After establishing Datrix as one of the UK leaders in critical network services and enterprise cloud solutions, NatWest Business Hub turned to CEO Mahmood Chaudhri to find out how we made it happen.
Mahmood founded Datrix in 1994 whilst taking on an MBA; “the MBA gave me confidence to resign from my existing position and set up the business from scratch”. His technical background, including a previous role of systems integration director, provided Mahmood with key insight into new technologies.
A Promising Start
Datrix quickly excelled in the areas of networking, cloud-based voice and unified communications. “I knew I could pick up some big contracts, so in the first year we had £2m in revenue because we had high-end skills and could be much more cost-effective than the bigger companies that were operating in the same field: we could offer the same technology at a fraction of the price”.
We now have 220 clients, including 30 NHS hospitals. In the next three years Datrix expect to achieve double the turnover, from £10m to £20m.
“It was a rollercoaster from day one. It was a really exciting time and as the revenues came, the first year was hugely enjoyable. Business was looking good – so at the end of the year I took on my current business partner, Pat Tsangari, who looks after all the operations”.
It's Who You Know
One of the most important lessons Mahmood learned was not to try to do everything himself. “You have to step back from the business at your earliest opportunity and focus on your individual core skills. For me, it’s enterprise sales, and also in my current role of CEO, it’s looking after the higher-level relationships and being involved more in the strategy and bringing in the large enterprise opportunities.”
This was achieved by building a strong team and trusting them to make key decisions – especially around recruitment. “In the last eight months I recruited a Managing Director. It is easier for him to make certain decisions which are right for the business because he’s not emotionally tied in the same way as an owner.”
Datrix are delighted to have so many long-term employees. “We have very long-standing staff, so the effort we put into people has paid off. Our people and our skills differentiate us in the market.”
Managing Cash Flow
“It [cash flow] is the biggest secret to staying in business. The second is to have predictable income – we achieved that through over 50% of our revenues being recurring revenues, so at the start of every year we know that half of our revenue is banked. It helps that we can say we have true, predictable revenues because we have large enterprise contracts and clients.”
As part of this, the company has invested a lot of time and effort into getting onto government procurement frameworks. “It’s a difficult process but once you get there, you get tenders through every day.”
You have to step back from the business at your earliest opportunity and focus on your individual core skills
Mahmood Chaudhri, founder, Datrix
Mahmood has also seen the benefit of investing in the advice of expert consultants to help take the business to the next level. “Engaging in one-to-ones with consultants means you get an honest opinion about your business from someone who is qualified and is from outside the business – and that has helped massively with decisions such as recruiting the MD to take over the day to day management of the business. It will always be a worthwhile investment to get a consultant’s honest view about you as an individual.”