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Culture Club

By empowering its staff and creating a structure for their success, CIS has developed an award-winning formula that provides first-class service and support to its own customers. B4 spoke to Founder and Managing Director, Neill Lawson-Smith.

2018 has been a memorable year for CIS, with the managed services and IT solutions provider already having picked another award as it continues upon its trajectory of becoming Oxfordshire’s primary IT support company.

At the recent annual Vale 4 Business Awards the firm picked up ‘Employer of the Year’ with its approach in terms of sales strategy and product development also being recognised as CIS also took its place as a finalist in the ‘Large Business of the Year’ category.

Neill puts that continued success and further recognition down to the hard work of his staff and what has been a detailed five-year strategic plan.

“The staff here are the company’s greatest asset and we empower our people to make decisions in the best interests of our clients every day,” he explains.

This, he says, stems from recruiting a talented team with specific career paths and goals and controlling all the aspects of the business in-house. Creating a structure for success is key and Neill can often be found leading by example, taking a hands-on approach in assisting staff on a day-to-day basis with accounts when help is needed.

“We approach every change with staff sensitivity in mind and one of our favourite questions is, “What could we be doing better?” he explains. “This always brings out great ideas and enables staff to have their say.”

A strong work ethic sits at the core of everything CIS does, with Neill revealing a culture of consistent over-achievement where staff are remunerated for their efforts.

“This drives exceptional staff loyalty which is conveyed to our customers and ultimately drives customer retention with our staff. In recent years retention rates have averaged 96%,” he says.

Neill isn’t afraid to look outside of the business either when it comes to delivering upon his vision and driving evolution throughout the firm.

Part of this saw him seeking external influence in the form of business mentors to coach and lead the executive team as he set out to bring new methods and ideas to the table. This has been reflected in the company’s rapid growth from six staff to 29 in just six years, as turnover eclipsed £2.9m in 2017.

And while CIS has grown organically by 30% year-on-year during the last 5 years, that expansion has also been buoyed by multiple acquisitions.

Growth has also been fuelled by the launch of vigorously tested new products around ultra-secure IT solutions and private cloud in particular, where CIS now offers services such as VoIP, file storage application, site monitoring, application and system hosting, backup and disaster recovery to be consumed on a monthly basis.

“Our subscription model allows our customers to predict and forecast their usage, which they can scale to suit their needs,” says Neill. “And that allows us to provide the best possible solution for their requirements.”

In that sense, CIS is somewhat of a rarity in the managed services space, owning a wide range of bespoke solutions including its own private cloud housed in a former nuclear bunker.

Neill views private cloud as one of the key growth areas in the IT sector and says that this is something CIS will be looking to harness further as the firm looks to build upon its early success there within key verticals.

“As early adopters of cloud we are in a strong position to push further growth across areas such as professional services, where we supply private cloud solutions to the likes of solicitors, accountants, architects and engineering firms to name but a few,” he adds.

Neill says that CIS is unique in that all its products and services are modular, where it can build these and own them itself. This means companies can buy entire products and services from the firm, or purchase parts of services individually to suit their needs.

“We are strongest when a company takes all of our services and allows us to deliver and manage the entire CIS IT managed services suite,” says Neill. “From connectivity, through telephony, to IT security, cloud and support, we have it covered for the client.”

With an already impressive list of industry accreditations, including certificates from Sophos, Microsoft, Veeam and VMWare, CIS prides itself on being an innovative and responsible IT solutions provider dedicated to constantly improving its own processes.

Neill says that the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will play a huge part in the firm’s expansion too as it moves through 2018 and beyond.

“Our product offering has expanded to offer an extensive encryption platform which will help towards organisations’ compliance with the GDPR,” he adds. “With GDPR having come into force in May, encryption is becoming more prominent to ensure data security. This solution delivers better than every other market offering, believe me, we tested them all.”

However, it is one of the firm’s latest standards that Neill is most proud of, with CIS having recently achieved the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification for Information Security Management.

“I regard that as our greatest success during the past 12 months,” he says. “Again, this came as a direct response to the needs of our customers and reaffirms our commitment to security and data protection in an ever-evolving environment.”

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