Softcat: There’s growth in the channel despite “doom and gloom”

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There is plenty of opportunity for growth in the IT channel despite a large dose of “doom and gloom” in the hardware market and wider economy, according to VAR Softcat.

Softcat has seen business booming, with the Bucks-based reseller reporting £300 million in revenues recently, as well as adding a number of staff through its ongoing graduate scheme.

Softcat solutions director Sam Routledge says that the firm has managed to attain this level of growth despite macroeconomic concerns.

“There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the outside world obviously,” he told ChannelBiz UK. “There are no doubts that parts of the IT market are challenging – server numbers are flat at best, PCs shipments are quite down in the last quarter, so if you are just going to move kit I suppose it is going to get harder out there.

“But if you are going to get properly engaged with your customers and understand what they are doing, there is never going to be a scenario in which an organisation will not need IT.”

Routledge explains that part of Softcat’s success in growing its business over the past couple of year has been the diversification into new areas, with a move into public sector sales paying off for the firm.

“We set the public sector business up 18 months ago and its gone like the clappers, so that has been a real success,” Routledge says.  “We have put a lot of focus on that and  I think our message is being well received in public sector.”

He adds that Softcat’s own offerings are also adapting to changing customer need, with growth coming from solutions areas rather than the more traditional areas for Softcat, such as the resale of software and licensing.

The main challenge that Softcat faces going forward is attracting the right staff in order to further grow the business, Routledge explains.  While the VAR has a longstanding graduate recruitment programme – of which Routledge himself is a product, some 14 years ago – the firm, like many others, is affected by a lack of experienced technical staff.

“There is a dearth of technical talent out there,” he says. “There aren’t enough people perhaps to fill the roles, so I think we find recruiting on the experienced technical side harder. We need to keep bringing people in to sustain the growth of the organisation, all disciplines; sales, technical and elsewhere.

“The concern is that we won’t be able to recruit enough experienced technical staff to keep us going in the medium term while we grow graduate schemes”

However Routledge says that the firm is well placed to further increase it business having already bumped its staff headcount to well over the 450 mark.  He says that there are goals for growth at the firm, but will not be making any major operational changes going forward.

“Its not much other than sheer hardwork,” he says.  “We just keep employing fantastic people, training them hard, empowering them and motivating them to make Softcat hopefully the best place to work in the channel.”

“Because of that everyone works really really hard and we get the job done, and we keep on growing both in terms of business and in terms of turnover.”

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