When Arden Group Managing Director Nigel Walker set up his company in 2002 he also took charge of the growing convergence opportunity and turned it to great advantage.
Coventry-based Arden Group has matured into a considerable market force strengthened by its acquisition of Computerworld Business Solutions (CBS) last month. The deal builds on the firm's previous acquisitions of Page IT and Unitycomm creating a fully managed service provider of IT and telecoms products and services largely driven by convergence and consolidation. "With the complementary technical expertise that CBS now brings to Arden from an IT services perspective we are well placed to offer our clients the services they require for their own long-term needs and act as their trusted technology partner," commented Walker. "We currently have a portfolio of 600 clients in a variety of industries, although the majority include large SME and small corporate organisations and we have strong footholds in property management, legal, education, finance and retail."
In 2013 Walker bought out the original investor and took a 90 per cent share of the business which was generating turnover of circa £5 million. The acquisition of CBS has boosted turnover to £10 million and rising. "Following the acquisition we now have a 50 strong team and expect revenues to reach £11 million with anticipated sales targets of £5.5 million in 2017," added Walker. "We're aiming for a recurring long-term contracted base of 75 per cent relative to overall turnover. Our expected growth is at least 15 per cent per anum at gross profit level."
From the outset Arden Group emerged as a forward thinking business with its finger on the pulse of a developing market. The company was founded in 2002 by Walker following a previous venture that saw him establish IDN Group in 1996, which was AIM listed in 2001. Prior to IDN Walker worked in the finance sector undertaking sales and management roles between 1987 and 1996. Arden was formed when Walker spotted an opportunity to provide complete communications solutions to a market used to procuring services from separate suppliers.
"More and more customers want to deal with one supplier in one place, and this is plays into our hands," commented Walker. "After more than 20 years working in the communications industry I have seen how technology has changed and evolved, which helps me to recognise trends and anticipate future developments. In recent years the telecoms and IT sectors have converged which has largely been brought about by the mass availability of high-speed Internet connections, a cross-sell culture and customer loyalty."
Walker's current priority is to focus on integrating CBS and develop a service offering which delivers a fully converged IT and telecoms solution. "We expect increased levels of organic sales following the acquisition as we move to cross-sell and offer multiple products and services under a managed service proposition," he said. "We'll also be looking to grow the value and size of our customer portfolio with a focus on enterprise account activity.
"However, employing the right people to drive growth can be a challenge. But my time in the financial services sector gave me experience in building and managing sales forces which helped to create the successful team around me today. We have built an experienced team that has significantly contributed to the success of the company and will continue to drive it forward."
The main focus of Walker's team is also the company's biggest opportunity - to provide a personal service. "By working closely with our clients we can provide tailored solutions that help to meet their individual needs," he added. "It's this close contact service and personal touch that some of the larger companies can't offer. Customers are looking to companies that can manage all their communication needs, and with the cost of service supply and critical mass, specialist organisations need to review their service offering. It's a case of eat or be eaten."