The 'ARN Spotlight On' series explores partners operating in the local channel landscape right around the country, from Cape York to Hobart, Byron Bay to Fremantle and beyond. In this edition, we focus on the Northern Territory and Winnellie-based IT product and services provider Area9.
Any successful business is as strong as its employees, and that’s something that Area9 takes seriously — even to the point of resulting in “accidental” business expansions.
Headquartered up in the Northern Territory's Winnellie, the IT product and services company values its people as one of its core tenants, according to its sales and marketing director Simon Watt.
“As a business leader, it's one of the reasons that you get out of bed every day — when you see other people who are passionate about working within that organisation. That stimulates you more than probably anything else,” he said.
That desire to see its people stay passionate has been the driving force behind its recent expansions into Hendra, Queensland and Port Macquarie, NSW, with Watt labelling the actual expansions themselves as “accidental”.
“We had a number of key staff that we didn't want to lose for various reasons that were drawn to leave the Territory, and it suited our needs to give them a home base to continue to work for us,” Watt said.
“When you invest and grow and acquire talent that understands the business well and they become intrinsic to what you do, they know your customers well. You don't want to lose them, and so we provided to retain those people over time.
“It’s about seeking more business in those areas and we continue to do that as a part of our strategic growth over the next few years.”
The growth strategy of accidental expansions comes 13 years after the provider’s start back in 2007, with Watt joining on two years later.
His story in the tech industry however started much earlier, first starting with Digital Equipment Corporation in the UK in 1987. During his time at the company it changed hands twice — first being acquired by Compaq in 1998, which was then merged with HP in 2002.
He stayed on throughout the changes through to 2009. During this time however, Watt met “an Australian girl” and got a transfer over to Australia, being based first in Melbourne, followed by a posting to the Northern Territory and then travelled all over the country and New Zealand.
During his travels, he came to a realisation: he missed the Northern Territory, and therefore decided to return.
It was here that he joined Area9 as a partner, as he knew some of the founding members from his time in the industry.
Today, the provider has approximately 45 to 50 employees with 600 contracted customers, offering managed services, enterprise business services, project management, a product business and even its own data centre.
In terms of its managed services, Watt said the provider is “stretching our tentacles a little bit beyond the Northern Territory”, focusing on remote, regional and Metropolitan in the top end of the country, covering Western Australia, Queensland, Mount Isa, Alice Springs and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Taking a leap
At the time, the major focus for industry interaction was through government projects, which Watt claims was performed through bigger players.
Meanwhile, the director said there was a growing commercial industry off the back of resources, tourism, health and education sectors, as well as indigenous, support and social services, but in his view, they weren’t well serviced.
“Organisations of up to 300 to 500 seats — we were really too small for those players, but we felt they lacked the support that they needed. So we set about building an organisation that would really tightly address that new market, professional, corporate style of business that needed a standards-based approach to IT services and IT support,” Watt said.
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