Following the hedgehog’s path to success

01 Sep 11

Chris Maclean is a fan of hedgehogs. Or more specifically, the Maclean Computing chief executive is a fan of the hedgehog concept, espoused by author Jim Collins in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t.
Collins advocates companies do ‘what you can be best in the world at’, citing Isaiah Berlin’s essay The Hedgehog and the Fox, where the cunning fox keeps coming up with new ideas on how to eat the hedgehog, while the hedgehog continues to focus on its one trick – rolling up in a prickly ball. Collins says rather than being a fox and focussing on multiple things, companies should do like a hedgehog, hone their focus and do one thing – and do it well.
"It’s a narrowing proposition,” says Maclean. "And we bought into that.”
The first step was to decide not to focus on getting into other services, such as CRM development and other software development, instead focusing on IT infrastructure for Auckland mid-market business. "As part of that we looked at procurement and realised we probably could never be the best in the world at that. Acquire could be a better partner for that and provide us with economy of scale, faster service and a better amount of self service for those wanting to buy online,” Maclean says. He says while there have been ‘a few bumps in the road, in general it’s been great and we will definitely stick with it’.
In hindsight, he says, more planning could have gone into the change, with more time spent getting buy in from staff, and the process could have been done earlier. "A lot of customers had already acknowledged there were better ways to buy hardware and were already doing it.”
The hedgehog concept was also responsible for the birth of IT management service Enfusion, a division of Maclean Computing which Maclean says will be spun off into its own legal entity in the first quarter of next year.
"We won a Kaseya award as best managed service provider in Australasia and as a result we had a lot of enquiries about what we were doing because others felt they weren’t getting value out of Kaseya.”
Enfusion, powered by Maclean provides Kaseya as a service to other managed service providers. "We have spent four years investing in this technology. We’ve got the knowledge, the scripts, the self healing things... and that’s all stuff partners can now have from us from day one,” Maclean says. The service also allows partners to free up their own engineers to be working on projects which will earn money for their companies, he adds.
"There’s huge opportunity for the business and for export as well. We all love to export IP out of New Zealand,” Maclean says. Enfusion is seeking new MSPs to work with and Australia is a primary market for the company.
"New Zealand companies are probably a little more conservative and they are naturally concerned that Macleans may one day compete with them,” he says, though he adds the company has no intention of doing that. "We will stay in Auckland. But I can accept others are concerned.”
Maclean says while Maclean Computing is currently Enfusion’s biggest customer ‘others are challenging that position’.
And his message to other New Zealand resellers? "Pick what you can be the best in the world at and partner with others for everything else. The big thing is to be crystal clear about what space you can own and leave the rest to partners.” 

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