Retailer of the month – PC Utilities

Synaxon’s TrustATec Partner of the Year has seen many industry trends come and go over the years. Dominic Sacco interviews founder and MD Spencer Hall about the win, and asks just how much his business has changed since it was established back in the 1980s…

Congratulations on being named TrustATec Partner of the Year. How does it feel to have won? 

I was really surprised. I didn’t even realise there was a category. The first thing I knew about it was sitting during the Synaxon dinner that evening, the person I was sitting next to said our name was down for another category. So I looked and wondered who else was up for an award, then I realised, ah, we’re in two! If I hadn’t have looked at the menu where they listed the nominations, I would’ve wondered why they called my name out!

What do you think of Synaxon’s TrustATec scheme? How has it been
for business?

When Keith White came to see me to suggest the idea, I thought this might work, because a lot of small retailers like myself tend to be geeks. Although we do marketing, we do it reluctantly, because if you don’t do it, you’re off the game. 

You have to pay about £50 a month for the basic website, but by the time you’ve paid for AdWords you’re probably looking more like £150 a month. This isn’t rocket science. It’s the question of getting further up the Search Engine Optimisation on Google. 

So when you have Synaxon, a respectable organisation behind it, it ought to work. 

I would have to say the progress to date is probably best described as disappointing. Yes I have had some enquiries, but nothing like the enquiries I used to get per pound invested from the Yellow Pages. 

However, in its final years, the Yellow Pages became an increasing waste of time, it just didn’t seem to work. 

The problem with TrustATec is that according to their SEO champion, you’ve got to be online for at least six months before Google takes you seriously. 

I did have a bit of a moan to the person who organised all of it and she does take it very seriously. There is a definite commitment from Synaxon to get this to work.

“When I first came into the industry, it was very, very rare to go into someone’s house and see a computer.”
Spencer Hall, PC Utilities

Tell us about PC Utilities’ background…

PC Utilities got going in 1985. The idea was we’d write little utility programs for the PC, which by then had been out for two or three years. But in actual fact, what we ended up doing was writing a portfolio management system for Hargreaves Lansdown, the investment firm. I wrote all the initial software for them from 1981 to about 1991. 

That went on getting bigger and bigger until it began to outrun what you could do with PCs and DOS.

Today, we fix PCs. I’ve been working in this industry for 30 odd years now and it’s changed completely.

How has it changed for you?
When I first came into the industry, to go into someone’s house and see a computer was very, very rare in the ‘80s.

You might see Commodores and Spectrums… but if you go into someone’s house now and there isn’t a computer, it’s more unusual.

What ticks you off about the tech industry and your line of work?

I do get pissed off with people constantly banging on about the cloud. There’s a customer I have – a nursery school in Portishead – who moved to an all-cloud accounting and administration system. 

When BT had that big outage in July, they were without a connection for over a week. So they didn’t know who was authorised to collect kids anymore, or what allergies kids had, because they couldn’t look it up –
they didn’t have an
internet connection.

If it was in-house, at least you’d stand a reasonable chance of getting the show back on the road, even if you had a crash. The other nice thing about on-premise is the sheer speed of it all. It’s also pretty robust – even if a JCB goes through your phone cable.

Fact file

Established: 1985


Address: 36 Westbury Lane, Bristol BS9 2PP

Contact: 0117 962 6364



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