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Shining a light on IT SME’s scale-up ambitions

Riverlite

Taking the SME Growth Challenge at Cambridge Judge Business School was transformative for IT management company Riverlite. Managing Director Paul Oggelsby says the impact of attending has been, “like night and day compared to where we were before.”

Over the last eight years, Riverlite has grown into a trusted IT provider for £1 billion worth of UK business. The company has a healthy roster of clients, achieves 100 per cent customer retention and consistently achieves growth rates of between 30-50 per cent year on year. This steady growth brought them to the attention of Santander, who sponsored the company to attend the SME Growth Challenge programme as one of their top fast growth businesses in East Anglia.

Paul has a long-held ambition for the IT management company he founded in 2008 – to catapult current turnover to £10 million by 2020. In order to meet his own target, Paul and his team knew they needed to considerably scale up operations and create a sales engine that would catalyse significant growth.

It’s quite easy to get a company to £1 million”, said Paul, “but it’s a different thing altogether to take it the next level. If you really want to grow your company, then getting support from a programme of the calibre of the SME Growth Challenge really is a no-brainer.

A key moment during the programme that transformed their perspective was when they were challenged to articulate an inspiring and specific vision statement for the company. There was a need to replace the simple target the company had clearly outgrown: We want to support 150 customers. “Being forced to see our vision and put into words what we do and the standards we set ourselves really kicked things off for us,” Paul confirms. “Now our vision statement is in everything we produce and dictates how we present and run the company. We all know it by heart: Our vision is to be the most responsive, trusted IT partner with an established culture of customer service excellence and technical expertise. It’s a talking point for customers, employees and partners and influences everything we do.”

Working with Paul to secure the Riverlite vision is a young leadership team with backgrounds in technical development, sales, marketing and finance. The SME Growth Challenge encourages participating businesses to involve their senior management team, taking time out of the business to gain a fresh perspective, while working on their own company’s particular problems. Paul has found this an invaluable benefit: “I’m really keen to let the team come up with ideas and now it’s paying off. I can see by the way they’re implementing the vision and strategy we all worked on together that they’re so much more committed.”

Managers and directors participating in the programme attend for one day every six weeks over 12 months, joining a series of workshops and attending lectures. Classrooms aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, admits Paul, but he is keen to encourage other businesses to experience learning opportunities he’s found have translated directly into very tangible benefits for his company: “Once we’d got our vision sorted out, the lecture on cascade planning just came at the perfect time. We put our vision at the top of the page and like a family tree, broke it all down into goals and actions. That has been invaluable. The teaching faculty at Cambridge Judge Business School is of such quality, such high value, this is such a great opportunity for everyone.”

Paul concludes, “We’re in a stronger position to manage the growth of our business – sharing the Riverlite way more widely and with continuing exceptional customer service, which is always at the heart of all we do.”