Services” and so sought more information – then stumbling across the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community. I attended the Microsoft SBSC Symposium in Manchester where I listened to people like Susanne Dansey, Gareth Brown of Sytec, Vijay Riyait and Steve Wright of BMS speak on the subject of SMB and Managed Services. This had a profound effect on me – suddenly my eyes were opened to a whole community of IT Professionals and Business Owners who faced the same challenges as me.

I visited my local user group, AMITPRO, where I was made to feel welcome by everyone. I also met a couple of folks there called James Cash and Mark Poulding. More on them later!

Visiting AMITPRO each month gave me the opportunity to discuss the challenges I faced as a “one man band” with my peers. I took on board the advice given by them and other people I’d been introduced to within the Global SMB Community, people such as Tim Long, Vlad Mazek and Karl Palachuk.

By the end of 2007 I’d moved Netlink IT from being “The IT Guy” doing break/fix IT Support in to a pure Managed Services Provider. But the problem remained that I basically still owned a job, and not a business. I no longer wanted to be a “one man band”. I read “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber and decided that the best way to grow my business was to systemise and automate it. 2008 became the year I really concentrated on this – and pretty soon Netlink IT had offices in Weoley Castle, I’d employed an Office Manager to manage all the admin and other chores that stopped me from getting out and earning, and built strategic alliances with other local trusted IT Consultants who I made sure to treat as employees of Netlink IT – sharing our goals, ideas, training, resources, best practices and processes with them. Huge thanks to Mick Davies of MAD Computers, Rob Savage of and Rob Franklin of JPT Solutions – they all “got it” around the idea of tight collaboration and enabled me to stop being a Technician and start growing a business.

Thoughts then turned from fixing Technical issues to adding new clients, and then meant me taking off my Geek hat and putting on a Sales hat. Uncomfortably territory! I discussed the issue with James Cash (who was growing his own business 8 miles up the road from Netlink IT at a fantastic rate) who suggested I come along to a Sandler Sales Training event with him. I stretched my comfort levels and went, and soon I was attending a bi-weekly Presidents Club hosted by the fantastic Steve Wright (a different one to the BMS owner mentioned earlier!) which focused my business brain on generating sales.

In mid-2008 I also made a trip to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston, TX. Much like that first SBSC Symposium, this was a real eye owner for me. I sat in on seminar sessions delivered by Arlin Sorenson, Stuart Crawford and others which I found genuinely inspirational. I also sat in on a get together of something called HTG – Heartlands Technology Group. The conversation blew me away – here was a room full of around 100 business owners who were REALLY good at what they did.

At WPC 2008 I also met a chap by the name of Dave Sobel, owner of Evolve Technologies. He discussed with me the idea of starting a HTG group in the UK. “Would I be interested?”. You bet! The resulting HTG 11 group became a major influence in my business life, the “Virtual Board of Directors” concept really driving me forwards, and Dave (the Facilitator) of that group becoming a good friend and a great advisor, along with the other fantastic members of HTG 11.

January 2009 saw a reward for our drive towards systemising the business. Netlink IT were awarded an Accreditation by Accredit UK for General Business Processes and Network Design and Installation. I also took on a new Office Manager, who was  instrumental in overhauling our financial management processes – and the timing couldn’t have been better as the UK went into recession.

Fast forward to July 2009 and thoughts had turned to taking on more Technical Staff and improving the Sales process. Just before I was due to fly to New Orleans for WPC 09 I had lunch with James Cash. “How do you feel about talking about a merger with Mark and I?”. When I’d been approached on the subject previously I dismissed it out of hand, but this time around we chatted it over and something blindingly obvious became apparent – the main challenges were facing, Netlink IT had tackled, and the main challenges Netlink IT were facing, James and his partner Mark Poulding had dealt with. Why not pool our resources, lower our costs and accelerate our mutual growth?

I took my thinking hat to NOLA with me to mull over the options and sat with the people who’s opinion matters most to me – my HTG 11 peers Dave Sobel, Raja Pagadala, Malcolm Diack and HTG’s Stuart Crawford. I came back with a decision.

Since WPC 09, James and I have been planning how to merge our two companies, and boy, there’s a lot to plan! We’ve been lucky enough to have a great Business Mentor in John Shufflebottom to help us along the way. We have closed down the Netlink IT offices in Birmingham and taken on larger joint offices in Dudley, begun migrating data and processes, notified clients and suppliers, financially valued our two companies for the split of shares and undertaken the necessary legal steps, and just last week prepared the Public Relations (there are articles in the Birmingham Mail newspaper and Midland Business News already) There’s still a ton left to be done, but we’re now together in one building and pulling in the same direction – I’m sure we’ll get there.

So going into late 2009 I’m no longer “the boss”, but “a boss” – something that I’m sure will take time to come to terms with but with the benefit that I no longer feel like I have the whole world resting on my shoulders – and together with Mark and James we have a whole new set of goals and a plan for the next 3 years and beyond for the newly merged company!

With huge thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned above (and those many others I’ve not) who helped me grow Netlink IT to the stage where we’re ready to face this new challenge, I hope you’ll wish James, Mark, Sharon, Ian, Alex, Ian, James, Rob and I all the very best of luck for our endeavour!


9 Responses to “Netlink IT to merge with”

  1. 1 Guy September 24, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Congratulations – I have a suggestion for the new company name: \’Cash Rich\’

  2. 2 Andy September 24, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Wow…huge news! Good luck to you all!

  3. 3 Chris September 24, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Rich James, et al. I wanted to be the first to wish you the very best of luck in this new endevour. Both of you have been a huge inspration to me and my business and have really given me things to think about over the last 18months since being in HTG11 .. I really trust and respect you both and know that you will make a huge success out of it . WELL DONE!! AND THE BEER IS ON ME IN LONDON NEXT MONTH :0)

  4. 4 Steve September 24, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Congrats on the merger – I\’m sure you\’ll make it a success 🙂

  5. 5 Arlin September 24, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Congratulations to you all – I am excited to see how things take off and go to the next level. Doing a merger like this is a lot of hard work, as you have already figure out, but being able to share the responsibilities and not be out there on an island sure is a lot more comforting than doing it alone. Stay the course and if HTG or I can do anything to assist, don\’t hesitate to ask!

  6. 6 Rob September 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Great news guys, bringing together such a broad range of skills will only serve to better both sets of clients in the future. Congratulations to all of you and best of \’british\’ for the future!!

  7. 7 Patrick September 24, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Congratulations – awesome news. Good luck as you move onward and upward.

  8. 8 Dave September 24, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Glad to see all the planning and discussions bearing fruit, and very excited for you both. Looking forward to hearing about the continued story as the new company grows, and will see you next month for HTG11!

  9. 9 Richard September 28, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Thanks for all the great messages – much appreciated guys!

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