Live: Q&A with Rob Coupland, CEO of Pulsant

Rob Coupland was appointed CEO of colocation and cloud specialist Pulsant towards the end of 2019. He had no idea what was on the horizon..

Take us through your first 15 months with Pulsant

It’s been different. When I was going through the application process and considering whether this was the right role for me nobody asked how I’d deal with a global pandemic! It wasn’t what I was expecting.

Nevertheless, it’s been a positive experience in so many respects. We’re a very well-established business but we’re a business that needed to address a number of key areas. We needed to reset some of the things that we were doing and we did that in spite of the challenges everyone faced in 2020.

Because of what we do as a technology business, we provide a core service. So we haven’t experienced the downturn that other people have faced. The pandemic knocked our sales for a while but I’m really pleased that we were able to come through that period without furloughing anyone. We actually experienced a very good end to the year and our final quarter sales period for 2020 was the best quarter we’d experienced for two years.

So what’s been the biggest upside to lockdown?

I was talking to April Clark, our chief people officer, earlier this month and she feels it’s been a very positive period for me and Pulsant. She pointed out that the pandemic has meant I’ve been far more visible as a CEO and she’s right. In normal circumstances I would have been out and about at our various sites and only occasionally bumped into certain members of staff in the coffee room or wherever.

Because I’ve had to communicate with people remotely, we’ve set up a weekly staff call and that’s allowed more people to hear me speak. I’ve been able to build connections with people I might not have had the chance to get to know as well.

So even though Covid-19 has presented everyone with challenges it’s not all been negative from my perspective. I think we’ve all learned new ways to communicate — some things have worked really well and others haven’t. But the best practice is something we’ll maintain once we’re all allowed out again!

How do you explain the resilience of the colocation and cloud services sector?

Some of the businesses which wouldn’t have thought of themselves as technology businesses have realised, during the last few months, just how dependent on technology they really are. That’s prompted a lot of businesses to look at how they go about what they do and perhaps change the way that they work.

As a business focused on colocation and cloud services, Pulsant is able to support those changes. Even in 2021 a number of businesses essentially keep their IT server in a cupboard in the office — and now staff can’t even go into the office! If you can’t access your server then that suddenly becomes an unsustainable position. The current climate has thrown into sharp focus the need to be able to access critical systems safely, securely and easily.

Tell us about Pulsant’s North East connection

We have two data centres in the North East and we have a number of workplace recovery centres in the region. These are disaster recovery locations for people who have to, for whatever reason, leave their offices.

Pulsant’s main service centre is also based in the North East at Gateshead. In normal circumstances there would be around 100 people based there and it’s where you’ll find our first, second and third lines of support for all of our customers nationwide. Part of our sales team is based in Gateshead and it’s an important location for us.

Historically, the North East has always been a strong region for us and we have a significant client base here. Our other main base — outside of our central office — is in Edinburgh so unlike many national businesses we probably have a stronger presence in the north than we do down south. We’re headquartered in the south but it’s fair to say we’re a little less well known there.

When you try to do these things in the south you find yourselves scrambling around for the best resource. Everyone assumes there’s more talent and availability in the south but there are more businesses chasing a finite resource. By locating our main service centre on Tyneside we have access to a different talent pool. And we like that. I think there’s also a lot to be said for a business that deals with regional clients committing to the regions.

You’ve become one of the latest prominent North East businesses to partner with GiveToLocal in an effort to support community sport. What prompted the partnership?

There are many worthy causes out there. Most weeks there is someone, or something, promoting a very worthy cause that’s seeking support. But what triggered my interest in GiveToLocal was the regional link and the connection to sport.

The idea of supporting grassroots sport is something that I feel a strong connection to. Many of our employees feel that same connection. There are so many different strands to community sport – from keeping youngsters active to ensuring people have access to a wide range of opportunities. It immediately felt like a very worthy cause.

I like the GiveToLocal approach. From day one the emphasis has been on how they can develop a meaningful partnership with Pulsant. It’s an opportunity for us to engage with the local community and, of course, network with like-minded businesses. It’s not just about how we can provide sponsorship — I was drawn to GiveToLocal’s innovative approach and the focus on mutual benefit. That really resonated with me and, following my initial chat with [head of corporate relations] David Broom, becoming a regional partner was an easy decision to make.

Why do you feel it’s so important to safeguard the future of community sport?

As a father of two I’ve experienced most aspects of community sport. My son — who’s 19 now and just started university — came through the local village football team and the rugby team. Sport was very much a part of his childhood and it became a key part of my life as a parent. I’ve witnessed so many positives associated with grassroots sport. There are the connections and the camaraderie associated with being part of a team as well as the benefits of being active. Sport helps to boost self-esteem and helps to build a sense of achievement in young people. It’s been a big part of our family life.

For more information on Pulsant’s colocation and cloud solutions visit – www.pulsant.com

To find out more about GiveToLocal, register for one of this month’s free webinars on January 26 and 28. Visit www.givetolocal.com/nee-webinar

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