Planning Ahead

Planning Ahead

Geoff Little and Julian Niman

Editor Ian Hunter talks to the top men at Distributor Nimans, Chairman Julian Niman and Managing Director Geoff Little to find what plans the company has for 2006

Established in the early 1980s and now employing more than 180 staff, distributor Nimans expects to break through the £50 million turnover mark at the end of their current financial year. Six months ago Niman took the step of bringing in a fresh pair of eyes in the shape of Managing Director Geoff Little to look at where Nimans goes next. Why?

“To move to the next stage of our development we need people with

wider experience, people with different skill sets and knowledge of working in and running big companies. Someone in fact that I can learn from myself. I spent six or seven months talking with Geoff, understanding his views and getting a ‘feel’ for him before we both agreed he would join the company.”

Little says that Julian needed an experienced MD to provide the objectivity on how the business was being run, “He also needed a ‘mentor’ with whom he could exchange ideas on how to re-align the business in order to achieve expansion plans.”

Niman, “I felt that the company was ‘flat lining’ and although we were still achieving growth on a year to year basis I believed the company had become somewhat institutionalised in our day to day activities. The growth looked good on paper and we are running on the back of the best 18 month period of profitability in the company history, but in truth we have a back end logistics operation that can handle far more business going in at the front end. I wanted to realise that potential.”

Little has implemented a plan to achieve these goals; having identified the need to separate out the sales and marketing functions he has already made key appointments. “I’ve re-aligned sales to take account of those who want to be business developers and those that prefer sales administration with the result that we will have both a happier workforce and a more proactive approach to our reseller base. Nigel Raine has been appointed as Head of Indirect Channel sales and he is driving both in-house and field-based sales activity for systems, retail and our BT Connect businesses. Jacqui Toman-Wilkes is heading up order administration. Right now all heads of department are busy drawing up plans for 2006 and identifying what business levels we can achieve. I want the company to achieve this by playing to and extending our core strengths.”

Those being?

Niman, “People and logistics. Nimans operates in a friendly, ‘family’ company way and environment and at the same time we have the stock, a £6.0 million holding, to ensure we meet reseller needs. All orders received are shipped by 6.30 pm each day. Resellers are very important to our business and represent more than 75% of our business.”

Little, “In extending these strengths we will never take anything for granted and continually strive to achieve improvement and efficiencies. Julian said that one of our core strengths is our staff and we are taking steps to continue their training and development. Right now all of our internal training courses for staff are fully booked and all senior personnel have recently attended an off-site management conference. Internal communications in a company of our size are very important and here too Nimans has raised its game. The appointment of Paul Gillings as Director of Communications responsible for both internal and external communications, training and marketing is a significant move for the company.”

How ambitious are the plans for 2006 likely to be?

“We will have a realistic growth plan.” Says Little, continuing, “Nimans will be looking at introducing and extending service offering as well as products. Take VoIP for example. Nimans is well positioned when it comes to IP based products through our association with Avaya, Siemens and Panasonic and we are aware that there is likely to be a huge market for centrex. On the back of our hardware sales we would like to build up a recurring revenue stream for services income.” The second area of opportunity for resellers is headsets, in particular the general office market. Here in the UK only around two percent of office workers user a headset so the potential is huge especially for cordless models.

Do you see any obstacles to Nimans achieving these objectives and what about resellers; where do their challenges lie?

“Only the extent of our vision will limit us,” says Little adding, “Of course we need to ensure Nimans has the right products and the right people in place. Resellers have different mind sets and whilst some will readily embrace new technology and applications some pretend it is not there at all and bury their heads in the sand. Nimans will be there for any reseller that wants to evolve their business over a period of time to these new business models.

“These are exciting times and I am very happy to be approaching the market and these issues with Nimans as I believe voice based resellers are more likely to be successful in the converged market place that those from a data background.”


Post Script

A short while after this interview Julian Niman announced: “Following discussions we have mutually decided that Geoff will not renew his initial six month contract but will be available to us for ongoing consultancy. Whilst I am delighted with the work he has carried out for the company, now my health has improved dramatically I wish to resume the position of Managing Director.”
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