Alex Slade landed his first IT client at age 12. Eight years on, that client, an earthmoving business in the Hunter Valley, is still a customer.
Now based in Sydney, the managed services provider that came to be called A Corp Computers started out in Slade’s family home at Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley, when Slade, then in primary school, was offering web design services to clients in the local area.
A Corp Computers now has four full-time staff, three to four contractors at any given time, and 35 MSP clients. According to Slade, revenue was in the ballpark of $500,000 for 2017 and it enjoys vendor partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, HP, Cisco and Xirrus.
“[In the beginning] I was doing websites from scratch, writing HTML and CSS, which was good fun,” he said. “I think IT is one of those things that young people just have a knack for."
While developing a new website for an earthmoving firm, that company suffered a system crash. Slade, armed with an early passion for computing, helped them get back on their feet. He also helped the company move from a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 environment to Windows Small Business Server.
It lit a fire under the young developer, and some further work experience providing ad hoc IT services and web design for clients gained through local, family and school connections, and an internship with a school admissions office’s IT department, cemented his ambition to run an IT company.
“After I graduated I was offered an internship at the schools' office for the school I attended. I worked there for a year in their IT department, and that’s where I realised, ‘Wow there so much more I can do than just by myself’,” he said.
“It was a real eye-opener to a sophisticated IT system, it catered for 50 schools, thousands of students and thousands of staff ... I realised, 'This is definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life'. It was that kind of feeling.”
Slade moved to Sydney in early 2016, both to take his business to the next level and commence his double degree in business and computer science.
“This is where I can really grow the business, the networking, the contacts, being close to vendors, close to distributors, close to support,” he said.
“Uni isn’t nine to five, which is good, I do night classes so I’ve been able to balance it with work a lot better… considering it is full-time work and a full-time degree it’s balancing out quite well.”
Slade said growth has been snowballing for the company, now headquartered in Barangaroo.
The company's biggest rollout to date was for a Hunter-based automotive company, which needed an entire legacy IT replacement. A Corp deployed a full HP solution.
“It was a complete IT fit-out, which they were overdue for, with lots of legacy IT. We went in with HP and they're pretty happy with how it’s going now. It was desktops, laptops, servers and print. We’re their on-call IT team now as well, providing managed services,” Slade said.
“That’s really where we took the business. When it was just me it was that break-fix approach, now we can sit down and build a model with recurring billing, we’re on call, providing services in addition to the products. So instead of just selling an antivirus solution or a backup product, we sell a service.”
Slade said while he was met with some skepticism selling IT services at ages 12, 13 and 14, being a young adult in business has lent itself to positive reactions.
“Now it’s fine because I'm an adult, and I think a lot of people approach IT thinking, ‘This person is young, he must know what he’s talking about’,” he said.
“That being said I do get head turns at networking events or partner events when I’m usually the youngest person in the room; and that’s always a conversation starter.”
As it grows its client list the company is also upskilling in networking and security, particularly as the latter topic continues to make headlines.
“Cloud was the buzzword a couple years ago, now it’s all about security,” Slade said. “With new laws coming in it's all about security and data protection. And we’re working with our security vendors to and consulting with businesses around that,” he said.
A Corp is conscious of training and enablement requirements with Slade and the staff undertaking some certification training this and next month, but Slade said his key focus was to put clients first.
Though he would not be drawn on the specifics of A Corp’s first full-year as a staffed company operating out of Sydney, the chief executive said the company had enjoyed 90 percent growth, both in terms of revenues and customers. After 18 months in Sydney, Slade recognises a few points that are key to doing good business.
“Knowing what you're talking about for a start. It’s all well and good to talk a big game in IT but if you can't back it up what’s the point?” he said.
“I just make sure that when we go in, we pitch a solution that we're comfortable with, that suits the customer, that they’re going to get benefit out of.
“That’s where we‘re at, making sure every customer knows what they’re getting from us, that we know what we’re providing, and ultimately deliver a service that helps the business operate more efficiently, more cost effectively with as minimal downtime as possible.”
According to Slade, A Corp’s 2018 financial year is off to a positive start, with some key contracts already on the cards.