ARN: How did the company come into being?
Bob Bassat, Synergy Software's managing director: Essentially three people got together in 1983 and decided to form a programming shop. The decision was made in a pizza shop and it initially ran out of someone's house for a while. It was very tough with young families, no customers and no work at first. It took a while to establish ourselves in the market. The company has since lost very few customers over the years.
What are your company's key business strengths?
Our people. We hire very, very carefully. We are owned by our people and have loyal clients. We also have some incredible business partners.
Our roots are in RPG programming but we also use Visual Basic and NT, for example. We have very good programmers. Our origins are based on coding for IBM's System 38 and AS/400 platforms. We now work with all of IBM's midrange RS6000s, NetFinity.
We also sell SAP and provide SAP services. In addition, we are making a very heavy investment in networking, particularly IBM's CommonStore and OnDemand document management systems.
How are you integrating services into the business?
We are a services company that sells product. The product comes as a by-product of services.
We are both a developer and an integrator. Three quarters of our staff are developers and the rest are platform supporters.
Who are your typical customers?
We have customers in multinationals and some small businesses. We have about 1500 customers who call us. Most of it is repeat business. We have two of the four big banks, large retailers and some smaller companies who have absolutely no IT department.
What areas of the industry are you keeping a close watch on?
We have been investing in e-business for two years. For about six or eight years there has been a detectable move from the red towards black. People are starting to make money out of e-business. In general, we are also watching ERP - particularly SAP, networking, and document management.
What is your company's greatest challenge?
Our biggest problem is managing growth. Our customers want us to grow faster and that brings its own challenges. We are always emphasising and identifying possible new managers and training them accordingly.
Another challenge is Y2K making executives more aware of IT. Now that Y2K is almost over, senior executives want to get more from IT and are asking for more information.
How would you describe your management outlook?
Very simple. It's all about employees. Forty per cent of the people own the company. Anyone who joins the company can become an owner of Synergy.
What is your attitude to partnering?
We have been partners with IBM for 16 years. We are absolutely delighted with the relationship with IBM. We have partnered with SAP for around four years and look on it with great enthusiasm.
We have other relationships with companies such as Novell, Microsoft and Cisco. We never compete against our partners. If someone doesn't want IBM, for example, we walk away.
What is your five-year company outlook?
Without sounding trite, we see ourselves as a very small fish in a large pond, not the ocean. It is up to us to make it grow. If it doesn't, it's our fault.
Turnover: $25 million, 1998-99 F/Y
Growth rate: 30 per cent
Services: E-business, ERP, networking and software development