Company Culture

Learn more about what it means to work at System Professional.

An interview with Dan Elson, the Managing Director of System Professional.

Q: How did you first get interested in technology?

I have loved technology since my father purchased a ZX Spectrum for me in the eighties. He wouldn’t buy me a C5 and in hindsight I am glad he didn’t! I was a keen gamer and the IT industry interested me – it seemed to be full of change and constantly evolving, so that’s where I felt I could develop my career.

Q: When did the business start and what were your aspirations for the future?

I’d worked in a number of IT reseller and web businesses before Sys Pro and observed closely what worked and what didn’t. So I wanted to build a company where I really enjoyed coming to work and gave people the right platform to develop.

We founded Sys Pro in 2003 and originally worked from a tiny barn on a dairy farm in Lewes, East Sussex! At the time, we were a traditional VAR (Value Added Reseller), but our aspirations were to grow into a managed service business as soon as we could. The business traded well and was successful from day one, so we were fortunate to be able to move into new 6,000 square ft offices in 2006. This was the springboard for our services capability.

Q: What do you see as the key elements of the Sys Pro business culture?

We try to shape a strong culture from the management team throughout the company. Ultimately, having the right team helps create the Sys Pro culture.

Firstly, I’d say the key elements are hiring friendly, smart, bright, ambitious people who excel at what they do and have a desire to do great work for our customers.

Secondly, we actively encourage a culture of constant learning and training. It’s obviously key to maintain technical knowledge in the IT industry anyway, but we’re always happy to support any member of the team who wants to add to their personal development, certifications and technical accreditations.

Finally, I’ve always wanted to work in an environment where you get out of bed in the morning and enjoy going to work, so we’ve always tried to situate the business in locations that contribute to that goal. Our Sussex head office is located across two converted barns, with landscaped gardens, a swimming pool and boating lake. It’s a beautiful location and despite working there for nearly ten years, I can’t help but feel very lucky to work there. Similarly, our London office is based in The Shad Thames area – next to the Design Museum and the river, in a really lively, dynamic and bustling part of the City. They’re both places that I like to work in and feel they contribute to a positive working environment.

Q: How important is the day to day working environment to the Sys Pro philosophy?

As a management team we are relaxed and have an open door policy. We are absolutely committed to delivering impeccable client service but we really enjoy what we do and try and have fun along the way – I think that rubs off on our clients too! Some say the swimming pool in the Sussex office helps but not necessarily in February…

Q: How does the culture inform the business you do and the people you work with?

As people and as a business, I feel we are professional, fair and approachable. I think our clients tend to match these attributes and we have a great customer retention rate, so I guess there’s a shared dynamic that works well for both parties

Q: How do you keep pace with technological change as an IT service and support provider?

The fact that around 70% of our workforce are employed in a technical delivery role helps enormously. We have comprehensive training programmes in place to make sure everyone (technical and sales staff) is always up to speed. Tarquin Dunn, our CTO, is always reviewing new technology products and developments and has a great team working with him as well. It’s a case of striving to keep the balance between building expertise with the existing vendor partner community and keeping an eye on the very latest technologies and solutions that will make a difference in the years ahead.

Q: What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in the IT industry?

It’s hard to avoid the cloud cliché but major change has been driven by the move towards cloud hosting and managed data centre services. We have seen our own cloud based data centre clients increase exponentially over the last few years as customers look to new cloud options when their on-premise IT infrastructure goes end of life or they quickly want to provision new services. We often help clients with a roadmap around migrating to cloud – a carefully managed migration is key to success as opposed to ‘heavy lifting’ without the right amount of consultative planning.

Before that, the last major shift was the disruption created by virtualisation – we were an early adopter of server virtualisation technology, saw the major benefits it would deliver to our customers and worked very closely with VMware from the early days of VMware ESX 2.5 onwards.

Q: How do you like to work with your vendor partners?

We work with a very select group of vendors because we believe in their technology and roadmaps, but most importantly because they will deliver a positive result for our customers – making them more efficient, more flexible and more competitive. We only want close and professional working relationships with our vendors and have a careful selection process as a result. Our vendor relationships are always initiated at a technical level – the product has to work technically and go through some rigorous testing before we talk about the commercials.

Ultimately, a good vendor / reseller relationship works when both parties are honest about what they can achieve together, regularly review joint progress and commit to shared goals. You also need to be able to have frank conversations about what is and isn’t working. Added support from your distribution partners is also a major contributory factor to the success (or otherwise) of the relationship….

Q: What is your staff retention like?

We’re proud to have a very high level of staff retention within Sys Pro and I really believe that our company culture, continuous training and career progression all contribute to the low attrition rates. Along with employee benefits such as private health care, gym membership contributions and childcare vouchers we really value our staff, appreciate the quality of work they deliver and want them to stay for the long-term.

Q: What’s the typical tenure of a Sys Pro employee?

We actually give an award for 5 and 10 year service. We have a few of these coming up in late 2015 so I hope that answers the question!

Q: What happens when things go wrong? How do you address problems and issues?

Well, things do go wrong, we are human after all. Plus we’re dealing with technology and the related moving parts involved. Ultimately, when handling a problem it’s about how you deal with it. You need to address the root cause, prioritise the fix or resolution, communicate with the relevant parties about what is happening and then look at lessons to be learned. We will be honest if we’re at fault and ensure that the right level of processes and procedures are in place to avoid a repeat.

Our customers pay us to help with problem and incident resolution and we are very good at that. No one wants a P1 issue, however when we resolve one quickly and efficiently, it’s a really good feeling.

Q: Where do you see the business in 3-5 years’ time?

We are growing quickly but on a sustained basis. I don’t want the company to get too big, too fast and lose our culture and ethos. We are all ambitious and therefore our growth plans are always in focus. We have grown our business to accommodate a new central London office and I would expect that team to double in three years.