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Days of wine and remote management

In 2001, Craig Bishop and Charles Tym came to a realisation: IT gets into your blood.

After all, the two had seen out the best years of the IT boom, building a small Computerland franchise in Bankstown in the integration powerhouse CICtechnology – a company that employed 130 staff and boasted an annual turnover of $55 million.

In 1999, at the height of the tech market mayhem, they sold CIC to Data#3. It was looking to expand from Queensland into New South Wales.

As part of the deal, Bishop and Tym spent nearly two years as directors of Data#3.

Then things changed.

Their next business project was somewhat removed from IT. Nestled on the north side of the Mudgee Valley, the Shawwood Winery is a far cry from network management and systems integration. The winery, named after the property of Tym’s great grandfather Thomas, has also had its share of success: the 2001 Shiraz won a silver medal at one of the toughest open wine shows around, The Cowra Wine Show; the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001 Cabernet Shiraz and the 2002 Verdelho won bronze medals at the Mudgee wine show.

Things changed, again.

“After being out of IT for a while, we realised we missed it,” Bishop said. He was eager to get back to working with customers.

Differences with the management of Data#3 led the two to resign from the board as directors. But the IT bug was hard to shake. So, in May 2001, they teamed up again to establish Harbour IT. From the outset, the focus was on customer service.

“We just wanted to set up a services company that loved its customers,” Tym said. “The number of customers out there who have trouble finding basic customer service is amazing. It worked for us because, at the time, many IT companies were really being squeezed and consequently, their service levels dropped off. It was a good time to step into the market.”

In its first full month of operation, Harbour IT posted $1 million worth of business. Although growth was hampered in the latter half of 2001, the company is back on track for a record year.

“The first 12 months were tough,” said Tym. “But after that things just skyrocketed.”

The company now employs more than 30 staff in offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Tym and Bishop have been business partners since 1984. It’s somewhat of a family affair — Tym started his first business with his sister, Alison, who was married to Bishop. Both families still have a hand in the new company. It makes for a close-knit team that translates into strong channel relationships.

Harbour IT also employs staff who were with CIC for 10 years.

“We still have a very strong customer focus, but the product business has also performed strongly as well, to our pleasant surprise,” Tym said.

Harbour IT has been named one of HP’s fastest growing business partners and a company representative will fly to the US later this month to meet HP boss Carly Fiorina. It has also picked up a number of big name contracts including Owens Container Services and Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

“I guess our business tends towards the SME market, but one of our latest contracts is with a very large company for servers,” Bishop said.

The key focus of the business is remote management systems. However, it also provides project management and knowledge management services, outsourcing, system integration and procurement services.

Security has also been identified as a growth area.

“Most customers have had to cut back on the internal resources so remote management gives organisation a lot of comfort,” Bishop said.

Customers are not the only ones who feel comfortable having the duo back in IT. The decision to do it again was also welcomed by their families.

“My kids are now talking about working in the business,” Bishop said. “I think that really makes it worthwhile.”

Case study

Owens container services

Owens Container Services had 15 sites across three countries but no Wide Area Network. It was becoming unwieldly and, at the same time, the organisation needed to refresh its technology. Instead, Owens partnered with Harbour IT to implement a thin-client environment. Harbour IT put in a server farm in Melbourne consisting of nine Compaq DL380 and DL360 servers running Citrix MetaFrame software. Owens was able to use some of the bandwidth from the frame relay network that was being rolled out at the same time. The implementation was so successful the Owens group now plans to move each of its business division over to thin-client servers.