Head of Steam

Head of Steam: Perfect Image

From precocious child software programmer to chief executive of a multimillion-pound IT company, Andrew Robson has a technical, forward-thinking approach, which is delivering impressive growth at Perfect Image

Andrew Robson, chief executive and founder of North Tyneside-based IT solution provider Perfect Image wrote his first computer game at the age of 12. It went on to become a national bestseller.

What’s more, the game was about running a business.

Andrew was inspired by his entrepreneurial family (his father and two uncles all owned their own businesses) and designed and built the software from his bedroom.

Soon after, Andrew’s family moved from Kingston upon Thames in London to the North East. On the first day of his new school, he was offered a ‘hooky’ copy of his own computer game in the playground.

Andrew went on to study computer sciences at Cambridge University and paid his way through his studies by writing software for Bellway Homes.

After graduating, Andrew established Perfect Image in 1991 – designing and delivering bespoke IT solutions for clients.

The budding entrepreneur initially worked from his parents’ house and then from his own apartment, before taking on his first employee a year after he established the business.

Now, on the verge of its 25th anniversary, Perfect Image has grown to a £5.7 million turnover company, servicing more than 200 clients (including Bellway Homes) and employing a workforce of 84 at its Cobalt Business Park offices.

For the technically minded Andrew, the journey for Perfect Image has been about slow and organic growth.

“We’ve never been a sales-driven company and instead focused on providing a quality service with quality people,” Andrew says.

“We’ve never sought external investment. We’ve always been self funded and grown from the work that we’ve won.”

Perfect Image offers end-to-end IT services to blue chip companies, public sector organisations, SMEs and start-ups by creating and delivering tailored IT solutions in infrastructure and applications, network-managed services and support.

The company works with proven vendors – such as Microsoft and data visualisation specialists Qlik – to provide the latest IT tools, as well as identifying the best IT routes based on each individual client’s needs.

While many technology companies invested in data storage centres in the noughties, Perfect Image chose to utilise a number of existing data centres – often owned by the IT company’s direct competitors.

“We could never have built a data centre that was right for all of our clients,” says Andrew. “Instead we would rent, or recommend that our clients rent racks of storage at different data centres, based on our clients’ security needs, resilience and budget. It meant we never had to constrain our solutions.”

Andrew and his team at Perfect Image had also identified a potential new method of data storage, and having avoided a large capital outlay on its own data centre, were better positioned to embrace cloud technology.

“There was a tipping point, probably around 18 months ago, where it suddenly became clear that cloud, in many cases, was not only the viable method of data storage but provided the best value for clients,” Andrew reflects.

Perfect Image’s forward-thinking approach has led it to become a prestigious Amazon Web Partner – the only company in the North East to hold such an accreditation and one of only a handful of

partners in the UK.

“With Amazon, you get cloud storage on huge global scale, which is more reliable and more secure than at individual data centres.

“You rent computer power and storage on a pay-as-you-go scheme meaning you literally pay for what you need by the hour. It’s a huge step forward in terms of flexibility and avoiding large upfront capital spend on equipment.”

While Andrew maintains that cloud technology is not suitable for all companies and still offers alternative solutions for clients, since partnering with Amazon in 2013, Perfect Image has seen impressive growth.

Turnover grew by 47 per cent in the last financial year and the company is targeting growth in excess of 20 per cent for the next financial year.

Perfect Image has also almost doubled its workforce in the past two years, and continues to seek the very best technical expertise from the North East and beyond, to its managed services, business systems and business intelligence teams.

“Right now, we have vacancies across the company,” says Andrew. “We’re determined to recruit the best and the brightest and for this, we’re focused on creating a good working environment and providing high-quality and exciting projects for our workforce.”

Perfect Image also began working with business intelligence vendor Alteryx in 2015, reflecting the growing demand from clients for enhanced IT data analytics.

The strategy for Perfect Image in 2016 will be to focus on cloud technology as well as business intelligence and data security.

In the longer term, Andrew and the Perfect Image team will continue to work at the forefront of IT.

“Technology is always evolving,” says Andrew. “Right now, we can’t say what’s going to be happening in five years’ time but, as a company, we will be constantly assessing and evaluating tools and trends to ensure we always provide the maximum benefits for our clients.”

The past 12 months …
Turnover (FY2015): £5.7 million, up 47 per cent on 2014 figures.

Recruitment: 23 new positions recruited at the company. The current workforce stands at 84.

Clients: Perfect Image began working with around 50 new clients in 2015 including RIBA, University of Sunderland, PD Ports, Premier Farnell, BNP, BDO, Zurich Insurance and Carlisle City Council. The total number of client is more than 200.

Vendors: Perfect Image began working with data blending and advanced analytics company Alteryx.

Forecasts: The company is targeting growth in excess of 20 per cent in the next financial year.

www.perfect-image.co.uk

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Vic Young