Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Donald Sutherland, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse – for film buffs, the area around Chippenham is already the stuff of legend. Loved by tourists, in demand by the film industry, historically important – a hotbed of IT sales? For the last 21 years, James Napp and his over 70 colleagues have been sowing the seeds of success.
In the summer of 1997, an advert was put up at the University of Plymouth: IT start-up looking for German-speaking entrepreneurs. James Napp applied. He was just finishing up his degree in International Business, spoke excellent German and had an interest in IT and this was his first step on the career ladder. In September of that year, Bechtle direct UK Ltd was founded. But this was just the first step. There followed meeting after meeting with vendors and distributors plus the development of the first English-language Bechtle catalogue. Everything was done manually, involving painstaking work. This was a time when the market wasn’t transparent and the internet didn’t dominate, but despite the early days being far from easy, Bechtle direct UK became the first non-German Bechtle subsidiary. On 2 April 1998, 40,000 copies of the Bechtle catalogue sat on the desks of the British purchasing team. On this day, they took 10 calls and the day’s sales amounted to £97.
From zero to 60 million.
These humble beginnings motivated James Napp and his team to double down. With success: In 2018, Chippenham’s revenues have grown to around £60 million, and this number continues to grow. They count WH Smith, Boston Consulting Group and Mars among their customers and 45% of sales volume is generated via online sales, meaning that the majority of Bechtle direct UK’s revenue comes from engaging with the customer—on the phone, but also increasingly during on-site visits.
For James Napp, this mix is evidence of Bechtle being a trusted consultant for IT infrastructure and full IT solutions based on the need of the customer. The managing director is in the privileged position of being backed by a team with experience in a lot of different industries, from a variety of backgrounds, but there’s one thing that they all share—the right attitude. "The right spark", as James Napp puts it. They all have a fire in their bellies and many of them have been part of the team since the early days. Over the last 4-5 years, 20 or so highly talented pre-sales specialists joined the team, which gives the depth needed to compete in all the vogue areas of IT, such as Cloud, Managed Print and Workspace Solutions.
New home: Turnpike House. Next stop: Manchester.
In 2012, Bechtle direct UK moved into new premises and shifted the focus onto greater sustainability: ecologically certified facilities, the use of a photovoltaic system, air heat pumps, and ultra-modern working conditions. For James Napp, the goal was to create an atmosphere that fostered collaboration and the desire to learn, while also creating an environment ideal for customer events and seminars that presented the modern Bechtle brand. The plan has worked, with turnover tripling from around £19m in 2011 to in excess of £60m in 2018. "We have an unbelievably motivated team. a vibrant culture and every colleague understands exactly what makes for good customer care: trust and service, service, service. It’s this philosophy that makes us stand out from the crowd. We go the extra mile, not only to keep us one step ahead of the competition, but to ensure customer loyalty in an extremely aggressive market, and the results have been worth it. A lot of customers actually see us a part of their own IT departments." In July 2019 Bechtle UK will open a new branch office in Manchester, which will open up a new talent pool, proximity to customers in the north of the UK and also offer opportunities for existing staff to progress.
James Napp, Managing Director Bechtle direct UK
We go the extra mile, not only to keep us one step ahead of the competition, but to ensure customer loyalty in an extremely aggressive market, and the results have been worth it. A lot of customers actually see us a part of their own IT departments.
A recipe for success.
James Napp sees success as being made up of a lot of different factors, including building excellent relationships to staff, vendor partners and customers. And beyond that? “Stay close to the competition. Use success to acquire new businesses. Always remember that this industry is quite small, so don’t burn any bridges. Give back and look after the people who look after you. Recognise your team’s strengths and give your employees autonomy to use and build on them. And last but not least: Stay true to your values.” The managing director appreciates Bechtle’s financial stability, the mix of central control yet local entrepreneurship, and the continuity at the top—E-Commerce COO Jürgen Schäfer has been with the company for 30 years.
Continued growth, as quickly as possible.
Bechtle direct UK’s growth history—from zero to revenues of millions—continues to motivate James Napp for the future. His goal: £100 million revenue. When? “ASAP,” says the managing director. He has two principles that guide him in his work: Always give your best, even when no-one is watching. And: Don’t rest on your laurels—“You’re only as good tomorrow”. Bechtle direct UK has a bright future.
compiled and highly recommended by Penelope Bell, Bechtle direct UK
Chippenham is quite centrally located: It’s just over an hour’s train ride away from London Paddington, the nearest airport is only around an hour’s drive away, and you can be in a lot of England’s biggest cities within two hours.
The historic city of Bath is around a 30 minute drive away and is home to the impressive architecture of its Roman baths and famous Abbey. Alongside these cultural sights, the new Southgate Shopping Centre offers a variety of designer shops, and if you need to relax after a hard day shopping and sight-seeing, the Thermae Bath Spa provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy natural thermal springs. Once you’re feeling refreshed, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the evening, with a large selection of pubs, bars and clubs competing with a lively theatre, film and cultural scene that includes live music and comedy performances. Theatre lovers should head to the Theatre Royal with its outstanding programme of plays, opera, comedy and dance. Insider tip: A visit to the Komedia Krater Comedy Club on a Saturday is a must. It’s Bath’s most vibrant comedy venue with one of the largest and most diverse entertainment programmes in England.
Bath is well-known for its wide-variety of gastronomic delights and fantastic hospitality. It’s hard to choose between award-winning restaurants, charming tea rooms and cosy pubs.
Chippenham is surrounded by beautiful villages, one of which is Lacock, located 5 kilometres south of Chippenham in the English county of Wiltshire. The village is almost entirely owned by The National Trust—an organisation that works to protect areas of historical interest and natural beauty. This picturesque location has been used as a backdrop for a number of films, such as Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice.
Beautiful Castle Combe is just a 10 minute drive away and is famous for its tranquillity and has even been crowned England’s Prettiest Village. It is also a favourite shooting location for Hollywood having just been in Steven Spielberg’s film, War Horse.
Penelope Bell, Bechtle direct UK
Published on Dec 18, 2018.