Trading for 30 years is a huge milestone for any business, but for those operating in the channel, it is rare for an independent, family-run firm to make it to this point – and still stick to its original values.
So, why have we managed three decades of business, and what makes Central… Central?
To find out, we spoke to the Chris Mycock and Jo Berry, the dynamic partnership that owns Central – Chris founded the business in 1991, and Jo joined in 1998 — delving into our history to discover what the key to our longevity is.
If you’re old enough, cast your mind back to the early nineties. The UK had just experienced Margaret Thatcher as prime minister, Nirvana’s Nevermind had just been released and people were flocking to the cinema to watch Thelma & Louise. And, if all that information doesn’t put you in a nostalgic frame of mind, then imagine this – Tim Berners-Lee had just introduced us to the web ‘browser’.
So, in 1991 the main forms of communication were via telephone and the post, with email still in its infancy. Computers cost £2,000 and came in four gigantic boxes, and there were – shockingly – no mobile phones in wide circulation.
Communications had to be thorough, rigorous, and considered – you couldn’t just fire a message across to someone or save a file to your computer for a colleague to pick up. Businesses were more focused on the person doing the job, rather than the technology involved.
And that’s where Central comes in – finding tech that works for the users, and not the other way round. This is an ethos that the company still holds dear today, with technology being a secondary conversation to the needs, requirements, and business operations of the user.
“I wanted to start a company to create something and provide a valued service to prospective customers that was centred on us actually caring about the IT projects – an organisation that our clients could rely on, and know would support them.”
Initially, Central provided services to local government in the education, health, and justice sectors, and was the first company to provide mainframe and TUPE services to the UK’s Magistrates Courts – eventually managing 43% of their IT provision in England and Wales.
This early grounding in the need to get things right first time – as the justice system relied upon the services provided by Central – cemented the value of going the extra mile, and getting the right, fit-for-purpose system in place.
A new millennium
The year 2000 created opportunities as organisations scrambled to ensure they would not be impacted by the infamous ‘Millennium Bug’, as nobody could predict what would happen at the turn of the century.
Clients and customers were keen to make sure that their security, disaster recovery, and back-ups were airtight – just in case.
The move to social housing
Despite operating in a range of sectors – including manufacturing, professional services, education, and more – social housing is an area that Central has specific expertise in.
In 1999, a move by the local authorities to break up council-owned housing stock and create housing associations meant that these new organisations needed their entire IT and comms infrastructure fitting out – as well as migrating data in and out of the council databases where necessary. Central became a specialist in this, and that’s why the social housing sector still plays a big part in our story today.
"Social housing was the right fit for us, as we’re all about community and providing services to those operating in the not-for-profit sector – as we do genuinely want to make a difference through what we do.
- Jo Berry
The ‘digital’ revolution
The late noughties really saw IT, technology, and new systems take off within business. Every year advancements in the products and devices available advanced exponentially, with things becoming obsolete in a matter of months.
That’s where Central has really excelled, as instead of focusing on technology and systems, the team has really doubled down on service excellence – and becoming a trusted partner rather than just another IT reseller.
“Listening to individual client needs, and offering bespoke and unbiased advice has become key, in a world where IT solution providers are all shouting over each other to get noticed.”
The great reset
Our 29th year in operation was certainly a rollercoaster, with the outbreak of the Covid pandemic accelerating the acceleration of the adoption of digital technologies that would allow staff to work remotely in line with social distancing.
This shone a light on the different areas that needed resetting – such as work/life balances and flexible working practices. Businesses that initially put temporary systems in place are now looking at long-term hybrid working solutions, and Central has been there throughout to listen, engage, and advise.
"This has been our busiest year, for obvious reasons. There is no blueprint to follow on this massive change in working practices and changed IT needs, and I think this is where we’ve really stood out from our competitors – because we genuinely care. Our customers were stressed and anxious, but we supported and guided them throughout – and we are still doing that now as we trade out of the pandemic.
- Chris Mycock
This level of trust has certainly fostered great relationships with clients – with some having been with us for more than 20 years. All of our client testimonials show that we truly embody our values of caring, support, and passion for the industry.
Jo mentioned: “We recruit heavily on service-led people, so we can make sure that we give only the best advice, and also grow as a team. When a problem does arise for a customer, we don’t just walk away, we deliver on our promise to be a reliable and trusted partner and sort it out for them.”
How could we be where we our without our wonderful team? John Blackburn, operations director, has been with us since the beginning, and has almost clocked up 30 years at Central himself. Amanda Partington has also been with us for that long – a testament to our team being equally committed to the business, and to our customers.
The majority of the core team has also been part of Central for more than 20 years – a rarity in a modern world of ‘job-hopping’.
“We are the sum of our people, and our exemplary levels of service would not be possible without them. I credit our success to our wonderful and talented team, that stay ahead of innovations and new technologies, so we can always offer the best possible solutions” said Chris.
The next steps
So, as we continue into our fourth decade of trading, we will remain true to our values of listening, caring, communicating, and engaging – proudly providing the glue that holds organisations together.