Company85’s CEO Adrian Spink outlines the consultancy’s future plans to Mick James,’s management consultancy columnist.

Company85 is a “start-up on steroids”

It’s been quite common for diverse organisations to grow a consultancy “arm” in recent years, with more and more companies recognising the value of adding consultancy support to a product portfolio. At one point it even looked as if the entire consultancy industry was simply going to disappear into the IT services world.

Recently a counter-trend has emerged, as people have increasingly seen the value of “pure play” consultancy and that it can often be better understood in an organisational framework that allows consultants to focus on their own core competence.

An example of this trend is the emergence of Company85, a new entity formed through a management buyout of parts of IT security & availability specialist Symantec’s consultancy portfolio in the UK.

“This came out of a strategic decision by Symantec to move to a partner-led consultancy model globally,” explains Company85 CEO Adrian Spink, formerly head of Symantec’s Services division. “Symantec wanted to remove any potential conflicts with its partners and enable them to do consultancy on its behalf to drive loyalty in the channel, allowing them to generate margins that way.”

In the UK and Ireland a history of acquisitions meant that Symantec’s consultancy operation was of a size to make a management buyout (MBO) possible, creating an entity that would both be in line with the new strategy, as well as becoming a new consulting force in its own right.

“We’re helping manage existing engagements and ensure the seamless transition of the quality of that delivery,” says Spink. “We’ll also be helping to enable Symantecs’ partners to deliver consulting services — so we’re going to complement, not compete with the channel.”

The major opportunity, however, is to build a pure play advisory consultancy around the company’s core heritage areas of data centres, infrastructure and security.

“Sometimes being part of a larger corporation is good because you have a big brand that people are comfortable with and the financial backing is there,” says Spink. “But selling pure advisory consultancy can be a challenge; people think that surely you are trying to sell them software.”

Now that Company85 has a more clearly defined identity, and while still working closely with Symantec and alongside its channel partners, it can begin to develop its own routes to market for its advisory services.

“We have very strong relationships with some customers at CIO, CISO or CTO level through to the IT manager, storage manager or security architects,” says Spink. “That network is really important to us, we want to be seen as an enabler in that network. We also have affinity partners, smaller companies who offer niche skills: those we can join up together to deliver something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.”

Having inherited the greater part of Symantec’s in-house capability, Company85 is now looking for “top talent” to take it in a new direction.

“We’re doing things slightly differently now, we’re looking for people who are very forward thinking,” says Spink. “Previously we looked more for a technical focus, but as a smaller consultancy business we need a commercial focus as well. The perfect person would be brilliant at consultancy, a perfect cultural fit within a sociable business and also very commercially savvy.”

As part of this new direction the company has taken what might be seen as bold steps, particularly from the viewpoint of the IT security community. Every consultant is issued with an iPhone rather than the more conservative corporate alternatives, and the consultancy has built its entire infrastructure on a cloud computing basis.

“We want to eat our own cooking,” says Spink. “If we are going to help people with this, we need to show you really can run a company this way.”

Spink says the company is quite content to play in the space where its heritage and expertise lie, pointing out that its core set of services allows it to take a “slice” of every sector and business that operates a data centre and has security and infrastructure concerns.

“We want to excel in that space as a pure play consultancy,” he says. “We want to be the best at what we do, not necessarily the largest, but to win a reputation for doing the best job for our partners and clients.”

With a headcount already topping 45 from the buyout and some early hires, Company85 is already at a stage some start-ups take a year to reach.

“In some ways the vision is different from an MBO because we are, to an extent, starting from scratch,” says Spink. “But it’s a start-up on steroids.”

All views expressed in this article are those of Mick James and do not necessarily reflect the views of and

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