CRN Article – The goal is working deeply with fewer, strategic vendors

20 Nov 2023

Academia is focusing on improving company culture and targeting 15-20 per cent growth in 2024, following a positive year of over 22 per cent growth, according to newly promoted MD, Mark McCormack.

In 2023, the IT services and solutions provider for education, business and the public sector has seen an increase in its revenue to £130m+ for the tenth year in succession.

Academia recently won the Reseller of the year (£31m-£200m) at the CRN Channel Awards 2023.

“After closing last year with over 22 per cent year-over-year growth, Academia has set ambitious organic growth targets of 15-20 per cent for 2024,” McCormack states.

“This is an ambitious but achievable goal, as we are expanding into the commercial sector and onboarding major new clients after setting up a dedicated team six months ago.

Our focus will be providing more white-glove, in-house services like device deployments and logistics, now with reach across Europe.”

He says Academia is aiming to differentiate itself by offering services like device leasing and equipment financing to help customers facing budget constraints.

“The key priorities looking ahead are pursuing net new growth in public sector and commercial, broadening our ‘as-a-service’ offerings for current clients and sustaining profitability through recurring revenues.

By enhancing our service capabilities, we can foster deeper relationships with existing customers and partners.”

Speaking about the reseller’s relationship with vendors, McCormack says that Academia isn’t necessarily hoping to be “all things to all partners”.

“We’ve succeeded by focusing on areas where we excel. I’d rather be upfront if we can’t deliver something, parking it for later.

The goal is working deeply with fewer, strategic vendors, beyond one-size-fits-all approaches.”

He says the final goal is to have ambitious yet realistic targets and growth plans, ensuring good alignment, rather than broad brushing strategies.

“We want to work smarter – tailoring partnerships for mutual success.”

He adds that rather than just pursuing margin, Academia is looking for strategic vendor relationships with true alignment.

When engaging key accounts and large clients together, he says, Academia expects real shoulder-to-shoulder partnership and for vendors to leverage its expertise.

“As we rapidly expand, our ask of vendors is robust enablement and training to skill up our new business teams in their solutions.

We seek joint go-to-market success through hands-on engagement, not one-sided demands.

Our growth is mutual – we want our teams equipped for mastery and to be seen as trusted advisors in their domains. Beyond profit, we aim for capabilities building and collaboration at the highest levels.”

He adds that vendors are now more receptive and open-minded post-COVID about creative go-to-market strategies beyond traditional marketing.

Shifting to a strategic advisor positioning

As for challenges in 2023, McCormack explains customers have been extending device lifecycles, holding onto hardware longer during uncertain times and large deployments are pushing out refresh cycles to 4-5 years.

“To counter this, we are getting creative – promoting device subscriptions and as-a-service models to shift spend from CapEx to OpEx,” he explains.

“Though macroeconomic factors are beyond our control, we can proactively influence buying behaviour. Education especially sweats assets but eventually faces unavoidable refreshes.

Despite flat hardware sales, we see upside in software and services. As customers emerge from COVID with tighter budgets, conversations increasingly focus on managed services and our role as a strategic IT advisor.

We aim to steer the dialogue from prolonged hardware usage to flexible consumption models and higher-value partnerships.”

A dream workplace

McCormack has been MD since Academia’s founder left the company last September, starting as an interim role and then becoming permanent over the last 4 months.

He has over 15 years of experience managing vendor, partner and customer relationships, a key asset in his role, the MD believes.

Since taking over, one of his main priorities has been on enhancing culture and people practices within the company.

“Launching new wellness, fundraising and ESG initiatives, while sustaining what already works. I enjoy the focus on making Academia an even better place to work through actions like internal surveys and staff-led, board-backed programmes.

We aim to encourage office return while supporting staff fulfilment and development.”

He explains that to encourage the move back into the office, Academia has recently moved to a new office and is hoping to have around 80 per cent onsite capacity during the workweek.

“Each day in the office has initiatives to make it appealing – our wellness committee budgets fun activities like massages and yoga.

The pandemic deprived our industry of in-person interactions and fun, but we want to recapture that vibrant, collaborative spirit.

In our growth years, vendor days brought excitement and energy. Now we work hard to make the office a hive of activity, with something for everyone.

While still pursuing ambitious targets, we believe there’s no harm in promoting a positive, engaging workplace culture.

Our efforts tie back to staff feedback and values, focused on morale despite the challenges of hybrid work.”

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