James, do you recall your first day at Bechtle?
James Napp: Of course. I spent the first six weeks in Germany at the office on Fügerstraße, Heilbronn, learning the ropes from a very small team. Harald Lorch was there, as were Martin Meyer, Oliver Weippert, Jochen Kügel and Jürgen Schäfer. Many of the people I met back then are still at Bechtle to this day, which in itself is quite special. On my first evening there, Bernd Britsch took me to a really good Chinese restaurant in the centre of Heilbronn, but the name escapes me!
Once the six weeks were up, you went back to the UK.
James Napp: I was excited on my first day there. I was full of ambition as I drove to our office in Plymouth, and it took me a while to grasp what I’d actually got myself into!
Back then, Bechtle UK existed only on paper and it would be a few months before it entered the market. What was your actual job?
James Napp: Our office was on the ground floor of the company J.A.D. Logic. The initial idea was that we would get our e-commerce business up and running and J.A.D. would provide the services. As for what we did? We worked day and night translating the 800-page hardware catalogue from German to English and nailing down prices for months on end. At the start of April 1998, we sent out 40,000 copies of that catalogue and it didn’t take long for the phone to start ringing. Suddenly, we had customers and needed to set up a sales organisation from scratch. I’ll never forget the first order we received. It was worth £78.
James Napp, Managing Director, Bechtle UK
Bechtle UK headquarter in Chippenham.
Staying with moments that stick in the mind, can you give us your top three from the last 25 years?
James Napp: That’s tough because there have been so many. The last 2 building moves and the founding of our Manchester office are definitely up there. This was when we were really able to lift the ceiling on what was possible and was the spark for everything that has happened since then. I also clearly remember STRAT 2012 when I was invited to take the stage and present my idea on how to establish international lead management. That was an important milestone both for me personally and for Bechtle. My third highlight is also related to international growth, and that’s the founding of GITA back in 2013 that enabled us to establish a global network and support our customers wherever they are in the world.
Let’s rewind a bit. What brought you to Bechtle in the first place?
James Napp: I think it was fate. I grew up in Germany and completed my degree in International Business and German at the University of Plymouth and the Fachhochschule Dortmund at the age of 22. At the end of my studies, I saw a flyer for a German company that was active in IT—a sector I had always been passionate about. And that was that!
From very early on, I was given the scope to think like an entrepreneur and therefore very much appreciated the freedoms and opportunities I was offered in terms of personal development. I would say that’s quite unique for a company of this size.
Who or what has influenced you the most over the last 25 years?
James Napp: Without a doubt, Gerhard Schick. His down-to-earth nature, work ethic and ambition were inspiring. Also our COO, Jürgen Schäfer and previous MD Ian Caston, who have also been with me every step of my Bechtle journey, more so these days in a mentor capacity. Linked to these influences, has been how we at Bechtle work. From very early on, I was given the scope to think like an entrepreneur and therefore very much appreciated the freedoms and opportunities I was offered in terms of personal development. I would say that’s quite unique for a company of this size.
Is there anything else that’s unique to Bechtle?
James Napp: Of course. It might sound a bit trite, but I’d say the people and the stability we’ve enjoyed in terms of leadership over the decades. That includes the fabulous team we have in the UK and the managing directors of our international branches, many of whom have been with the company for quite a while. We know each other and collaborate well and if I need something, I can just pick up the phone and call my colleague in the Netherlands or Switzerland, and I really enjoy that aspect.
We know each other and collaborate well and if I need something, I can just pick up the phone and call my colleague in the Netherlands or Switzerland, and I really enjoy that aspect.
You’ve been Managing Director of Bechtle UK since 2010. What has changed since then?
James Napp: A lot, if not everything. In 2012, we decided to set up dedicated solution and service teams, which was a significant step forward and adjustment that has positively impacted our future growth. More recently, there was the move to the new office in Chippenham, which we had to green-light in April 2020. The coronavirus had just started making itself felt, but we were absolutely sure that new premises would give us another boost. We wanted to be able to offer our employees an environment that promotes their well-being and inspires them in equal measure. We are perfectly equipped to handle hybrid working and have created a "Living Space" that has taken our business and our team to the next level.
"Living Space" at Chippenham headquarters.
And a second office has opened in Manchester under your stewardship.
James Napp: That was also a key milestone in our development. We are now able to better serve our customers in the north of England and have been able to win over many more. One reason for opening the second site was to be closer to our customers, while another was the proximity to Manchester’s three universities. The talent pool there is fantastic and we need budding young professionals to continue to evolve. Lastly, the new site gives our employees the opportunity to grow professionally and extend the lively culture of Bechtle UK. You could say that Manchester is a win-win-win situation.
No-one knows better than you how we at Bechtle always have an eye on the future. Where do you see yourself and Bechtle UK in 2030?
James Napp: I’ll be here but with even less hair and Bechtle will be one of the country’s top IT service providers. That’s our aim for the years ahead—to make it into the top 25, 10, 5. And with a team like ours, that’s absolutely achievable. It’s a genuine ambition – we are only just getting started!