Christchurch-based company MBS’s Sales Manager Richard Williams shares 30 years of experience in IT with The Channel.
How did it all begin?
Back in 1981, MBS was one of the early adopters for the supply of IT and computerised accounting systems to small and medium businesses in Canterbury. Alex Ball joined the company in 1992, and I joined in 1999. When Denis Couch, the founder, was ready to retire, Alex and I were fortunate enough to be part of the succession plan. We took over the company in 2004 and have been in partnership since then.
What changes has the business undergone?
With nearly 30 years in IT, where do I start? The Commodore platform was important in the early days; later it was Novell that was the start of business networking for our clients. That, in turn, eventually made way for the Windows platform in the mid-1990s. DOS-based accounting products, Prophet and Profax were our mainstay during the ’90s with a move to SQL-based Exonet in 1999. The support of the Exo product (now MYOB Exo Business) has been a mainstay for the last 10 years and it was pleasing for our efforts to be recognised by receiving the ‘MYOB Enterprise Partner of the Year’ award.
What is your core business?
Providing the right information to the right people at the right time within small to medium businesses in Canterbury. In practice, this encompasses both the accounting and business software side of the solution and the network platforms that are required for delivery. We are a ‘Microsoft House’ so the technology we use is mainly based on Small Business Server, Terminal Server and SQL.
What are your clients and what business challenges do they face?
Our clients are generally of the five to 100-PC size in a wide range of industries from manufacturing, importing and distribution, retail, exporting and jobbing businesses. Some have a small in-house IT team, but many do not and rely on us to be their one-stop shop for everything from accounting solutions and network design through to day-to-day IT support. The availability of their applications and data has become so critical to these companies that they have had to face up to the requirement to put in place robust business continuity plans. Many of our clients also face the challenge of scale – they have the complexity of business processes of much larger organisations, but are constrained by the resources of a smaller operation.
Is your physical location a challenge to doing business?
Our new location on the outskirts of the Christchurch CBD works well for us: access to our clients is generally easy, but being out of the centre means that car parking is not a problem!
What technology is hot right now?
Technologies that integrate the islands of information which often develop as a company grows, leading to duplication of data and effort, and a lack of an all- encompassing ‘organisational view’. One example of this is a simple CRM system that resides where we all do business from (Microsoft Outlook) and fully integrates with the rest of the business system to provide the single point of record that enables good customer service and delivers efficiencies.
Constraints of data availability due to poor broadband speeds. Without good connection speeds, getting users to want to use the systems correctly is difficult. When information flows quickly, the whole of the business benefits.
What’s the best thing about your location?
Christchurch is a great place to work and live. Access to the mountains and the sea is so easy – there’s no excuse not to get amongst it! So many of our clients are into the outdoors, particularly mountain biking: it’s great having a catch-up with them to see what they’ve been doing.
Without giving away valuable IP – what do you think is the secret to your success?
Valuing relationships, being part of the team and delivering tangible business benefi ts. All of our consultants get a real buzz out of being a trusted part of a solution made up of the client, MBS and the chosen technology.