It's obvious that Simon Scott and his team don't take themselves too seriously. Picture / Martin Sykes
IT e-tailer growing strong and ready for take-off
By Peter Griffin
The voice you hear when you phone IT hardware and software e-tailer acquire.co.nz has the ring of a pilot's in-flight greeting.
'Welcome aboard,' it says, as though you're about to embark on a long flight.
It's the first sign of the quirky humour that pervades this fast-growing company.
Spend any time with the small Acquire team and you realise they take neither themselves nor the competitive industry in which they work too seriously.
A lanky doberman-kelpie cross trots around the Acquire office and lends his paw print to the company's weekly newsletter. A flat-screen TV is set up with an Xbox 360 games console for lulls in business. But there aren't many of them these days.
Acquire, which celebrates five years of trading this month, had record monthly turnover of $1.1 million in March. That compares with $660,000 last March and $1.3 million in the entire first year the company was in business.
Customers who pay unscheduled visits to Acquire's Ellerslie premises are surprised to discover the entire operation is run out of an aluminium garage that sits behind a modest, ageing house.
Acquire's eight fulltime staff work side by side, answering phones and switching roles as required.
With rapid revenue growth and expansion into new business areas, the company's headcount will increase again this year. But the owners will welcome new employees into their home, not a new office space.
'We don't feel the need to rush into town with everyone else,' said Simon Scott, founder and director of supply chains. A second storey will be built on the garage to accommodate the staff.
Formed by Scott and partners Clive Glover and Kelly Raines, Acquire has spent the past few years perfecting its e-commerce model, which connects suppliers of IT products with thousands of customers, mainly in the business sector.
Acquire arrived on the IT scene at a time when the deflating dotcom bubble was claiming several high-profile and well-funded New Zealand internet companies, a situation that left little appetite for external funding.
'No one wanted to invest in e-commerce when we started, so we got used to the idea of funding growth out of revenue,' Scott said.
It began as a bare-bones operation with a handful of customers.
'We started with a small server, one hard drive and no back-up,' he said.
Now there are many more computers and a procurement software platform that Acquire is readying for sale to companies operating in other sectors.
Scott said the system, which was developed to work on Microsoft's Commerce Server platform and had just been rebuilt to be .Net compatible, was better than the procurement systems used by some of Acquire's largest suppliers.
The system can generate quotes and have them emailed out in minutes. The depth of information it can provide gives Acquire's suppliers a clear picture of sales performance and customers can keep close tabs on their IT spend.
Acquire will now redesign the system for companies that want to adapt it to their own lines of business.
Acquire is also embarking on a strategy to get better access to the New Zealand business heartland - small businesses.
In the first of several partnerships in the works, Acquire built an IT portal (it-vital.com) for the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, which allows members to place orders for IT products through its website. Acquire operates the portal, processes all the orders and offers member-only deals.
It's second portal partnership is with the Institute of Chartered Accountants. The aim is to extend the portal concept to other industries and thereby attempt to become their default IT procurement option.
Who: Simon Scott, co-founder, director of supply chain.
What: Online sales of IT hardware and software.
Why: Scott says Acquire is more than an internet-based sales operation, now acting as the IT procurement manager for thousands of businesses, using its purpose-built software to manage the relationships.