Croft Communications CEO Mark Bramley on why today’s ICT market dynamics call for a broader take on service provision, and how his expanding horizons are helping to build resilience as an MSP.
The success of many businesses depends on the timing with which its leaders execute their strategies – and Bramley exemplifies timely entrepreneurialism. In late 2019 he saw an opportunity to invest in a business (which became Croft Communications soon after) alongside long-time friend Ben Page. Bramley’s prior experience was in the financial technology market, leading the growth of several FinTech organisations.
The biggest business risk he had taken was leaving a secure London position and moving to New York City shortly after 9/11 to run a fledgling Fin-Tech firm. But there was no such risk factor in 2019 with confidence underpinned by past experience. “Ben and I thought we could build a business based on our combined skill set,” said Bramley.
Croft Communications began its commercial life in 2008, then known as Mobile Account Solutions and operating as a T-Mobile B2B mobile reseller, later expanding into UC sales. “Following an MBO in November 2019 we rebranded as Croft in early 2020 and executed a buy-and-build strategy to grow our customer base, product and geographic exposure,” added Bramley.
To say that the MBO catalysed a no holds barred shopping spree would be to understate the nature of Bramley’s acquisitive appetite. To date,
Croft has acquired 13 businesses and grown from 16 people to 85 across seven physical offices. Revenue has ballooned from under £7 million to more than £17 million, generated from a customer base that comprises the largest UK blue chip companies through to many sole practitioners. Croft has over 4,000 business customers located around the UK and Europe.
Ultimately, telecoms is a specialist sub-sector of the IT industry and more buyers will treat it as such
“We are continuing to expand through our buy-and-build strategy with healthy organic growth,” added Bramley. “We will also continue to significantly invest in IT managed services. Customers are increasingly looking for vendors that can service more of their business challenges, rather than simply buying products from a broad range of specialist companies. This is the main driver behind our expansion of products and services over the last three years. We’re continuing to deepen our capabilities across all areas of IT managed services and are determined to stay ahead of the needs and demands of our customers.”
The biggest factor defining customer demand is the accelerating merger of telecoms and IT, believes Bramley, along with the blurring of the lines between a mobile phone and a traditional phone system. “It is crystal clear that customers are looking to reduce the number of vendors they rely on,” he added. “Ultimately, telecoms is a specialist sub-sector of the IT industry and more buyers will treat it as such. Inevitably, the market will continue to consolidate and the lines between IT and telecom’s will ultimately disappear. This change will be the catalyst for significant upheaval in the IT and telecoms world.”
The biggest technology changes reiterated by Bramley not only relate to the convergence of comms and IT – greater adoption of MDM functionality and a focus on the cyber protection of an ever more mobile workforce also blips large on his radar screen. Against this evolving backdrop, Bramley’s expansion plan is to ‘act local, think national’. “There are many companies in the IT and telecoms arena but very few national providers,” he added. “As companies and people get more mobile we see our national presence as a particular strategic advantage.”
Bramley also noted that the competitive landscape means resellers need to differentiate by providing value for money and an ever-improving service. “VARs need real in-house expertise rather than just be box shifters or glorified sales agents,” he stated. “Recruiting, training and retaining talent is a big challenge but vital to maintaining customer loyalty. We will continue to add geography, talented people and interesting solutions for our customers.”
Bramley makes no secret of the fact that he has made mistakes during his career and he embraces these miscalculations as a rite of passage to wisdom. “Mistakes are invaluable life and business lessons,” he added. “I constantly refer back to my mistakes when planning for the future. Mistakes are simply the best learning tools that we have. I learn fast and have a broad range of knowledge with expertise in nothing. This helps in decision making. Expertise can be a curse.”
There is no mistaking Bramley’s determination to continue navigating the evolving ICT landscape, and his own brand of uncluttered decision making will no doubt ensure Croft’s ongoing resilience. “We will carry on growing at a decent clip, focusing on delivering exceptional customer service in the belief that this will create opportunities,” he commented. “Alongside this, we are continually looking for good client-obsessed businesses to add to the Croft group and we expect to make many more acquisitions in the years ahead.”