David Bellini, chief operating officer of Connectwise, has been around for a while. Having started in the early eighties, he began the company with his brother in Tampa, Florida; his brother was working for PriceWaterhouse as it was closing its small business operation, and they decided there was enough money in it for their new company to pick up the slack. The IBM PC had started rolling out so they started by selling basic computers with the early spreadsheet, Lotus 1-2-3. “This was the time when businesses thought they were really high tech when they had a fax machine,” he says.
Starting in those times, his company has seen a lot of changes. The business moved from selling computers to writing software to run its own business and then to selling the Professional Service Application (PSA) software, which quickly attracted the attention of its customers. “We wrote that not wanting to resell it, but as time went on people said, can I have a copy…” it now accounts for 900 staff worldwide, selling to the English-speaking world, and he’s now based in the UK having started the international operation in London. That’s the internal story. Externally the world has changed immeasurably.
Connectwise moves on
Connectwise has been among the companies that had to adapt to the Internet and the consequent changes to the ways in which people work and even think. “We saw that as an opportunity,” he says. “I reads Alvin Tuffler’s Electronic Cottage book, and he predicted where we are today.” So the company knew where it was going early on and decided it was time to go beyond Tampa. Adding micro-amounts of time savings to people’s day became possible and added value, and the business became about making other companies efficient.
It’s at this point that culture and arguably politics become important. People hear about efficiency and they assume outsourcing (partly thanks to the Internet) or robotic process automation, and in either case their jobs are under threat. Bellini believes the world is all about change: “I’ve been doing this now for 32 years and that’s been a fear the whole time,” he says. “Technology actually makes this world a lot more complicated, and as we start making efficiencies a new technology comes out that creates new jobs. It’s a continuum you move along.
“I don’t have a personal secretary typing my letters any more, I type all my own stuff. But I have a personal secretary I can call from a flight saying ‘I’ve lost my iPhone..’ and he and she will work on it. There’s plenty of work to be done.” This is the message he’s delivered to his associates constantly – as we connect the world together there is more work, not less, to be done.
As a matter of corporate principle, Bellini wants the business to be worldwide. “You look at companies like Google and they might start in the US, but you’ve got to have balance across the world. We might have an economic downturn. You guys are a better economy than us at the moment.” Even when the longest-serving party leader being Tim Farron? That’s ‘solid’? “I do it from a more anecdotal standpoint,” he explains. “People we sell to are small business owners selling to other small business owners…I’m noticing a lot of the owners are taking longer vacations. That’s a sign of prosperity a little bit.” Headcount is also increasing so any company selling software licenses is going to go through a growth period.
He remains confident around Brexit, too. “It probably has more effect on the big banks than our small business customers – although if a bank says it’s got to get out of London and into Dublin or Amsterdam, that’s going to be an issue, but none of that has happened.”
Inevitably, he suggests, we’re moving towards a worldwide economy. “It’s just that it’s happening too quickly for some people,” he says. This might account for Brexit, for Trump and a load of other things too. “The Internet is pulling us all together.”
What’s very clear is that he believes this is a positive thing. Connectwise is increasingly a worldwide concern and so is the rest of the world – as long as organisations take the time to ensure their people aren’t left behind. “You have to take care of employees and have their back.”
And that, given a lot of the furore over outsourcing, is where a lot of the trouble seems to start.
Connectwise will host its annual IT Nation conference in Orlando, Florida, next month. It will bring the event to London in April.