Kitchen eyes top spot

Investments into infrastructure, processes, people, security, automation and acquisitions have put MSP Razorblue on the road to becoming a leading MSP for SMEs in the UK, according to CEO Dan Kitchen.

Kitchen’s big vision is for North Yorkshire headquartered Razorblue to become the UK’s leading managed IT provider for SMEs. The company currently has seven offices and works with over 500 businesses (typically with 50 or more users), providing a range of services including managed IT support, connectivity, cloud solutions, business applications and telephony. Its 2020-21 financial year saw 32 per cent growth with turnover rising to £9 million – and Kitchen is targeting £20 million turnover by 2023, driving expansion through a strategy of locally-focused operations. “In each new region we have expanded into we have built a team of engineers and account managers on the ground, making the company accessible and relevant to customers in that area,” he stated.

Razorblue is already well established in the north east and north west, with the western region team growing by 170 per cent since 2018 and winning the 2021 GMCC Entrepreneurial Success award. But while growth in these two areas remains a focus, so does expansion in Scotland following a 2021 acquisition in Stirling. This has already prompted a move to larger premises with completion expected at the end of February 2022. Kitchen also noted that he has more acquisitions in the pipeline.

The cyber space is moving rapidly and some traditional services could become irrelevant in just a few years

Razorblue was launched in 2006 when Kitchen, then a 17 year old technology enthusiast and self-taught infrastructure engineer, quit college after three months to pursue full-time employment. What began as a start-up in a room at Kitchen’s parents’ house is now a business with bases across the UK, having merged with Tokoda in 2009 and then acquiring two more firms in 2019 and 2021. “The traditional model of IT support was outdated as it focused on selling a service rather than becoming a true partner,” said Kitchen. “This is what Razorblue has focused on being, enabling us to offer support and also service the growth potential of clients.”

Razorblue evolved into an ISP with its own core network in 2009, coinciding with the merger with Tokoda, which was followed by the launch of a low cost 100MB Internet service on several business parks. In 2012, the company moved to a new head office and the business applications division was incorporated, with a further five offices opening over the next seven years and headcount increasing by over 500 per cent to 80. Technology partners include Microsoft, HP, Sophos and Mimecast – and Razorblue has a string of new accreditations including Microsoft Gold Partners and Cyber Essentials Plus. Kitchen is investing in automation, enabling Razorblue to provide the optimal experience for customers and support them in growing their own organisations in a more efficient and streamlined way.

Razorblue has also evolved its business applications division and a new director, Chris Gill, will lead further expansion of the team to service growing demand from customers. “Our applications division is exploring opportunities in AI and automation, while our IT division is building on our cybersecurity offerings,” explained Kitchen. “The cyber space is moving rapidly and that could mean that some traditional services will become irrelevant in just a few years.”

In 2020, Razorblue worked on a business applications project which supported the Covid-19 testing effort as the country was thrown into chaos with the start of lockdowns, enforced working from home and unprecedented change. “Rather than struggle, Razorblue seized this opportunity and not only supported its clients in quite literally an overnight change to remote working, but also grew its own headcount by over 20 per cent to 140, and saw our most successful financial year to date,” added Kitchen.

Another major focus area is recruiting the right people in the right way, including a new People Director to ensure there is a true people-focus in decision making from the top of the business. “There is currently a significant skills gap in the industry, making it a competitive landscape when recruiting new people,” commented Kitchen. “Razorblue has taken this opportunity to create a robust induction process. For example, new starters are introduced to people at all levels of the business, including myself, within their first two weeks.”

Not surprisingly, staff turnover is low with a large number of people having been with the business for more than five years with some progressing from entry level and junior roles to more senior ones. “The skills shortage is unlikely to be resolved in the short-term and it’s imperative that MSPs navigate their way through this with care,” added Kitchen. “This is something Razorblue has taken a stance on and there is an exciting project underway as a result.

“MSPs also need to reposition themselves as a partner rather than a provider, because customers will continue to expect more than an internal IT department might be able to provide. The beauty of working with an MSP is that staff holidays, sickness and the skills gap etc are no longer concerns for customers, as well as upskilling and monitoring industry changes. From a cost perspective, outsourced IT makes sense but only so long as the MSPs involved continue to adapt, evolve and embrace change. Those who don’t will soon fall out of favour.”

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