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Employee ownership for a win-win all round!
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Employee ownership for a win-win all round!

Employee-ownership is a ‘win-win’ proposition for everyone – founders, employees, and clients

Sean Elliot, Chairman Network ROI

Sean Elliot, founder of Network ROI explains why he chose to go down the path of employee-ownership in 2013. In 2012 Sean was coming up to 50 and started to examine his exit strategy. After considering other exit options such as a trade sale Sean settled on the idea of employee-ownership.

Sean Elliot, Network ROI Chairman said: “I have seen many business exits fail to deliver, often to the detriment of employees, the clients and the founder. When small and medium sized companies are bought by larger organisations, service levels can drop and prices can increase as the operations focus on delivering for their shareholders. So, I settled for something I felt safeguarded Network ROI’s future and opted for employee-ownership through an employee-ownership trust”.

Sean said: “Our clients are reassured that the business is not going to change hands and well-established culture and client service can continue without the potential disruption of enforced changes by a new owner”. Sean described how Network ROI have a philosophy that “if we treat our employees well, they will in turn provide great service to our clients”.

Sean also saw the many benefits and opportunities that employee-ownership presented, including more control of the succession process as well as enabling employees to have collective say in the future of the business and for them to directly benefit from the ongoing success of the business.

Sean believes employee-ownership is a ‘win-win’ proposition for everyone – founders, employees, and clients – and is a more ethical and equitable way to run a business.

“Although not without challenges, Employee ownership has so far proved to be a recipe for success for Network ROI. The business has grown year on year as we focus jointly on growing our client base and developing long-term relationships with our existing clients by servicing their needs better. As we grow, we continue to ensure our employees  reap the rewards of this success”.

Finding the right Spark in Life
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Finding the right Spark in Life

To commemorate International Women’s Day in March, Network ROI asked our Finance Manager Magda Dabrowska about her career to date and her positive experiences during ‘lockdown’ life.

Embracing the chance to live and work abroad

Magda said: “It was hard leaving Poland sixteen years ago to come to work in Scotland. I had to learn another language and embrace another culture. So, it was difficult having to start my career again”.

Magda described how Scotland made her feel at home: “In Edinburgh, the historic buildings are like Wroclaw where I grew up.

The people are very friendly in Scotland and working for Network ROI everyone I met is very genuine and sincere, it’s like being part of a big family”.

Working within Finance

Magda described how she has always wanted to work in finance “I fell in love with finance when I got the chance to work in accounts in a kilt hire company a few years ago. So, I knew from that moment then that’s the career I wanted to follow.”

Magda is studying for the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Institute) qualification. Magda describes what drives her when she said: “Studying and working full-time requires a lot of perseverance and hard work.”

I enjoy learning new things, analysing problems, and coming up with solutions. Network ROI has really supported me in my studies, but it also requires a lot of self-discipline from me.

Finding the ‘Spark’ that makes us happy

Lockdown has been tough for everyone this past year, but Magda found that her dog Sparky, a border collie, helped get her through the tough times. She said: “Although I miss seeing people I have enjoyed being at home with my dog. It also benefits my mental health by making me feel better if I go on a lunchtime or evening walk to relax. Even when the weather is bad it gets me out and chatting to others in my neighbourhood.”

Magda explained

I love walking in nature, and I have even taken up landscape painting as a new hobby to help me relax. If I exercise at home or walk the dog it gives me energy. During tough times it’s good to keep your spirits up and find something you enjoy doing when you are not working.

Network ROI

Network ROI has diversity as one of its core values. We have a strong culture of inclusion embrace diversity in all its forms. We want all our employees to feel valued, appreciated, and free to be who they are at work. It is our uniqueness that binds us together and ensures the diverse voices of our employees fuels innovation for our clients.

Network ROI are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you practical feedback on your goals, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.

Contact Us if you would like more information on our services.

Bringing a little sunshine into people’s lives
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Bringing a little sunshine into people’s lives

Pete Gower, a service desk engineer with Network ROI talks about his charity work during the coronavirus pandemic in Wigan, what inspires him at work, and what it’s like working for an employee-owned company remotely.

The two most important tools are not in your toolbox, they are your eyes and ears.

“In my role, I need to both listen to what a client has to say and see what’s happening on the ground, to get the background to their challenges. Then I can evaluate the situation and make plans to improve their IT”.

Starting Out

Pete said he was first interested in technology and more widely how things worked through his father, who was an electrician. He used to go with him when he was young, pushing his tools around in a pram. Pete then followed in his footsteps and became an electrician working in a food production company and then a theatre company working on stage lighting and sound. Pete said:

I love problem-solving and fixing things, if I see a problem, I look for a solution.

Helping people get on in Life

Before working at Network ROI Pete describes how he ran his own training company:

I enjoyed giving IT skills to people that didn’t have any or helping the long term unemployed develop their skills to get them back into the workforce.

“I used to train homeless people and would ask them to let me know how they got on after the training. One day I had a knock at the door after running a course and it was a young couple that I had trained three weeks earlier. They were there to tell me they had moved into a house and got their life back on track. It was very emotional to see them improve their lives.”

But due to austerity cutbacks, Council funding became scarce, so Pete left his role running his own training company and jumped at the chance to work for Network ROI, covering the North West of England.

In his role with Network ROI, Pete enjoys mentoring a young apprentice called Michael Wilkinson. He said:

I like to see young people get on in life, it’s great to see an enthusiastic young man make a start on their career.

“Many times, they just need a little coaching to make a start on their career path. As I said to my students, the most stupid question is the one you never ask, so you can ask me anything.”

Working in an employee-owned company

Being employee-owned, there is no ‘them and us’ culture.

Pete enjoys the variety in his work dealing with clients in the charity, health and safety, and veterinary sectors. He said “I try to be adaptable to our clients’ needs, but I have learned over the years the most important thing is talking to the client. I love dealing with high priority incidents as you get real pleasure when you can get a site back up and running.”

Pete describes what it’s like working for an employee-owned IT company: “Being employee-owned, there is no ‘them and us’ culture. Despite working remotely, we have an open-door policy where you can talk to anybody. We get to chat to our senior leadership team and board on a regular basis, there is not many companies I have worked for where you can do that. So, you get core insights into how the company is doing on a regular basis, you know where your piece fits in that jigsaw and what’s expected of you.”

Pete went onto say: “The company has a big focus on training and enabling their employees to grow, as well as being empathetic. Last year I was in hospital for a few days and the support I got was fantastic, just asking how I was made a big difference, never mind the lovely flowers.”

We are not just a team, it’s like one big family.

Giving Back

Sunshine House helped me in setting up my business, so it’s great to give back

Pete is passionate about his role as Chairman of the board of trustees Sunshine House a community centre charity in Wigan. The charity supports the local area in various ways including delivering food to vulnerable community members. Pete said “During lockdowns in the pandemic we have lost 95% of our income. But that hasn’t stopped us from helping those in need, including people self-isolating. I am proud of the fact that we are supporting the local community by delivering food to vulnerable people. We are now up to 40 meals a day and on New Year’s Day we delivered 90 meals.”

“I started out helping the community centre by teaching people about computers and they helped me make a start in setting up my own business. So, it’s great to give back, recently I helped upgrade their IT system to Office 365, taught them how to use Microsoft Teams to keep people connected during the pandemic, and on a practical level, love helping them by delivering meals on a Sunday with my wife.”

Full Steam Ahead  

Pete has a love for smart technology and has made his home a smart home, where even the Christmas tree lights were operated remotely. Pete’s other love is model railways, which also came from his father who took him to mend locomotives at a railway yard from a young age. Pete said: “I started a lockdown project to build a model railway, which I’ve wanted to do for ages. I can see it taking a while but it’s a multi-faceted hobby, as it combines my love of electrics with craftsmanship, so it’s a relaxing way to spend an hour or two. Oh, and it has to be computer-controlled.”

Network ROI

At Network ROI we have a shared purpose. We are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you feedback on your plans, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.

Striking the right note
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Striking the right note

Josh O’Brien, a field engineer with Network ROI discusses working during a pandemic, his love of music, his start in IT, and the expertise he has built up in his career.

As an engineer, I love working against the clock on conversion projects, they are like a giant jigsaw puzzle at the beginning, but with a robust plan followed by effective implementation and testing you get great satisfaction from completing a project end to end for a customer.

Starting Out

Josh said he has been interested in computers from a young age and was motivated by an uncle to start a career in technology. Josh started out with Network ROI in 2012 on the helpdesk based near Edinburgh when he was nineteen and added: “I learned a lot by shadowing experienced members of staff such as Neil Douglas, Alastair Hoey and Greig Mackenzie. After 3 years I left Network ROI to move to Wrexham in Wales in 2015, so I was delighted to rejoin Network ROI as a field engineer in 2017 when a new role for a field engineer came up.”

Adapting to a new norm

In the first lockdown, in March 2020, Josh helped his biggest client, a large veterinary group, get 300 emergency laptops up and running throughout the UK in less than 3 weeks.  Josh then helped vet practices adapt to new social distancing protocols, such as having IT equipment in different locations, using tablets, or supporting virtual consulting.

As the first lockdown eased more conversion projects got up and running, this included a new Veterinary Hospital for Woodcroft vets, in Greater Manchester, which Josh helped lead. The project required over 40 computers and has 12 consultation rooms, that all needed to be kitted out. Over the years Josh has gained a lot of expertise in onboarding new Vet practices “I have now worked across over 100 sites, from small buildings through to state-of-the-art hospitals, so the team is now highly skilled in managing these new IT Infrastructure projects. We have systemized our approach. We gather information and plan on day one including site surveys and telephony, then ensure that core software such as Robovet is up and running or other hardware such as X-ray or blood analysis machines work properly, finally on day three we troubleshoot issues, making sure everything works as it should”.

Josh explained that communication is the key when he does project work for the veterinary industry: “We need to work around people. Before we start work it’s important to ask people how they feel about their IT systems and find out the issues.  If we are doing a new fit-out, we would do the work when there are fewer appointments.  If we are doing a site survey, where we need access to every part of a building, we might start with a key room, such as an operating theatre, when it’s quiet in case an emergency comes through the door and the vets need quick access”.

Josh describes what motives him:

When I see a poor running system that makes people unhappy, I get a great buzz out of solving the issues and making it work more efficiently.

Playing in a band

Josh’s other big passion is music, where he plays in a band called the Cazales. The band name was inspired by John Cazale who starred in movies such as the godfather. Josh said: “for me technology and music cross paths, technology is a big help to me playing in a band and I couldn’t write nearly as much music without it”.  See a video of the Cazale’s released during the lockdown, put together by Josh.

Mental Health and Well-being during the pandemic  

A smart person said never let a crisis go to waste and like many others, Josh took up running to improve his fitness and mental well-being. As a recent father, he finds ways to fit his runs in, whether it’s running last thing at night or first thing in the morning. Josh described how running makes him feel better: “even when I am tired from a long day or I am about to start my day I always feel more alive having got a run in, it makes me feel more organised in my mind”.  Josh now runs 40-50KM a week and likes to track his progress using a run tracking app.

Josh misses playing music with his band, he especially misses performing at the weekend in various UK towns and cities, “I miss performing at live music events, that’s my happy place, but at the moment I will need to make do with listening to music on the way to clients or writing more songs when I have time”.

Network ROI

At Network ROI we have a shared purpose. We are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you feedback on your plans, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.

Network ROI double award nomination
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Network ROI double award nomination

Midlothian based Network ROI is very proud to have been shortlisted by a panel of judges as a finalist in two categories in the Midlothian & East Lothian Chamber of Commerce Business Awards 2019.

The Employer of the Year Award will be given to the business that has a genuine dedication to their workforce, over and above any statutory duty. The Business High Growth of the Year Award recognises businesses that have experienced exceptional growth in sales, profit, market share, jobs or international trade.

Adam Johnson, Managing Director said: “As an employee owned company, I am delighted for the entire team. For us to have been nominated for two awards is a great achievement. Our culture is at the forefront of the business, as we believe  that if we look after our staff, who are fellow business owners, then they will in turn, look after our customers, with exceptional service.”

“2019 has  been an exceptional year, as we have recently opened a new office in Newton-le-Willows in North West England, to service over 90 businesses in the region. We have also significantly increased our employee numbers in our Midlothian head office; doubled turnover to over £5m and continue to upskill our workforce, with our clients benefiting from expert advice in cyber security through our Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSP), as well as undertaking numerous University and post University qualifications”

“We are driven by our clients’ needs to continually improve our services, including being ISO accredited for quality (ISO 9001), service (ISO 20001) and cyber security (ISO 27001), alongside our three gold and five silver Microsoft accreditation’s. We offer our clients round the clock 24/7/365 fully managed support services.”

The winners of the Midlothian & East Lothian Chamber of Commerce Business Awards will be announced on 30 October 2019 at The Brunton, in Musselburgh.

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