Silver Lining for Advantex

Stephen O’Connell, sales director and co-owner of Advantex Network Solutions

Comms Business speaks to Stephen O’Connell, Sales Director and Co-Owner of Gateshead based reseller Advantex Network Solutions, about his company and how they became an all-round IT and Comms supplier.

Stephen O’Connell and his brother David started Advantex in 2002. Together they had a van and based their business upon installing infrastructure and data cabling.

“We had Cisco CCNA accreditations and were supplying switching and wireless Layer 1, 2 and 3 services. A couple of years later we received an enquiry to supply Axis cameras. These were IP based network cameras and that spawned an interest in and the development of CCTV sales which led to our Microsoft accreditations. At that point we were an IT company.

However, over the years we had worked closely with Executel, another Gateshead based reseller that specialised in Mitel telephony solutions. In 2011, when TalkTalk acquired that company, we decided to approach Mitel and they took us on board as a reseller.

It was not an easy move for us but we took on the right people and were aided by being able to recruit some of the former Executel support staff. Progressively, we started telling more and more Mitel solutions and today it is one of our core product lines. It’s the only telephony platform we carry in our portfolio; it’s a very robust platform and we are now specialists having learnt the lesson from Executel that it is better to stick with what you know.

Today our portfolio is comprised of Cisco and HP for switching and Cisco and Ruckus for wireless applications. As well as Mitel, we are also Microsoft and VMWare partners. We work closely with distributors Tech Data and Comstor who we regard as the absolute epitome of a great partner as they put 100% in to helping us retain customers.

Pain Points:

Stephen O’Connell says that the most important aspect of running their business and their biggest frustration has been finding and bringing on the right people.

“Our people are our greatest asset but they have to buy in to our existing ethos. We need to make sure we look after our staff; incentivise them, involve them in the business but overall they must share our ethos.

2017 was a tough year. We had some joiners who did not fit in the business and as a result we’ve seen the damage they can do in terms of loss of reputation. We took it very personally.

In terms of application trends, we have seen cloud based applications sales grow. Here the Mitel platform is highly versatile for us and our customers as it can be supplied in SaaS or CPE models and with many of our customers increasingly opening new branch or remote offices we can supply virtual solutions as well. For example, Academy Trusts are growing at a very fast rate and there we can supply virtual platforms and MPLS solutions that are easy and quick to configure.”

When it comes to Brexit O’Connell says that he has seen some pain but only in the short term.

“2018 will see a lot of uncertainty going and customers becoming more confident. I am conscious things could change quickly but my attitude is, ‘It is what it is – so let’s just get on with it’.

As an example, the Education Skills Agency paused programs, they held back but have now re-started as uncertainty fades and we become accustomed to the idea of change.
We now have a third brother in the business as operations manager and looking forward to 2018 we are optimistic and have some great plans for the future. We already have £2m in business securely booked for 2018 Q1.

Advantex Call Up Silver

Advantex is eyeing further growth for its IP based telephone services after securing Mitel Silver Solutions Partner status in a move that recognises the Gateshead firm’s expertise in supplying and supporting the Mitel MiVoice Office and MiVoice 250 range of telephone systems and applications.

The news comes as the Gateshead based firm looks to invest in its VoIP telephone activities, adding further to its 50-strong business development and technical team and supporting them with sales and technical training.

Sales of phone technology are now worth more than £2m a year and account for around 20% of total turnover.

Now, the firm is set to build on the Mitel partnership status, expanding further its existing business with the likes of GE Oil & Gas, Rockliffe Hall, Changing Lives, Kayer C&D and Middlesbrough FC as well as bringing on-board new customers.

The move also included ramping-up its resources to support more than 10,000 hosted phone extensions by the end of 2017.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine