Customers are crucial to every business but keeping them loyal can be an onerous task. Brisbane-based systems integrator, Server Central, knows this and puts client satisfaction at the forefront of its priorities list. It must be doing something right. Out of the 70 clients the company services, many of them have been with Server Central since the very beginning.
The company was founded in 2003 by David James Ertel, who was affectionately known as Jim. A New Zealand native who came to Australia in the 1980s, he worked at Mitsui Computers before eventually moving to IT reseller, Shore Bridge.
“He was a bit disillusioned with the larger IT providers losing sight of the actual customer and customer requirements,” Server Central managing director, Andrew George, said. “He started up Server Central to get closer to the customers and be a customer advocate, rather than a sales person.” George joined Server Central in 2006 after a 10-year stint with Sun Microsystems but had been close friends with Ertel since their days at Mitsui Computers. George started off as the business development and marketing manager.
“I was looking for an opportunity to be in a smaller company to develop into a larger company,” George said.
“I knew Jim quite well and it seemed like a logical fit.” The first vendor to jump on-board was Sun Microsystems, George’s former employer.
Server Central’s sweetspot rests in the mid-market but it has the capacity to service enterprise businesses. With the arrival of Geoff Hughes as the technical services manager in 2007, the integrator started gearing up its managed services play with a focus on data management. The integrator now has eight staff on-board. “Hughes brought a lot of technical expertise into the data management side of the business so we were able to concentrate a lot on that particular side of IT,” George said. “A lot of companies tend to focus on applications and when servers go down, whereas we concentrate on how the data is managed, backed up, restored and we go up from there.”
Just as the path to expanding Server Central’s managed services segment was being forged, a tragedy shook the company to the core. Founder, Jim Ertel, lost his life in a car accident in December 2008. He was 54.
“It was the single most challenging hurdle for us to overcome professionally and emotionally – the company is still not over it,” George said.
While George and Hughes had to cope with the lost of a dear friend, the show must go on and they both scrambled to keep Server Central fully operational.
As Ertel had been sole proprietor of the business, ownership of the company had to be arranged. Server Central was eventually split between George, Hughes and the Ertel family as its three major shareholders. “Hughes and I wanted to make sure the Ertel family was still part of Server Central in the future,” George said. “We have a five-person board so we have a lot of direction and strategy planning.
“It was all part of the grand plan, which was obviously accelerated when Jim passed away and, in the long run, I think the company has come out of it a lot stronger.”