Adelaide-based Forerunner Computer Systems has been in the business for 14 years. ARN talked to the founder, Richard Pederick about how he started the company and its transition from hardware to services.
What does Forerunner do?
We’ve been running for 14 years in April. We mainly focus on services for customers, our main clientele are lawyers and doctors. We do sell equipment as well, but we don’t just focus on selling equipment, because it’s a tight market. We’re doing more managed services and we’ve been growing that.
How did the company come about?
I started it up myself with my father’s backing and his business knowledge. Teachers at the school were some of my first clients. We built the business from there.
Those teachers we still look after today. Our clients do a lot of repeat business with us, we do one-off sales off the street sales. We’ve got an Adelaide office, but with our managed services, we’ve got clients that go overseas all the time, and we can control anyone, anywhere.
A lot of SMBs don’t have the budget to hire IT staff, so we put in a system that has got to be right. Finding something for our clients that can help grow their business is another interesting challenge. They’ve grown and we’ve also grown over the years, which is a great relationship because both businesses are growing.
We’ve come a long way over the years. I started the business from a school yard. In year 10, I started selling computers to a few people in class and then by year 12, I formed the business. We spent every lunchtime on the mobile phone ordering equipment from various suppliers and I use to pick it up in my school uniform. The people that I dealt with back then, I still deal with now like HiTech Distribution. I use to place orders for 12 monitors, which was a big order back then.
Challenges and trends in the market?
Everyone is talking about cloud, and we’re looking at few things like that for ourselves. What we’re finding is that people are keeping their systems for longer and want to get the most out of their current equipment.
We still trying to encourage clients as their machines get older to replace them.
Plans for this year?
We’re going to try and grow our managed services business, which is one of the things that we want to push. We’re also looking into backup technologies.
Offsite back up is what we’re really looking at. We want to expand our client range and reach. Networking is a big part of our business. We’re all trying to grow our own businesses, we’re all involved in SMB IT Pro Group.
We’re doing more with security for people in relation to security hardware and camera equipment. We try and do more training and provide tailored training for customers, so when they learn something they’ve got notes to refer back to.
What was the transition like from being a hardware reseller into services?
My father who is the chairman of the company, actually said you can’t make money out of hardware, and back then you could make money on the systems. But as the years went past, things have gotten tighter and tighter. We’re using more software to control the client. We’ve been using Kaseya for two years, that’s been a big investment for us and we’re still growing, but trying to explain to people how it works and the benefit. All up there are five staff, three technicians, a trainer and office admin, my father manages all the accounts - he’s the one under control. He’s been in retail for many years and his knowledge has been paramount to our business and his contacts as well.
Any key advice you can share?
Talk to clients and understand their business, needs and how they function. IT changes so fast and you’ve got to be on top of it.You’ve always got to adapt to the different ways of doing things and accept change. n