Sat dangling from a crane eating a barbecue high above the River Tyne, BQ’s Chris Middleton and Andrew Pickersgill discuss the importance of family in business, growing through word of mouth, and staying ahead of the curve.
As I drove across the Tyne Bridge into Gateshead to meet Andrew Pickersgill, I could see my destination: a metal beam towering into the sky above like an obelisk to the Gods.
I was on my way to interview the commercial director of Diamond Group, a Gateshead-based business solutions company that deals in I.T., telecoms, copiers, and asset finance.
Interviewing someone over dinner is not an unusual occurrence, but interviewing them while you are strapped into a harness, eating while suspended over the River Tyne is a little bit unnerving, at least to begin with. And truthfully, I had been half-filled with apprehension and half-filled with wonder as rain smashed against the office window and the wind howled earlier in the day; fortunately, it had subsided for now.
Diamond Group are a local company that try to help businesses of all sizes. Whether they are spending too much on printing and telecoms, are losing money because they are behind in the latest technology, or aren’t getting the most out of the systems they currently have in place, Diamond wants to get involved.
“We can work with anyone,” Andrew says. “Just about any company in Newcastle is going to have a telephone, a PC, a printer – therefore any company can become one of our customers. What we do is consolidate all that into one – so you get one bill for all your business solutions. These are the services that can generally be quite boring – but they’re essential to running any business in the modern era.”
What is today known as Diamond Group started out in humble beginnings some 25 years ago. In 1992 there was Diamond Business Systems, a small, family photocopy business. The company grew slowly until about 10 years ago when it purchased an IT arm, followed by a telecoms arm two years later. Today they’re an all-round business solution.
Andrew joined the company a year ago, to consolidate this message and provide customers with a clear group message – Diamond Group can be a total communications solution.
“I now have a specific commercial focus to recruit new salespeople, manage the sales team day to day, and put in new processes and systems, such as consumer lifecycle management. We have over 600 customers, of which 90% are North East based. We are a very local company, but some of our customers expand and go national, and we go with them. But our main focus has always been on the North East.”
“Last week we were with a North East based charity – one thing we’ll do for any company is a free Print, IT and telecoms audit, so we look at what you’re currently using, what you should be using, whether there are any advances in technology that can make your processes and systems a lot more efficient. This charity -– we could save them £20,000 a year.”
This combination of simplicity and cost-effectiveness is what has allowed Diamond Group to grow organically, without any direct sales input. “The last four years we’ve done 20% year on year growth, simply through word of mouth and referral. The plan is, in three years, to double in both turnover and staff. But we’ve never had a sales processing strategy to specifically target new customers.”
Despite the few companies that Diamond has gone national with, Andrew is still focused on his own backyard and dealing with the myriad of customers across Newcastle and Gateshead we can see from our lofty perch. “Because of what we do, and the number of customers that could have a requirement for us that we still don’t deal with, it would be almost foolhardy to expand beyond the city. From up here, I can see three-quarters of Newcastle that could use us for at least one of our three services.” This steady, customer-based growth is what allows the company to maintain a focus on its culture while it continues to expand. But a focus on employees is also vital to maintaining the right culture. “For me, it’s not necessarily about the skills that a new employee brings to the job – it’s their attitude.
It is this commitment to family culture, steady growth through word of mouth, and ensuring the best for their customers means that for Diamond Group, much like this meal, the sky is the limit.