FOR 10 years Christian Barnett travelled the world – under the waves. Now he is hoping to take the successful business he established 13 years ago in Newbury on to the international stage too.
Net Team is a managed service provider, which offers complete technology solutions for businesses, hotels, schools and colleges up and down the country and is currently engaged in a number of projects with former Manchester United football stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.
Born and brought up in County Durham, Christian enjoyed his first taste of technology after joining the Royal Navy as a communications engineer on submarines, at the age of 17.
During this time his submarine adopted a new system and undertook some trials with it.
“That was my first foray in to that line of work,” Christian explains.
After a decade in the Royal Navy, Christian decided to head back in to Civvy Street and pursued the Microsoft Certification route, through his resettlement package.
“The ultimate was to become a Microsoft Certified System Engineer, which I achieved,” he adds. “I then got a job with an IT company in Newbury; it was the first job I applied for and the first job I was offered.”
So Christian moved from Plymouth and spent the next five years at the firm, working his way up from a junior technician to technical director.
When that business closed Christian and his business partner, Alan Dickson, realised it was the chance for them to start their own company. And so in 2003 Net Team was born.
“There were the two of us, and Kim Wooldridge, our office manager, and two engineers,” says Christian. “We hit the ground running really, picking up some clients early on as we pushed ourselves in and around Newbury and the South East.
“We slowly developed a good client base. “From day one we were trading as a profitable company and have been doing so every day since.”
They spent their first month working from Christian’s home before moving into serviced offices in Newbury for a year. After that they relocated to larger premises in Thatcham as the business continued to grow. Five years later, in 2009, Net Team bought the unit they are in today, at Kingfisher Court, Hambridge Road, Newbury.
“We had some big changes last year,” Christian says. “We opened an office in Manchester and I am now based up there. We had a lot of clients in that area and so needed a base there.
“We are now able to better service the North West and fill the gap in between.”
Net Team also underwent a rebrand just before Christmas, which saw it launch a new website – www.netteam.co.uk – and alter its name to Net Team TX; to highlight its diverse service offerings.
The business is split in to three main elements – SMEs; Education; and Hospitality. It is this varied client base that Christian believes helped it through the recession unscathed.
“During the recession there was a bit of a slowdown in growth, but we have a diverse range of clients and so no one sector having a slowdown was a problem for us,” he says.
“Within the SME bracket we have clients in all types of business, from manufacturing to haulage to printing companies and medical suppliers.
“We also work with a number of five-star hotels in London and now in Manchester, working on the design and build; putting all technologies in place; managing the implementation and then offering support afterwards on a 24/7 basis.
“Our hospitality specialisation is something that sets us apart now.
“Our skill set has grown considerably since becoming involved with hotels, which all have a diverse range of IT needs.
“We are now a technology provider for all business sectors, not just an IT company.”
Net Team’s last project involved Hotel Football in Manchester, run by football legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. They are now all working closely together on a number of new projects.
Talking to Christian about his company’s past and present projects it becomes clear that clients return to them again and again.
“Customer retention is very high, as is staff retention,” he admits. “It is key for us and we work very hard to keep the people we have.
“Some of our staff have been here from day one. It is all about building good relationships with our clients.”
The company, which employs 30 people across its two sites, is currently recruiting to boost its staff numbers.
“We have quite a big growth plan for this year,” Christian adds. “We hope to take on some international projects in the near future.
“People are keen to spend and invest in technology now, which they weren’t so keen to do in the recession. The Cloud facility allows people to invest without a big capital expenditure outlay.
“Technology has changed quite dramatically, particularly with the emergence of apps and Cloud-based systems and mobile devices.
“Now people can work anywhere and there are a lot of tools out there that can increase efficiency in any sector.
“It is quite an exciting time at the moment. It is all about growth and expansion while maintaining our high levels of customer service.”