Doye ramps up boxxe

York-based IT services business boxxe boosted its corporate market play with the acquisition of Total Computers in January. Here, boxxe CEO Phil Doye shares his strategic vision and action plans following the deal.

How did you get into the IT business?
I left school at 16 to pursue an apprenticeship in electronics, became disillusioned then went to university. Two terms into a degree in Computer Science and Management Science at Keele I decided that it wasn’t for me and dropped out. I then began what I hoped would be a lucrative career as an equity trader in the city with Smith NewCourt (later acquired by Merrill Lynch) but was fired for some very dubious reasons (another story!).

At 19, and with an already chequered career, it seemed sales would have to be the route for me and I found a telesales job with a local office and computers supplies company. I left in 1990 to set up on my own as Kelway Computer Supplies and the rest is history.

When was boxxe established?
Software Box, as it was known when formed in 1987, was among a group of companies founded by people who had all worked for a Microsoft licensing specialist in York. I acquired the business in 2019 when revenues sat at £135 million with 150 people. At the end of 2023 revenue had grown to £440 million with 205 people. Excluding our most recent acquisition of Total Computers we expect boxxe to be around £500 million in 2024.

What’s your strategy?
We have a simple strategy based on a broad portfolio of solutions and services that ensure we are relevant to the majority of IT spend in our customers. We are already strong in public sector and are at the start of what we hope will become a significant corporate business. The acquisition of Total gives us a great platform.

What are your immediate priorities?
Having acquired Total the immediate goal is to integrate quickly and create a business that has the financial strength, talent and ambition to accelerate growth across all areas. We will continue to target acquisitions both to scale and bring in specialisations in areas we are weak in.
Which trends interest you most right now?
AI is hugely significant. But we need to keep a closer eye on a trend in our largest competitors growing in size. We need to close that gap to stay relevant to customers and partners.

Where is your biggest opportunity?
Digital transformation is only just getting started and businesses like boxxe are constantly presented with new opportunities to exploit. I want boxxe to be seen as a market leader in this space which will not be easy as the biggest are getting bigger and they have the deepest pockets to invest.

What’s your recipe for leadership success?
Being honest about today’s challenges with our whole organisation and making sure all our people are motivated to meeting them. We have to know what our customers want, keep our competitors close and know what they are doing. Finally, surround yourself with great people and remove those that are not contributing.
In hindsight, what would you have done differently?
I would never have taken investment into Kelway from Core Capital in 2006. The relationship soured and was horrendous until they exited in 2014. Their investment simply acquired shares from me and provided no new funds to the business.

Your biggest achievement?
I’m constantly dissatisfied with the status quo and always looking for the next puzzle to solve. This approach has led to many achievements but the downside is that I never fully appreciate them as I immediately move on to something else.
Best piece of advice you have been given?
If someone in your business causes you not to sleep for two nights in a row they need to leave.
One example of something you’ve overcome
I am naturally an introvert so learning to network was hard but essential to any success I have enjoyed.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know
I learned to Paramotor with my son last year.

What’s the biggest risk you have taken?
I didn’t go through with this, but got very close to buying a 1,300 hectare farm in South Africa to farm Mopane worms. I was dazzled by the Boabab trees and giraffes on the land. Definitely dodged a bullet on that one!

Top tip for resellers
Trust your instincts about what your customers will need from you and be prepared to invest – but always make sure you have enough cash in the bank. Be very careful if you take outside investment.          

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