With a fun yet serious focus on business, Network Group is not your usual dealer group. PCR spends a day at the organisation’s annual expo and gala to find out what it’s really like being the member of an IT buying group
"Stand up,” shouts a voice from the back. The conference room erupts into laughter.
Network Group MD Phylip Morgan is already standing up as he welcomes members to the group’s annual expo and gala event; the heckler just wanted to pick on his height.
It’s clear that the buying group members are very close and a lot of their interaction is light-hearted, but despite the jovial spirit, these guys are still serious about business.
Morgan tells me Network Group turned down 168 reseller applications to join last year – because they didn’t share its three core values.
“First of all, you need a passion to grow your business,” he explains. “There’s no room for lifestyle businesses around here; we are totally serious about what we’re doing. If you’re generating £1 million per year, we want to know what you’re aiming for next year, where that’s going to come from and where the opportunities lie – can that work for somebody else?
“Another core value is collaboration. How are people doing things? Is there someone doing something better than you? Usually the answer is yes. What are they doing differently? With our five [annual] events and through the way we drive interaction in the business, we collaborate together.
“Lastly – innovation. The market is changing all the time and most of our members see change as an opportunity, not a problem
“These values we have as a group are paramount and that’s why you see so much interaction between our members.”
Afterwards, I sit in a session led by Network Group retail director and Utopia Computers MD Craig Hume.
As 30 or so members squeeze into the room, Hume asks them to turn their chairs around so they’re facing one another. The breakout session suddenly becomes an open forum.
Over the next hour the members discuss everything about servicing and repairs, from how much they charge for virus removal to full service packages and how to get more customers.
It’s all about give and take – some advise others how they managed to double their business by making a small change, others sit and listen and make their own suggestions. Business cards are exchanged, marketing flyers swapped and notes taken.
One member tells me: “I’m at least £15,000 up today [from changes I will now make to my business] and that’s a conservative estimate.
“We’re based in the middle of nowhere so Network Group is a way for us to stay up to date with the market.”
After a few more breakout sessions, member awards and the announcement that almost £5,000 has been raised on the day for charity, I begin to understand the group’s ‘strength in numbers’ slogan.
“If you’re a big retailer, you can phone up and get an appointment with the big vendors. But if you’re a smaller reseller doing £1.4 million per year, they’re not as concerned. But here we’re a £320 million organisation – together we’re stronger,” says Morgan.
Although I didn’t initially grasp the unusual lighthearted/serious vibe, I now realise that Network Group is more a tight-knit bunch of friends – not just business associates – working together to help one another improve their companies. I am left impressed by the level of knowledge the group has and its desire to help members boost their businesses. You can’t argue with that.