Founder and Managing Director of Nebula IT, Chris Pottrell, speaks with Business Leader Magazine about his company’s journey to become one of the South West’s leading IT services providers.
Having recently moved to their new offices in Longwell Green, Pottrell is expecting his company to continue growing over the next few years and intends to help his customers come to terms with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the coming months.
How did you set up the company?
I was a technical director for a technical and IT support firm in the Midlands. I was there for five years but their structure was very rigid.
I wanted to go along with cloud services and they did not, so we didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with the future of the business.
That was in 2012 and while I was sitting on a beach on my honeymoon, my wife and I agreed I was miserable in the role. I handed in my notice from that beach.
While I was on gardening leave I decided that if I was to start my own company then this would be the best time to do it. So, over the course of the next week, we moved to Bristol and I started speaking to some old contacts. We then set up the company.
How did you scale up your business?
The business park where I was originally located in Bristol, before I moved up to the Midlands, always had bad broadband. They were losing tenants and I saw a gap in the market. I believed that I could go in and offer the landlord a bigger connection through a provider, and then distribute this through the tenants.
Seeing as we were on the estate, and managing all the connections, we introduced ourselves to the leaseholders. Over the next two years, we took responsibility for over 75% of the estate’s IT needs. Effectively, we were the on-site IT department.
We then lifted that model and applied it to other estates and businesses. Now we have moved into premises where there is a real hub of businesses. We work amongst them and are the main point of contact for IT enquiries: this is how we market our business. We also offer our services at a fraction of the cost of an IT manager.
With our cloud offerings – things like Microsoft Office365 – our growth in this sector was rapid. The conversation then moved onto connectivity, and we discussed bringing in fibre optic broadband. We were offering these cheaper solutions to customers and we slowly became more and more involved with our customers’ businesses.
We work hard to build trust with our clients as this is very important to us and they often involve me and the Nebula team at board level. Because of our dedication to our clients, our own growth has snowballed in our first three years.
You have just moved into a new office – how has it been so far?
The new office is great and we have had fantastic feedback from our customers. We now have the facilities necessary to do all the hard web builds and there is an area dedicated to this. We’ve also got a monitoring system up so we can view our remote clients.
It’s a great space and it gives us room to grow as well.
We anticipate that we will be here for at least a couple of years. We don’t have the option to scale up again within the same building but it has positioned us in a central and accessible place for our existing customers.
In the past, we were always between Bristol and Bath and now we have even greater access to the centre of town and to our customer base.
What does the future hold for Nebula IT?
We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing! We will continue to ensure that we are working with our clients to offer more than just IT support. IT security is massive now and we need to be there for our customers to help with that.
We want to make sure that they are happy with the insurance policies they are taking out and to help them protect themselves against cyber-crime.
How will GDPR affect your clients?
It will depend on the client. No one is 100% sure how it will impact businesses. It is not just another ‘Millennium Bug’, it is going to happen and there is a lot work that needs to be done to make sure everyone complies.
What we are trying to get across to people is that you need to spend this money to make sure you do not get hacked or put your customers’ data at risk. We want to reassure our customers, but also to tell them ‘you need to make these changes to make sure your data is safe’.