Raising the ambition bar

Aspire Technology Solutions CEO Chris Fraser outlines plans to hit £50 million revenue based on a set of strategic principles that remain unchanged from the day the MSP was established.

Aspire Technology Solutions began life in 2006 as an MSP on a mission to take the hassle out of IT support for customers. Its long-term and unwavering trajectory was set by Fraser who relishes the challenge of problem solving and making things work well. “I was frustrated that IT solutions always seemed to make people groan and technology was often deemed to be a necessary evil,” he stated. “I founded Aspire because I wanted to change that, to say yes to customers, to help people find the best solutions and to ensure they got the right advice.”

Fraser was 26 at the time and established the company alongside Nigel Begg who also wanted to develop a truly customer-centric organisation. Today, Aspire is a managed service provider specialising in cybersecurity, cloud, connectivity and unified communications. It serves nearly 2,000 customers, employs circa 280 people (with over 80 colleagues added during the past year) and is headquartered in Gateshead with additional offices in Glasgow, London, Leeds and Stockton-on-Tees. “Our progression over time led us to become an ISP and a cloud provider, marked by a partnership with VMware and investments in our top-tier self-service hybrid cloud platform,” said Fraser. “We have also launched an in-house SOC that delivers round-the-clock managed security services leveraging security tools through our partnership with CrowdStrike.”

Revenue growth
Published accounts for financial year ending February 2023 indicate a rise in turnover to £32.2 million, representing 30 per cent growth during the last three years. “We are just getting started,” stated Fraser. “In 2015 our turnover was around £8 million and we set a target to reach £20 million by 2020. We achieved this one year early and have ambitious plans to reach £50 million turnover by 2027.”

We’re helping companies shift from reactive to proactive technology, making sure they stay secure and future-ready

In March 2022 Aspire secured a significant minority investment from LDC in a transaction that valued the business at £85 million. Its M&A journey began in December 2023 with the acquisition of Glasgow-based cloud and IT MSP Cloud Cover IT. “This strategic move expanded our geographic reach into southern and central Scotland, aligning with our vision for broader UK expansion and enhancing our portfolio of technology solutions,” added Fraser. “With LDC’s support and the recent appointment of Tom Howard as Chief Financial Officer we anticipate driving further growth through strategic acquisitions, broadening our geography and capabilities.”

Aspire works with businesses from all sectors and has an approximate 80/20 split between private and public sector customers across the UK, Ireland, continental Europe and Australia. In the public sector Aspire serves NHS trusts, local councils and education establishments. Private sector clients include Lookers and Barbour. “Over 80 per cent of our business comes from recurring sources,” added Fraser. “We moved with the market and positioned ourselves to capitalise on technology diversification, enhancing the value proposition for our customers.”

Cybersecurity solutions have emerged as a key area of growth, noted Fraser. “Stats show that around 40 per cent of businesses have experienced a security breach in the past year and that number is expected to rise,” he added. “We’re helping companies shift from reactive to proactive technology, making sure they stay secure and future-ready. Our security department comprises a dedicated group of specialists that ensure the effectiveness of our security solutions and handle critical tasks such as round-the-clock monitoring, incident response and security consulting.”

According to Fraser, Aspire’s offering extends beyond just service provision. “We offer personalised guidance to our customers and measure our performance using the Net Promoter Score global measure,” he explained. “Our score averages +83 which is deemed ‘world-class’ and more than double the average score for the telecommunications industry. I want Aspire to be known as a customer-first partner which delivers technology solutions that drive customers forward. Ultimately, that’s what we are all about.”

To further advance the company’s mission Aspire is embarking on a customer-first AI strategy. The criticality of AI as a catalyst for operational excellence is also at the forefront of Fraser’s mind. “AI’s importance is undeniable and it’s swiftly becoming a cornerstone in transforming our operations,” he added. “Utilising Azure’s secure environment we’re tapping into AI’s power to streamline processes and elevate customer experiences. Through AI-driven analysis of customer queries we can swiftly identify needs and take proactive actions. This not only saves time but also allows us to redirect administrative efforts towards more customer-centric activities that provide value.

“As we continue to integrate AI across the business we expect even greater efficiencies and advancements for customers. But while AI can automate tasks and offer insights human expertise is essential in guiding its application for the best outcomes. For us, AI isn’t about automation alone, it’s about smart augmentation. We’re integrating AI to empower our teams, providing them with insights and support to deliver superior results for our customers.”    

Just a minute with Chris Fraser...

Your role models:
My role models come from colleagues within Aspire and truly partnering with our customers.

Best advice you have been given:
When I was considering taking the plunge with Aspire my uncle took me aside and said ‘just do it’. I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family and that may have given me the push I needed.

What talent do you wish you had?
The focus and skill demonstrated by top Formula 1 drivers is incredible. I’d love to be able to race a few laps with them.

Three ideal dinner guests:
Sir Alex Ferguson, I’d love to talk to him about the siege mentality he created and that desire to win at all costs. Ross Brawn, a pure technical expert in Formula 1 who achieves his goals with an obsessive attention to detail. And Queen Elizabeth II, she would have some fascinating stories, especially about what she really thought about certain Prime Ministers.

What tech is most critical to your job?
Touchscreens in our office. They switch from whiteboard to computer screen to video conference. Getting the team together in a room and collaborating on how to solve an issue or developing new solutions is invaluable.

What possession could you not live without?
I live within walking distance of our office and don’t have a car, so it’s my airpods. I learn so much from podcasts and walking is the main chance I get to catch up on them.

How do you relax?
I’m a keen poker player. I love the combination of problem solving and reading people to help make the best decision. Every hand is unique and I thrive in that environment.


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