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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

Eacs CEO Kevin Timms: ‘We were worried some projects would never be completed’

Unlike many CEOs of managed services providers (MSPs), Kevin Timms has led IT departments and teams within large enterprises. He was an IT director for huge organisations including Jaguar Land Rover and Ford Motor Company.

Along with his wife and business partner, he had also set up an IT consulting business eight years ago, which had grown to about 15 employees. However, Timms realised that to really kick on, they needed to raise money and buy a large organisation, and this is what they did after he left Ford.

“Three years ago, we raised the money and we bought Eacs which was at the time a £15m-a-year managed services business,” says Timms.

They put a new management team into Eacs, and then made a further acquisition about 18 months ago, buying a smaller MSP in London. Now, the company has 150 people, which makes £24m-a-year – a growth of around 60 per cent in three years.

Timms is chairman and CEO, with his main focus being the strategy and overall direction of the company. Eighty-five percent of the company’s business lies with its managed service clients, of which there are 150. The company provides a 24-7 service desk, as well as pre-sales consulting and other services. For some clients, Eacs is their outsourced IT partner, while for others the company provides a specific service for them.

Timms explains that the company has a mix of clients, from housing associations to financial services companies – and so it does not specialise in any specific industry, although around 90 per cent of business is in the private sector.

However, Timms says that Eacs wants to change this ratio.

“We’re now on a number of government frameworks that should help us to be able to get us much more active in the public sector space,” he says.

Despite the fact that Timms and his management team have a background in the large enterprise world, Eacs is focused on the mid-market, 500-seat companies. Timms says that this is because larger enterprises typically don’t deal with small and mid-market IT space, and instead deal directly with OEMs.

The company does have one key differentiator compared to other MSPs, in that it offers a white label managed service solution for other companies. This means businesses like telecoms companies can manage their own client relationship, with Eacs providing the service in the background.

Covid-19 impact

Timms and his business partner had invested £1.5m into the company to upgrade the technology in-house, which he said was quite poor when he arrived. This included moving call centre handling, ticket and telephony systems into the cloud.

“We did that primarily for disaster recovery – so when Covid-19 happened, that transition of getting everybody from our service desk to work from home actually went pretty smoothly and only took a matter of days,” he says.

From a client perspective, Eacs finished its financial year strongly in March, as it received a lot of orders for laptops and headsets, as well as the requirement of additional support to upgrade client systems so that they could use video-conferencing tools like MS Teams and Zoom. However, after this initial high point, Eacs saw a dip in interest from clients in buying services, as well as issues with completing projects.

“We had projects that were 65 days in and only required three days to complete but the entire client had put their entire team in furlough and shut down, so we couldn’t finish the project” he adds.

“We saw a 10 per cent drop-off in our business for a number of months, but that’s pretty much all come back now,” says Timms.

He admitted that he was worried that uncompleted projects may never be able to be finished.

“I don’t think anybody could foresee how people were going to get out of the lockdown. That particular company [who we were 65 days in with] was a manufacturing company who furloughed everybody and had been living on their cash that they’d been generating over the last three or four years, which was meant to be used for investment,” Timms explains.

“However, they’ve come back very strongly, and their business has picked up,” he adds.

Some projects have still stalled, but overall Timms believes that the pandemic has not been as bad as Eacs had first feared.

“Covid has had an impact but we’ve been able to mitigate it and just focus on us and keep going. We’ve been able to stay ahead of our budget in terms of our prediction for our financials this year,” Timms says.