Mike Bailey, MD of Knutsford and Wilmslow IT, talks to PCR about his background in the oil industry and how it primed him for a move into the IT trade.
How did you come to start the business?
I came into the IT industry with a background in the offshore oil industry, working on exploration drilling rigs in the North Sea.
However, I increasingly found my career at odds with having a young family, whilst at the same time having always carried a torch for running my own business. This led to me taking the big step of leaving the rigs and coming back onto dry land in order to start both Knutsford IT and eventually Wilmslow IT.
Luckily, as I came from an engineering background, the processes involved with faultfinding and repairing PCs and laptops came relatively easy to me, so as a result I’m largely self-taught.
“Nowadays, the first thing people ask once they walk into the store is ‘did you save my pictures?’ rather than if their laptop can even be repaired.”
Mike Bailey, Knutsford & Wilmslow IT
Does the company have a history providing PC services? What’s changed over the years?
Before their reincarnation as Knutsford and Wilmslow IT, both were part of a small franchise group, which for a variety of fundamental reasons failed to get off the ground. But ultimately, I was left with the feeling that I could do it better – something that has rung true with both Knutsford and Wilmslow IT as they celebrate their seventh and fifth anniversaries respectively.
The biggest changes I have seen since first trading is the exponential growth of the raw computing capability of PC hardware, whilst keeping up with Microsoft’s operating systems, particularly the firm’s latest offering: Windows 8.
Likewise, the increase of Apple’s market share in the personal computing market has also been a huge transition. Where previously the presence of an Apple product within a PC repair shop was a novel occurrence, it’s now become very run of the mill.
A key change I’ve witnessed first hand is the increasing importance and value of data to users, along with the explosion of social media. Nowadays, the first thing people ask once they walk into the store is ‘did you save my pictures?’ rather than if their laptop can even be repaired.
Do you believe a varied services offering is key to remaining successful within the local community?
I believe it’s very important to have a diverse offering. If you see a decline in one area of your business, there may be another that can prop it up and vice versa. However, it is equally important to have the skill sets to meet people’s expectations in all those areas, which makes a well-trained, motivated and peripatetic workforce of the utmost importance.
“I feel our reputation clearly differentiates us from the larger High Street repair services. We do what we say and we say what we do.”
Mike Bailey, Knutsford & Wilmslow IT
How important is a trusted reputation amongst customers to a services provider?
Trust is both vital and one of the founding pillars of my businesses. I feel our reputation clearly differentiates us from the larger High Street repair services. We do what we say and we say what we do.
And in the rare instances where we do get it wrong, we admit our failings promptly and take the necessary steps to make it right. A great deal of our new business is referred by existing customers so my best advice would be to really focus on this, as at the end of the day, it’s free.
You’re the MD of both Knutsford IT and Wilmslow IT. What led to the two-store offering?
Knutsford IT came first in 2007 and essentially led to the beginning of Wilmslow IT, which was really born out of the excitement of running my own business.
It’s fair to say I was running before I could walk and we ran headlong into the recession, which has been a painful experience. However, I didn’t give up easily, and as a result we are now two thriving local shops of which I am, I believe quite justifiably, very proud.
What are the biggest challenges facing the business today?
The biggest challenges I face today are the same ones I did when I first opened the doors all those years ago: persuading my new customers to spend more money with me than they would elsewhere. Ultimately, if you live and love local, you should buy local because it’s the best.