Some background details on Jack & his business
Before I started my current IT company I worked as an Electrical Engineer for several small local based companies then moving on to larger companies such as FG Wilson (now Caterpillar) and BP.
For the past 25 years I have been running my own IT service company in NI, managing eight full time staff. The main work of the company is managed IT support, sales, servicing, repairs, installation of networks, servers and necessary security hardware, software, services along with the complete maintenance of small businesses IT infrastructure.
We provide support to our clients based on service to make IT work for them, finding solutions to their problems.
Why did you join FSB?
I joined FSB in 2003 for the protection services and benefits of legal and HR support as many of us, when we start a business don’t know where to turn to for support and advice in matters that we are not familiar with.
Have you used any FSB services so far and how has this experience been/helped your business?
We use the FSB service regularly for employment related issues, contracts of employment and legal services required for developing the business.
How did Covid-19 impact your business?
Before and at the start of lockdown our business grew by providing IT services for our clients to allow them to work from home. Shortly after lockdown our business slowed down dramatically with many of our clients being forced to close their doors. A few weeks later the businesses came back into operation because they needed a means to survive and they created work to continue trading, with this we provided additional IT services to help them and their staff work from home.
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As a limited company we received little help from the government, we could only avail of the furlough scheme for the employees. Since then we have taken all staff off the furlough scheme and employed additional staff to deal with the workload.
We have provided the ability for our own staff to work from home and as an essential business we still travel to customers sites to repair issues that cannot be repaired remotely.
What is the single greatest challenge for any SME at the minute?
Lots of businesses believe this to be a short lived epidemic and don’t see the danger of this lasting a long time and continuing for years. However, many have implemented measures to work with this epidemic and continue to adapt as the situation changes.
Small businesses are great at adapting unlike larger corporations, but they don’t have the means to implement systems as quickly as they would like to. Many have used communication tools that are free or relatively low cost to get business done.
Many businesses have to look for new ways of surviving and diversifying, depending on who their customers are. Unfortunately, many will not survive this epidemic.
What are the opportunities and positives for SMEs at the minute and how are you embracing recovery?
Out of this will come many new technologies and innovation to adapt and continue life as we once knew it. It is survival time for many of us and we have to stay positive that this may not be around forever or at least in a lower capacity. New ways of doing business will be used and we all have to adapt to these. Customers are the life blood of a small business and if these customers don’t have employment by whatever means then this has a detrimental effect on small businesses. With their drive and ambition the businesses will bounce back with greater experience and understanding that not everything in life is guaranteed and not to have all your eggs in one basket.
Of FSB’s key campaign issues at the minute. Which is most important to you and your business at present and why?
The main campaigns that will help many businesses are availability of good broadband all over Northern Ireland, Small Business Rates Relief and Prompt Payment. Business rates provide little benefits to companies as many services are not included such as waste disposable for packaging and recycling.
Have you any words of advice to anyone starting a small business?
If you are thinking of starting a business at the minute make sure you have a client base that is not limited and have a good continuity plan in place.