Supercharging Focus Group

Focus Group CEO Barney Taylor’s strategic ambition can only lead to an escalation of the fast-growing company’s UK expansion.

Taylor joined Focus Group in October 2021, moving from Ensono where he was Managing Director for Europe. He assumed the chief exec role at a time of significant growth for Focus Group, and he has a clear vision and strategy to build on the big advances already made by the West Sussex based business. While growth slowed in 2020 compared to prior years, 2021 saw overall growth of 48 per cent (16 per cent organic and 32 per cent M&A).

The company’s voice and data business units saw circa 10 per cent CAGR in 2021, while the highest double-digit performance came across IT, cyber, mobile and enterprise (38 per cent). The first half of 2022 has seen the growth trend continue, with above expectation performance across the business.

“Our expectation is for this positive trading to continue into the second half of the year with the rate of growth in our core voice and data business slowing slightly, but stronger growth coming from bundled services that include our enterprise, cyber and IT business units,” said Taylor.  “We believe that voice, IT and connectivity will increasingly be sold as part of a wider technology bundle over the coming years, not just as stand-alone services.”

We have the ambition to continue strong organic and acquired growth, integrate all of our businesses into one Focus Group and consolidate our position as one of the leading MSPs to UK SMEs

Focus Group’s head count will also grow in 2022, but not at the rate seen in previous years due to new processes, the integration of acquired businesses and the adoption of new technology platforms such as ServiceNow. “We expect that organic growth will necessitate in-house headcount growth of circa five per cent,” added Taylor.
Focus Group is becoming a broader technology provider to the SME market, and Taylor says the big opportunity is to monitor and move with the market and learn how to provide all essential technology to customers, including traditional voice, IT and connectivity services. “We have the ambition to continue strong organic and acquired growth, integrate all of our businesses into one Focus Group and consolidate our position as one of the leading MSPs to UK SMEs,” stated Taylor. 
To this end he has set a clear strategy and communicated it in-person to every employee within Focus Group across the UK. “We will continue to acquire carefully and integrate well, provide excellent customer service, prepare the business for high growth and scale through people, technology, process, structure – and ensure that Focus Group listens to the market and stays ahead of trends, rather than follows them,” he added. “Preparing Focus Group for scale and ensuring we stay ahead of the market are key aspects of my role. But most important of all is the need to lead by example, build on the strong company culture and create a place that people love to work. If you build your people, then you build your business. This is ultimately how we will succeed and sustainably grow Focus Group long into the future.”

Focus Group is currently investing for scale and much of this investment is around technology and process improvement. “We are implementing ServiceNow this year, launching a new self-serve customer portal and soon afterwards moving to a new enterprise-grade CRM platform,” added Taylor. “As our revenues increase we do not intend that employee workloads increase at the same rate. So we need to adopt technology that will enable us to improve and automate the service we provide to our customers. It is an investment in time, money and resources, but I strongly believe this will give us the foundation for long-term success. This is about looking ahead to the business we aspire to be in six or eight years time.”
Taylor is prioritising people-based decisions and the need to attract, develop and retain key talent. He has also started planning and budgeting for 2023 – and his priorities are to identify areas of ‘explosive growth’ in 2023; how best to invest in people and create opportunities for them; and how to leverage technology and streamline processes. This will be key to bringing the acquired businesses together as part of one Focus Group. “Continuing investment in people, technology and processes will be integral to this,” he stated. “We have to find a way to enable our acquired businesses to thrive as we start to make them part of the Group at the right pace.”

If you build your people, then you build your business. This is ultimately how we will succeed and sustainably grow Focus Group long into the future
This year Focus Group decided to give more support to charitable causes through the Focus Foundation, and this will continue. “It is time we devoted more resource, effort and funds to those in more need right across the UK,” added Taylor. “The Focus Foundation is becoming a significant part of our post-Covid company culture, led by co-founder Chris Goodman.”

The Covid-19 outbreak led to a remodelling of Taylor’s leadership approach and prompted him to look at challenges and opportunities from a new angle. “Covid has absolutely changed the way that I choose to lead,” he stated. “Work and personal lives have merged more than ever before and flexible working is to be truly encouraged. Work must be a place that you enjoy, with people that you want to work with, led by a management group that communicates regularly and transparently. 

“All leaders must ensure they evolve their outlook and management style, particularly in a post-Covid environment. Covid has shown us all that some things are more important than just revenue and profit. I believe that if you run your business in the right way and pay attention to people and culture, then you will build long-term success. Strategy, vision, financial and operational governance remain essential, but your people will execute your success.”

Taylor sees the current market environment and the financial uncertainty of the next 12-24 months as an opportunity for MSPs like Focus Group, if approached in the right way. “Market data shows that over 90 per cent of UK SMEs will spend the same or more on technology over the next two years, and bundled services will become more attractive,” observed Taylor. “Technology will continue to be relied upon to streamline and improve service provision and operating costs in our customers, we just need to change the conversation to ensure we take advantage of the opportunities ahead. 

“It is of course about providing an excellent service and a competitive price. But our customers will choose Focus Group if they see an organisation they like, that is easy to do business with, that promotes a culture and values they can relate to, offering a service through people that clearly enjoy their work and are putting the customers at the centre of all that they do.”
The challenge, says Taylor, is to take a high performing business and prepare it for scale through people, process and new technology, while keeping the strong company culture at the heart of everything the company does. “I also want the market to know us, like us and see a business that is honest in the way it trades,” he added. “If we get this right and listen to the market and our customers at the same time, it is going to be an exciting few years for Focus Group.”

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