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Netlink goes for the simple solution

THE adage 'keep it simple stupid', or KISS as it's often referred to, has plenty of merit within the realm of operating a small business.

Struggling to manage growth of his Leederville-based information technology and communications company in a complex and volatile industry, Netlink Group managing director Steve van Blommestein discovered that simplifying the business was the best way for the company to make the transition into a medium sized operation.

"In the early 1990s the market for outsourced IT service provision by smaller providers was just starting to take off," Mr van Blommestein said.

"Small business networks were becoming more sophisticated and accessible and there was significant demand for specialist services to this market.

"We believed that outsourcing would grow significantly in the next 10 years, which it did. Many companies don't want the burden of having their own IT department and we saw that as a major opportunity to grow a service-based business.''

Mr van Blommestein said one of the major problems the business faced, like many small businesses, was to transition from a small into a medium-sized business.

"When you're a really small business the temptation is to be everything to everyone, as you're trying to get runs on the board to fund growth," he said.

"However, as you grow you realise that your processes can't keep up with continually changing offerings and products, it's necessary to focus on what you do best.''

He said the hardest part was to resist the temptation to do everything yourself because you can earn good revenue from it, particularly with potentially large deals.

"We had to learn to partner with other professionals to share the opportunity, even if it meant giving them the entire order to ensure the client got a better value proposition," Mr van Blommestein said.

"It forced us to always think what is best for the client, not for Netlink Group, even if it meant you have to give your major projects to other industry partners and not record that income for yourselves."

To facilitate growth, Netlink began to restructure the business by breaking it down into units and objectives that can be measured on a daily basis, while giving freedom to managers who were passionate about improving the business.

The company's focus shifted to the core service it delivers to its 100-plus client base and Mr van Blommestein implemented programs to add value to clients, such as developing a suite of partnerships with businesses that complement Netlink's services.

Mr van Blommestein said by keeping the business model simple, Netlink has achieved increased loyalty and respect from clients and now has managed and steady growth.

The company also recently signed a major contract with electrical accessories provider Clipsal Australia.

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