24 Sep Academia – 15 Years
Longevity in business is a sign of success – the Academia Group are delighted to celebrate our 15th birthday this year as we reminisce on the past whilst looking forward to the future in the world of Technology Support and Services.
Our Marketing and PR Manager, Brad Chuck sat down with Mike Bacon, the Founder and MD of Academia to realise the story behind the brand.
What was life like before Academia?
Aside from summer jobs of driving a mini-bus, working in a bar and mowing lawns, I have only really had one proper job – I worked for an IT Reseller called Excitech. I was there for 13 happy years and I could not have achieved what I have so far without that foundation. I left there on very good terms and the Chairman and Founder, Adrian Atkinson, is still a good friend and occasional mentor. Life back then was challenging, I have always worked hard, but ultimately the challenges and rewards of growing a business – the highs and lows – are better.
Why launch the Academia Group?
Quite simply, I felt I was ready. My career at Excitech was successful, despite a few ups and downs, I was offered more and more responsibility over time and ultimately I was ready to become a Stakeholder and Director / Owner. For various reasons that opportunity was not available where I was and so I was ready for the next step and to set up my own company. It was definitely the right decision and the results are clear to see.
Why the name Academia?
We were originally called PC Supplies Ltd because we sold Office Stationary, as well as software and hardware. Very quickly Chris Eaton and Marc Winn, 2 original employees, persuaded me that it was a poor name and managed to find the excellent Academia Ltd brand. Since we were supporting technology needs, primarily to Education Sector back then, it made complete sense. Nowadays, Academia Ltd is synonymous with the provision of IT Solutions into the UK education sector and the name is perfectly suited. I still get a tingle whenever I see the company name on big screens, on posters and in this magazine!
Key moments of the past 15 years?
Sunday Times Fast Track – made my Mum very proud to see her little boy in the paper and I am sure she bought most of the copies from the village shop. Winning awards, especially when punching above our weight as a smaller Reseller. Taking the company to Disney and Barcelona are my favourite trips – we could take the whole company then. On a personal level, emails from customers, still with us since our early days, thanking me for the support is incredibly satisfying. Being able to develop a relationship and to work with a customer for more than 10 years and see them and you grow, too, is quite humbling.
Key vendor relationships?
Back in the day, we were software focussed and the relationship with Adobe has always been strong for us. As the business developed, Apple became our primary vendor. That is where our reputation as a national reseller, able to supply complete solutions, across the UK was forged. As we developed further, key vendors were those who always have a quality product and a strong brand but who also value the shared business that a good quality reseller can bring. This includes HP, Microsoft, VMware, Google, Acronis, Jamf and many more that can bring innovative solutions to our customers
What is the recruitment process?
We always try to promote from within and our Staff Development Programme is very strong. With huge thanks to Ashley Messina, our HR and Operation Director, we have 3 primary schemes to drive and support recruitment. Our Graduate Sales Academy is focussed on establishing correct sales behaviour quickly and a huge emphasis is placed on potential rather than immediate ability. As sales staff progress, then the Elite Sales Programme (ESP) becomes relevant. Recognising that sales is not relevant to everyone, we also run a Leadership Academy, looking internally for future leaders within the business. Maintaining our rapid growth has meant that we also have to recruit staff at mid-level too and over the last 3 years, a personal priority for me has been to develop my Senior Leadership Team. This is effectively our Board but I feel too young to sit in a stuffy Board Room (or is it Bored Room?) so we run the business via the SMT (Senior Management Team)
What is ATAMA?
ATAMA is the exciting new brand that we have created to serve customers in the commercial or SME space. ATAMA is still the same Company, with the same commitment to Customer Service and Outstanding Value, but we have a brand that means we don’t sound as if we only sell into Schools! The portfolio of products is exactly the same albeit with much more focus on the Technical Support and Services that not all of our Educational Customers require. At ATAMA, we can supply a single iPad, through to 20 iMacs and a full desktop refresh of 250 HP Laptops – all including full installation, consultancy, ISP connectivity, Cloud Hosting and post-sales support. It is what the non-education market requires!
How are the next 15 years shaping up for you and the Academia family?
The future looks as positive now as it did 15 years ago – it’s just that the numbers are bigger now. Looking backwards is satisfying and makes me feel proud but looking forward is still incredibly exciting. There are massive challenges but these can become massive opportunities. For example, we are determined to make the ATAMA brand as successful in the commercial space as Academia is in the Education space. We can achieve this with two main objectives. Firstly, need to focus on “Good Business” and that is business where we can add value to the customer and where we can justify a fair price. Secondly, we are focussed more on how we can look after customers even better and develop the staff who relate to that principle. We believe that if we look after customers, old and new, then the Academia brand will continue to shine.
For any press or PR enquiries please contact Brad Chuck on