Comms Business Magazine talks to Myra Yeo, Managing Director of Chingford based desktop support services firm FMK, about her business and plans for the future.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Tell me about your company. How long in business, turnover, why the firm was established and what products and services you supply?
Myra Yeo (MY): I started FMK in 1992 with a fellow journalist who had overseen the introduction of new technology at one of the UK’s largest magazine groups. He identified a requirement for IT support for Macs in PC environments. I had a vision for a one-stop Support Shop providing comprehensive 5 star service and we took it from there. Our first client was the London Stock Exchange, quickly followed by Barclays Bank, a Government quango and Henderson Investors. I guess you’d describe us as a VVAR (Very Value Added Reseller). We were an office Apple Reseller for years until Apple began to pull the plug on the reseller model. It was just a box to be ticked really and hasn’t affected business at all. In the early days of the Apple Store in Regent Street we were recommended by their business team to provide installation and support services.
Our current business model supports both Mac and PC users and encompasses a core staff plus partners in telecoms, networking and relocation with whom we work closely. Turnover is just vanity – last year we made more profit on a smaller turnover – the inevitable result of the economic crisis – but over the years it’s been around the three quarters of a million pound mark.
Today we specialise in the SME market with clients in the design, marketing, publishing, market research, cinema and creative arts markets.
CBM: How are you finding the market right now?
MY: We have managed our business to give us balanced sector coverage across a range of markets, meaning that if one sector is in recession another is expanding. We always plan and work towards building long-term relationships with our clients and are lucky (actually it’s not just luck) that many have been with us for many years and recommend us. New business is always hard to get and it’s become more difficult as the market has changed. Once you went out and sold now prospective clients tend to look for services on the web. But people do still actually talk to each other and they do ask others if their support company is any good. We’ve got a lot of business that way.
CBM: What have been the biggest changes that have affected your market and your business over the period you have been in business?
MY: The meteoric rise of computer services and Apple in particular, plus the fact that Mac users generally resign rather than give up their beloved interface means companies just can’t get rid of them. This has provided us with a steady stream of work over the years. The withdrawal of Apple from enterprise business markets has increased our PC work (we have Mac clients, Pc clients and Mac and PC clients now) but Apple still develops the gadgets-of-choice for the kinds of creative companies and departments with whom we tend to work.
CBM: Is gender an issue in our business? Like many markets the comms sector is male dominated.
MY: My first career was in journalism and I have always worked on an equal basis with men. I firmly believe gender is not an issue, hard work is, and that it is effective teams that make the best outcomes for staff and clients. Find the best people, brief them adequately, support them as you go along and it doesn’t matter what sex they are. That said it’s rare to get a female applicant for a support role and rarer to see a woman support consultant working in a server room on site.
We’d like to see a greater emphasis on encouraging women into active IT roles in business, schools, colleges and universities. The problem for women in our industry is the same problem that affects all working women – work life balance. I think we have tended to pretend to young women that family life is something they can fit in between a fulfilling career and a busy social life and that’s just not the case. I was lucky when my family was young that I could give myself an edge through emerging new technologies – I was an enthusiastic early user of the internet because it enabled me to work from home, when I wanted and, on many occasions after being up all night with the young children for instance, in my dressing gown. (I don’t do that now BTW)
CBM: Who are your business heroes/role models and why?
MY: John Harvey Jones, the original business Mr Fixit, has always been a hero of mine. He demonstrated to me, someone with no business experience beyond various management roles, that business problems can be fixed with rationality, by refusing to skirt the real issues and through the use of humour and I’ve always tried to follow his lead.
Richard Branson: Branson say’s its easier and cheaper to start a business than buy one. He’s right!
CBM: What is the biggest business challenge you face right now and why? How do you expect to rise above this challenge and what is the outlook for your business in the future?
MY: Obviously the move to Cloud services is going to continue to affect us but we have been promoting these services for a number of years already and they have become a key part of our service offering.
Mobile and BYOD are a new focus for us now phones, tablets and other new form factors are becoming key in the way people work. We want to be there offering our VVAR for all the new challenges but we believe there will always be room for a support company that puts clients first, really does go the extra mile and responds quickly to business needs.
Done properly, outsourced support that focuses on the people who use the technology is a no-brainer – we simply need to get that message across.
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