Marketing director Michael Breeze tells us about Interactive Ideas

Interview: Interactive Ideas

Interactive Ideas has just recorded some impressive financial results for the last year – can you run us through them?

We achieved record revenues of £23.7 million in our last financial year, which ended in April. This was a growth of 45 per cent year-on-year, and the third year in a row of over 40 per cent growth in revenue.

The past year has also seen Interactive move into a new £1 million office and training facility, providing room to double the existing 50 employee workforce, an in-house training facility and create a dedicated 20,000 square foot warehouse and logistics centre.

In April we were awarded the Investor in People Standard with Silver recognition, joining only two per cent of the 40,000 plus organisations in the UK that have demonstrated a commitment to their people above the standard criteria.

What do you believe has driven the growth? Is there any reason you seem to have been immune from the recession?

We have two sales divisions within Interactive Ideas. In the software solutions area we represent companies such as Red Hat, Novell, Solarwinds and Acronis to provide their products and solutions to a network of resellers.

The companies we represent all offer cost saving alternatives to more mainstream brands and so the recession has driven demand. In many cases companies can’t not implement an IT project, but they can now to do it for less, and so have been far more willing to consider new technologies.

Within our retail area we have built a strong team focused on supporting online retailers with value added services they wouldn’t normally expect or get from traditional distributors/suppliers. Our range includes many market-leading, unique and exclusive software and peripherals and, with the majority of our products at a sub-£100 price point, the recession so far hasn’t seemed to have made a great impact. And in some ways it has driven demand as consumers look for cheaper forms of entertainment and consider alternative brands to save money.

Has there been a product area that’s performed particularly well?

For the software solutions area then Linux and Open Source Software continues to be adopted by an increasing number of companies and resellers, with many large VARs now embracing open source. Within our retail area, then our service is more about range than any one product.

As the popularity of products changes so quickly, today’s hero is quickly tomorrow’s overstock, so we aim to provide the products and service to our customers to provide good ongoing revenue and profit.

Are you able to continue the momentum of growth, or will the next year be about consolidation?

We have grown at over 40 per cent year-on-year over the last three years and we’re looking to continue that this year. As mentioned earlier we have expanded our office and warehousing in order to cope with the increasing scale of the business.

The employee numbers expanded by 20 per cent last year and we anticipate increasing this by another 15 per cent this year to drive key growth areas. Over 40 per cent of the company have been with us for over five years and an increasing number have now been with us over ten years. Our people are the key to our ongoing success and the quality of our service, the loyalty we have, delivers great consistency for our customers and suppliers who know we have skilled, motivated people who are here to help them achieve their objectives.

We are committed to training and developing our people. Our goal has always been to be the best at what we do and to be a great place to work. Success has followed and we see no reason for this to change.

Any plans for an expansion into Europe?

Our main focus will be on the UK market but we have expanded into Europe with selected vendors. We have a multilingual workforce, trading relationships and so can offer a low cost way for companies to expand their presence across Europe.

How has the business changed over the years?

From a product mix and the type of customers we now have, then this seems to consistently evolve over time and new companies emerge and some disappear. We do still have customers and vendors that we have been dealing with pretty much since the start of the company.

As a company we have always placed great emphasis on partnering for the longer term rather than just short-term gain and so it is always very rewarding when a relationship can grow over time for both companies’ benefit.

Where do you expect the firm to be in five years’ time?

We have ambitious objectives internally for the next three to five years, but our main focus currently is on the next year. Things change so quickly in our industry and it’s best to take one step at a time. We see our future in the value-added services we provide, whether they be logistical, technical, marketing or account management. The nature of these will continue to evolve to meet our customers’ present and future needs.

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