NETprotocol celebrates 20 years of technical excellence - find out how we got this far...
7 min read.
The year 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of NETprotocol. The company was started when co-founders Mike Batters and Paul Walker decided to join together to create a business that focused on delivering bespoke IT consultancy to the legal sector. With both directors having collectively gained over 50 years of experience in Legal IT, we take a look back at how this all began.
From Humble Beginnings
Technical Director, Mike and Managing Director, Paul built NETprotocol, a specialised Legal IT consultancy, from the ground up. A self-funded start-up, the business today remains 100% financially independent, despite having achieved 20% year-on-year growth consistently for the last 5 years.
It’s not been all plain sailing – having to work hard to acquire the technology and vendor partnerships needed to serve the stringent needs of law firms.
And it goes without saying, as a newly formed technology re-seller into the legal sector, one of the greatest challenges they faced was; reputation. Reputation has proven to be crucial to their success – a symbol of the trust a client can place in their business; and of the unsurpassed knowledge they today offer primarily to legal and other highly regulated industries UK-wide.
Having worked in the field of IT with legal client’s way before NETprotocol was born, it wasn’t long until Mike and Paul had established their first vendor partnerships, with HP, Microsoft and Citrix at the turn of the millennium – resulting in landing their first client shortly afterwards.
Laying the foundations
With NETprotocol making strides in the legal sector, they secured their first major client in 2000; a well-known, high-end law firm who today serves some of the UKs best-known celebrities; London based Lee & Thompson. As a rule, law firms are highly dependent on resilient, secure and efficient IT infrastructures and none more than Lee and Thompson given the household names this firm represents. Since joining forces almost exactly 20 years ago, when NETprotocol were commissioned to relocate their IT systems to new office premises, it is with pride they tell us that still to this day, they have a very professional and long-lasting relationship with this client.
“For the first time in my career, I can now say with confidence that we can both access and restore any data that has passed through our IT systems, almost instantly,” commented Rob Hilton, Head of IT at Lee and Thompson following the installation of a new onsite backup and offsite disaster recovery deployment. “This is truly ground-breaking in terms of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery and would not have been possible without NETprotocol, whose expertise and technical knowledge of the legal sector is unmatched, and today support 90% of Lee and Thompson’s IT infrastructure.”
It is without doubt that by acquiring such a well-regarded client in their first year of operating, NETprotocol had put in place firm foundations for building the business they have become today, having later seen a healthy profit in that very first year.
On The Move
The next key milestone came in 2005 – marking the opening of their first office with the addition of two new members of staff and the need to officially set up a payroll.
With this move came new gains, resulting in a further office being opened and two high security data centres being built 4 years later, followed by the acquisition of two sought after vendor relationships in 2010: Extreme Networks and Proofpoint.
Looking to further differentiate and expand their proposition, in 2012 NETprotocol took the step to sister with an up and coming business communications specialist Everything Voice. Forming a unique proposition which seamlessly integrated IT infrastructure with modern and efficient communications platforms, NETprotocol had identified this as a core requirement of their client base and an opportunity to further differentiate what they could offer.
This partnership has allowed both companies to grow, share information and form stronger relationships, by offering bespoke solutions with clients in both the legal, education and SMB markets, due to their shared and strengthened capabilities.
Hitting £1 million
With the growth that NETprotocol had witnessed, Mike and Paul felt it was time to bring in a dedicated and experienced Sales Director, to ensure previous performance was sustained and a clear focus for future growth was cemented. In 2012, Matt Widdowson joined the firm to take on this role and shortly afterwards secured further expansion with the signing of another key client; leading Yorkshire-based law firm, Lupton and Fawcett. In 2014, NETprotocol had more to celebrate, hitting their first £1 million of turnover.
Having ascertained their niche in the legal sector, new opportunities had emerged with clear synergies arising between the expertise NETprotocol had established and other market sectors and products they had begun to work with. Having built a presence in the education sector and started to supply cabling solutions to current clients, the decision was made to set up two dedicated divisions, to support these areas for growth.
Despite having to work with far more restricted budgets, the Education sector has very similar IT requirements to those of law firms, where security, storage and resilience are of critical importance. Likewise, cabling is an integral element of the infrastructure services NETprotocol already offer.
20 years in the year 2020
A relatively unplanned milestone, but one that in hindsight feels worth a celebration. Worth some degree of recognition at least – as the NETprotocol brand continues to go from strength to strength; a testament to its leadership; its knowledge base; and its now 20-year unprecedented reputation. Still a self-funded business which today consists of two regional offices, a UK-wide client base, over 20 employees, more than 15 vendor partnerships, two tier 3+ high security data centres, and undisputed year on year growth.
So what does the future hold?
The secret to success
This is by no means the end of their story. In fact, it appears it is just the beginning. When speaking with the Directors, we asked them what the future looks like and what they believe the key ingredients have been for their success to date?
“Strong business relationships that are mutually beneficial with both suppliers and customers, has to come top of the list,” Paul Walker, Managing Director at NETprotocol begins.
“This remains our key focus in every decision we make. How we can add value to the people we work with and depend upon is something we ask ourselves on a daily basis.”
A business that has operated with absolute precision since the day it began, their second piece of advice was typical of their ethos, “taking your time is so much more effective than rushing and doing a half-hearted job,” Mike Batters, NETprotocol’s Technical Director explained.
“Attracting the best technology partnerships was critical to our business if we were to offer a bespoke proposition which met the very specific needs of law firms, large and small. Equally, serving the clients we are working with well, rather than looking to attract more clients too quickly, has allowed us to grow organically and consolidate what we offer, building a proposition that is completely unique,” he continued.
Both Mike and Paul agreed a good support network of family and friends cannot be underestimated, whilst preparing yourself personally to take courage and adapt a strong sense of belief will also serve you well, as you are faced with the everyday challenges a new business can bring. “And failing that… coffee and lots of it, never lets you down!” Paul concludes.
As with all start-ups, this story began with a shared dream to create an IT consultancy business which was different to any other. It is impossible to know what direction your journey will take when embarking on such ambition, but as we reach the 20th anniversary of the day this dream began, we can probably safely say that it has been achieved, albeit there’s still a lot more to come.
Mike and Paul believe passionately that this would not have been possible without the loyalty and support they have seen over the course of the last 20 years from their staff, their vendors and their clients. “Thank you to each and every one of you, and we look forward to embarking on the next 20 with your continued support,” they finish.