Brian Stokes, Managing Director at ITCS, discusses his secrets with us to running a successful company that continues to expand 15 years on.
“When beginning ITCS all those years ago, my vision was to create an IT Computer Services Company that delivers the support, software platforms and technological solutions that are essential for business success.” 15 years on, and ITCS are still doing just that! In this blog, we look at what traits are essential for any entrepreneur / Managing Director of a successful company:
The Ability to Deal With Risk:
As an entrepreneur, the MD has always operated effectively in an environment filled with risk and uncertainty. ITCS created growth through what was one of the longest lasting recessions on record. Brian and the Directors have calculated, managed and mitigated a lot of risk while developing ITCS through the years. This risk – even in good economic times – is ever more apparent when dealing with new technologies, along with fuelling the aspirations and growth of the company.
Being Results Oriented:
Brian and the team are definitely results oriented, always taking ownership to get the task done. He has a “can-do” attitude and demonstrates common sense with his decisions and actions, allowing him to cut through and resolve problems that may divert others. His business judgement is sound and has become stronger over the years with each experience, decision or recommendation. Not only does Brian desire to make a contribution to results, he needs to see the results of his contributions quickly, not measured in years!
Energy & Ambition:
High levels of enthusiasm and energy is consistently generated, much higher than would be reasonably expected. Brian has engrossed himself in work for the past fifteen years; he is clearly enthused by achievement, as there is no sign of him slowing down! This is evident with massive growth and office expansion plans, all set for the year ahead (watch this space…). He is fully committed to the company, its goals and overall success. This energy enables ITCS to tackle projects as they come up and finish them, time and time again. Entrepreneurs don’t have someone looking over their shoulder. If they don’t get it done, the company will fail. Brian says “being an entrepreneur is neither a part-time nor a full-time job. It’s a lifestyle”.
The Desire to Keep Evolving:
Brian has always been willing to accept much higher levels of responsibility than is the norm in any position he has taken on. He has always acted as a strong role model. He trains and coaches others, and takes a leading role much earlier than would be expected in a normal corporate environment. Entrepreneurs are extremely competitive, they don’t take no for an answer and are unwilling to lose. Many companies are formed out of such competitive natures – ITCS being one of them!
Being a Team Player:
While being a team player is not always seen as a trait of an entrepreneur, Brian argues this point. “Being a good team player and surrounding yourself with other talented entrepreneurs is a key factor to success” He asserts. He recognises how his role contributes to the overall effort and prosperity of the organisation. He accepts accountability and ownership and expects others to do the same. He also recognises the roles and contributions of others and sincerely applauds their efforts.
Being a successful business owner is reliant on being flexible to accept new opportunities, assignments and responsibilities. Brian can perform more than one role until the incremental duties and functions assumed can be assigned to co-workers in newly defined roles. He is also willing to dig in and do grunt work tasks which eventually will be performed by lower level employees.
More than willing to challenge existing procedures and systems in a constructive way, Brian suggests changes and improvements frequently and encourages others to do so also.
Finally and most
Believe in and Empower each and every employee
are the 1950s ways of working when the boss wielded all the decision-making
power, that hierarchical style is not the way to work as a team. Empowering
your employees is the way forward. To be successful, empowerment requires
that managers trust their staff; trust that
they will make the right decisions and that they will be effective in achieving
people are self-determining and self-managing at work, they have a greater
sense of job satisfaction. With this comes increased motivation and drive to do
a great job. So staff are more effective in their roles and more productive;
not to mention happier.
Greater autonomy also stimulates creativity and
helps generate ideas, bringing more innovation to the business. This fuels the
development of new products and services, or enhances business processes, all
of which helps drive business success.
apprentice, Conlan Davies, has completed his training and accepted a permanent
position at their Bridgend based offices as a Level 2 IT Support engineer.
Conlan, 22, was
offered the apprenticeship after a week’s work experience, and has excelled in
As part of his
apprenticeship, Conlan was involved in a number of different projects as he
developed his capabilities and gained practical experience. He began in the
workshop repairing hardware faults, and due to his knowledge and excellent
manner with clients, quickly became situated on the support desk.
“It allowed me to
better my knowledge within a Windows server and networking environment” says
Conlan, “My apprenticeship has allowed me to become confident helping clients,
and I’m now very familiar with many technical domains” Conlan is comfortable
resolving issues within areas around Active Directory, Group Policy, Network Security
(firewalls/spam filters), Mail Hosting Platforms (Microsoft Exchange/Office
365), VPN (ipsec, L2TP, PPTP, SSL), Proactive Maintenance (Backup Solutions/Compliancy
Reporting), Virtual Environments, Switches and Servers, as well as your general
DNS, DHCP and Router Management.
He has also recently
been involved with mail migrations to an Office 365 solution from a POP/IMAP or
Microsoft Onsite Exchange platforms. “I’d really like to master these
migrations in the next few months”, says Conlan.
ITCS is committed
to supporting the development of talented young people with apprenticeships,
student placements and graduate opportunities; the Directors believe that
nurturing new talent is a key component of the company’s long-term workforce
ITCS are working
closely with Bridgend College to develop specialist modules and to encourage
apprenticeships within the technology sector. We recognise the importance of
investing in the next generation of IT engineers and work closely with the
college to tailor modules that will allow our current employees to train our
apprentices to the highest standard.
Conlan said: “My
colleagues have supported me since my first day and ITCS has really helped me
during my apprenticeship. I felt comfortable and part of the team very quickly,
even though I was still learning on the job, because the directors ensure that
everyone’s opinion is valued, regardless of their job role or seniority. I’m
really happy to have been offered a permanent role at ITCS; I’m looking forward
to working on bigger projects and taking on more responsibility”.
Operations Director, said: “Conlan integrated into the business very quickly
and is a valued member of our team. He has worked hard during his
apprenticeship and we are delighted to be able to reward his efforts by offering
him a permanent job at ITCS.
are an important part of our workforce development. We strive to offer people
opportunities to develop their skills, but also to develop themselves, as
people. I’m sure Conlan will continue to thrive as a permanent ITCS employee,
and we look forward to welcoming more apprentices into the fold to develop more
WebITCS Apprentice Awarded Permanent Job Role After Completing Qualification
There are 5.7 million businesses in the UK. 99.9% of that 5.7 million are SMEs. They are the backbone of the UK economy.
Even if running your business is your life’s passion, you
can still feel like everyone wants a piece of you. You’re expected to wear a
multitude of hats; from admin to sales, marketing to accounts, the list can
You also never seem to switch off – which often means
working from your phone.
Innovative and smart business owners are always looking for
ways to be more efficient, so they can focus on what drove them to head out
into the world of self-employment in the first place.
But what’s the best productivity software to use? In a
digital world of apps and programmes, all promising to make you the ‘most
productive’, it can be difficult to sift through and decide which is best for
The truth is, they’ll all help you get the job done, provided you use them consistently and collaborate effectively. But we’ve pulled together a shortlist of user-friendly apps that will help you in your quest for ultimate efficiency. Here are 6 apps that we believe will help you be as productive as possible, and make life slightly easier as a business owner:
1. Wunderlist: More than a to-do list
In a nutshell, Wunderlist
is a cloud based task-listing tool. It’s designed for companies of all sizes,
and the app helps its users to schedule, manage and track all their projects
from one easy-to-use platform.
The software works and will sync across platforms,
meaning it can be used on Windows, OS X, web, Android and iOS.
What’s great about Wunderlist is its straightforward
interface. Wunderlists’ UI is very fast and easy to use. The features are easy
to find and everything flows together smoothly. Creating lists, managing tasks,
and categorizing them according to level of priority are made easy. You can
assign deadlines to team members, filter tasks, and display the schedule–and as
you get to know the software, you’ll uncover some other great features too.
The software was taken over by
Microsoft in 2015, too – which means it benefits from Microsoft’s security
Download Wunderlist Here:
2. OneNote – Microsoft’s most underrated app:
is probably one of the most under-used and underrated app in the Office series.
The app is a powerful hidden gem that lurks in the shadow of its’ better known
siblings: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But don’t be fooled. This app is a little
What if someone told you that
there was a program available to you ALREADY in your Office
365 package? One which integrates with Outlook task lists, behaves
as a file storage folder, has database functions, and looks like a
notebook? Well, there is. Welcome to
OneNote by Microsoft!
People hear OneNote and instantly
think of it as another note-taking app – which, yes, it is. But it is also
versatile. The software allows you to store most file types inside of it, so
you can take notes in a meeting or for a project, and put all related content
right next to it. You can also record audio or video notes to yourself directly
in the app.
Download OneNote to your phone
3. Pocket, the reading list app:
This handy little app lets you
keep track of anything interesting you find online to read
It’s a tale as old as time: you
see an interesting article on LinkedIn, get called into a meeting, and bookmark
the tab for later. Then you forget, open up a new tab, until you open more and
more browser tabs, add bookmarks you’ll never find again, or maybe email
yourself links for later reference.
is basically a virtual space to hold articles, videos and other content for
easy viewing later. This isn’t limited to web links – users can download
content for offline consumption – and if you really like what you see, you can
share with other Pocket users, or share them to social media directly from the
Pocket’s free version works well,
but the Premium version goes further by dropping the ads, making your content a
permanent resource, and providing lots of advanced features (for approximately
£30 a year).
4. Lastpass, A free password manager:
If we’re all honest, we know
we’re meant to have strong passwords, but they’re a nightmare to remember. Not
to mention having to generate new, strong passwords all the time, having to
enter a 16 character password into a tiny mobile screen, and then having to
remember all the different versions – passwords can be stressful.
That’s why a good
password manager is essential to any business owner with more than 50
different passwords on their mind. LastPass can quickly generate strong and
secure passwords, then save them in an encrypted vault. Your latest passwords
are immediately available across all your devices, so whatever you’re using,
LastPass will automatically log you in with a tap.
5. Moment – For the procrastinator:
is an extremely clever app for those of us who struggle to stay off social
media, games, and other online distractions when we need to be productive. The
app tracks how much you use your device every day, and you’ll be alarmed at the
Once you know how much time you’re
wasting on Instagram or trawling through your Facebook feed, you can set daily
limits for apps. You then get a notification, or if you’re a serial alarm
snoozer, a flood of notifications, to get you to stop procrastinating. Annoying,
6. DocuSign – sign documents online
is the client-based company’s best friend. It’s a cloud based e-signature
solution that’s usable across all devices and a multitude of platforms. The
platform can be used to sign various types of documents including business
contracts, school permission slips, agreements and approvals.
Not only will this app save you time, but it will also save
your company tons of paper, and improve the turnaround time of contract
signings – how much easier is it to sign something on your phone and email it,
rather than printing it, signing it, scanning it, then emailing it back?
You can CC anyone when you send out a document, and everyone
involved is notified when it is completed.
It also lets you know if someone has opened the document but
hasn’t signed – allowing you can reach out to your client and ask if they need
clarification on the contract.
Download phone versions of this app here:
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to apps that’ll help your productivity. The list of productivity apps really is endless. If you have any other programmes that you like to use, let us know!
Office 365 is used by over 55% of businesses worldwide.
Office 365 offers SMEs endless benefits. But why is it so popular? This article examines some of Office 365’s main benefits.
1. Work anywhere there’s an internet connection:
Office 365 is a cloud based service – this means that you don’t have to be sitting at your work desk to access it. You can work from home, abroad, your local cafe – from a PC, laptop, tablet, or your phone. The software boasts an up-time guarantee of 99.9% – no more server failures or system updates meaning work comes to a halt.
Every member of your team who needs to contribute to, or edit a document, can all work together on the same version, with changes being made in real time. This saves the inevitable (and all too common) confusion of having multiple versions of a document floating around.
Office 365 has multiple options and packages – meaning you are able to select a platform that’s suited to your individual business needs. You’re also able to add and remove licenses with ease; cloud usage can be scaled to align with the growth of your business. Furthermore, business owners no longer need to worry about purchasing expensive extra servers – you simply alter your subscription plan to account for all end users.
Further to the subscription plan mentioned above, Office 365 is a subscription-based service. This makes the software a far more manageable solution for smaller operations, who may work better with a predictable monthly fee. It also helps with business cash-flow, as the month to month style payments can allow your financial teams to plan out the annual budget in an easier way.
How demonstrating security around your IT Systems allows businesses to gain competitive advantage in a digital age.
TRUST IN A TIME OF DIGITAL DISRUPTION
Trust is crucial to attracting and
retaining customers. It’s no secret that as digital engagement continues to
evolve, both business and consumer markets are demanding trustworthy, secure
As technology innovation
progresses, customers have a higher standard of expectation on how organizations deliver digital products
and services, and see cyber-security as
integral to their digital experience.
There seems to be a gap in perception forming between clients and organisations when it comes to technology: “Twenty-first century enterprises use technology to enable consumer engagement, realize value from intangible assets, and develop the workforce of the future,” says Greg Bell, KPMG Global Co-Leader, and Cyber Security. “But these models should be broadened to include cybersecurity as part of the investment, enabling organizations to change faster, while reducing risk.”
OPPORTUNITY AND THREAT
Business and consumer markets are
fully aware of the upsides of technology advancement; they are also becoming
increasingly aware of the risks that come along with it. It’s a rational
concern: we are constantly reading about organisations on the receiving end of
a cyber-attack, with leaked information such as passwords, activity logs, and financial
Clients are concerned, and rightly so, about how this will affect them personally – they’re less worried about how the security breaches will affect the organisation in question. As organisations continue their transformation journeys, those that are able to address their consumers’ concerns can have a competitive edge.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Brand trust used to be developed
through consistency (and persistency) in messaging. Although this still has a
part to play, growing customer knowledge means that companies now need to prove
their trustworthiness as a brand. It’s easy for companies to overlook the
potential ramifications of losing trust. Executives will often think about
production disruption and loss of intellectual property – however,
tarnished brand perceptions can permanently damage your business.
Chief Privacy Officer at Immuta agrees, “Security and privacy concerns can no longer take a back seat in the product / service development lifecycle — not simply because of the value of security and privacy alone, but for their business impact as well.”
So what can be done? Businesses
need to be proactive in risk minimisation, and a plan should a breach occur. Communicating
this to customers will help build trust and enhance the overall experience with
your brand. Clients see value in companies providing more transparency and
communication to assure cybersecurity protections are ongoing and present.
organisations take the time to align cybersecurity as a business priority,
and invest in it properly, they create positioning as trusted leaders and
providers. Reputation and trust are precious attributes that both consumers and
businesses seek in this digital age.
Ultimately, understanding customers
expect you to have some sort of cybersecurity measures in place will go a long
way in keeping them happy and maintaining their patronage.
A softphone is actually a piece of software – similar to Skype, or Slack, that enables you to make phonecalls from other devices, such as your smartphone, tablet or PC.
If you have a softphone, a headset, microphone, and VoIP provider, you can place video calls and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, calls.
What’s Great about a Soft phone:
As remote working becomes increasingly popular, the versatility and portability of the softphone is proving extremely appealing for many clients.
With a softphone, you can do many of the things that you can do on your desk phone, whilst unifying communications throughout the business so no call goes unanswered. With a Softphone, you can:
Place, receive, and transfer calls
Manage your contacts
Set call waiting and do not disturb settings
Update rules for how calls forward
Call with a single click
Why You need a Soft phone:
Although no one is exactly throwing their desk-phones away yet, the flexibility of VoIP has allowed business owners to easily use a mix of both handset and soft phones to allow for business versatility.
There are a range of benefits of using soft phones in your business. In addition to significant cost reduction, Soft phones:
Are easy to obtain and use
Can save money in comparison to desk phones
Lower monthly service charges and international call costs
Advanced calling features — even video conferencing
Adding and removing users easily
Provide portability: employees can work from anywhere whilst retaining the same phone number
Present a unified and professional company image
Integration with CRM systems
Should I get rid of my desk phone?
The reality is that every business is different, and therefore every businesses communication strategy will be different. The choice between the Desk phone or Soft phone solution is a question that many businesses have to grapple with.
Both IP Desk phones and Softphones have got their pros and cons. You’ll need to take your business individual needs into consideration to determine the most appropriate phone solution.
If you need help or advice determining what solution is the most appropriate for your business, get in touch with ITCS Business Telecoms .
It’s World Password Day: when you look back – even as little as ten years – cyber security has never been as important as it is today. Businesses and Consumers both store some of their most sensitive details live behind online password protection. Financial information, confidential files, official documentation, personal photos, the list goes on. With intimidating statistics coming out about hackers and business all the time (Did you know there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds?), it seems that keeping sensitive online data safe needs to be at the top of everyone’s priorities.
With this in mind, World Password Day seems to present the perfect opportunity to be diligent about ensuring our passwords are secure. A few tips to keep in mind include:
1. Make your passwords 9-10 characters long:
Most websites recommend an 8 character minimum, but we would recommend using a minimum of 9 or 10 characters on all passwords.
2. Check your password vulnerability:
Go to a site such as haveibeenpwned.com – this is a completely free site built by one of Microsoft’s Regional Directors. Type in one of your passwords and see if your chosen code-word have been compromised in a breach and are generally available to hackers. If they are, change them wherever they are used.
3. The No-Name Rule – but expanded:
Do not use common passwords, and do not use basic personal details within your passwords. Info such as your birthday, family members’ names or pets’ names is easily guessable. According to security company SplashData the two most commonly used passwords are “123456”, and “password” – a dream for hackers and fraudsters.
4. Complex is Best:
Strong passwords normally incorporate a mixture of the following:
Do Not Re-Use Passwords! Password reuse is extremely common. It’s extremely risky, but it’s a regular occurrence, because it’s easier to remember one or two passwords, and people aren’t aware of the potential impact. But, repeating the same password across several sites means if a hacker discovers just one password, all personal info is suddenly at risk. Therefore, it is crucial to diversify your passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all of your accounts at once, should one password be somehow compromised.
Overall, it is absolutely crucial to ensure that your passwords are as secure as possible, every day – not just on World Password Day. CyberCrime is only escalating, and neglecting the defence of your network is simply allowing your data to be hacked. Secure your passwords now, and make sure you keep vigilant to the risks that we all face.
If you have any questions or concerns around computer security, please don’t hesitate to contact the ITCS support desk on 08456 444 200, we are always happy to help.
With the Phaseout of ISDN Systems imminent, the technology that we are using to communicate is changing. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the future of business telephony.
ITCS’s dedicated account managers have been working hard to speak to both new and existing customers about future-proofing their phone systems and answering any questions they may have about VoIP (voice over internet protocol). A common hesitation with business owners, is that after years of doing things the same way, your team may be hesitant to embrace a switch a new VoIP communications system. Both you and your staff may have concerns about the new technology, and what the change will mean for you all on a daily basis.
We have put together a few of the most commonly asked questions about VoIP systems, and have answered them as clearly as possible to reassure you and your staff that the transition is well worth it.
1. What is the difference between VoIP and a traditional phone line?
The biggest difference between VoIP and traditional calling is the phone lines that are used. Traditional lines use an analog signal, and VoIP uses a digital signal. Do you remember the big Digital TV Switchover in 2012? The ISDN Phaseout is a similar concept; these legacy systems are out of date, as are the associated maintenance and running costs.
A digital signal is more efficient than analogue, and costs less money. Anyone who has used a program like Skype has used VoIP to communicate.
2. But my phone system works just fine, why do I need to change it?
VoIP technology can provide businesses with the best platform for continued future development, on a modern and flexible infrastructure. VoIP brings with it a multitude of benefits such as more mobility, cost savings, and better call quality.
3. What sort of features do VoIP systems bring to the business?
The range of features available on a VoIP phone are one of the main reasons that businesses upgrade to the system. VoIP systems include dynamic call handling, pre-recorded messages and seamless transfers at the touch of a button. The systems completely erase the barrier between phone systems and internet browsers. Engage in video calls with any compatible device, incorporate other communication services like instant messaging, teleconferencing, receive voicemail and faxes via email, and much more.
4. Do I have to know and be re-trained in complicated software just to make a phone call?
Although feature rich and completely modern, VoIP telephones function much the same way as an old fashioned handset. You can configure the phone with the same key presses to pick up, and transfer calls. ITCS will provide you and your team with full support so that you’re confident with your new system. We provide training, number porting, provisioning and assistance. This will give you complete peace of mind.
5. What equipment is required to use VoIP?
Besides the cost savings, setting up and maintaining a VoIP system is a much simpler job than with traditional telephone systems. This is because there is so little on site equipment compared to traditional ISDN networks. Only pay for the users you need.
6. Is VoIP an expensive investment?
The expense of VoIP systems is a very common myth. In fact, with VoIP you’ll save money. Enjoy lower international calling rates, free calling features, as well as lower monthly service costs. The feature-rich element of VoIP systems means that you can get rid of single use devices and enjoy voice, video, fax, voicemail and more in one device.
7. I’ve heard that VoIP sound quality is really unreliable. Is that true?
A persistent myth surrounding VoIP is that because it relies on internet connections, the voice quality will suffer. This myth has really stuck around from the very early days of VoIP, when networks were slower and less sophisticated. Broadband has come on a long way, but as with many things in business and in life, you get what you pay for.
In other words, the better your business broadband connection, the higher quality your VoIP telephone system is going to be.
Current internet and 4G connections represent a huge leap in technological progress, but for anyone considering VoIP, it’s a case of ensuring you have the bandwidth to support your network.
8. Is VoIP secure?
We all know that hacking and cybercrime is regularly making headlines in modern business. But, as long as your internal network is secure, then your phone network will be too. As long as you have a good Disaster Recovery System in place and you are using a trusted IT Support Provider, the risk of falling victim to hacking or cyber-crime is minimal. ITCS ensure that security is a priority when we look at your system in readiness for VoIP.
9. I don’t run a large business – is VoIP right for me?
You don’t have to be a large corporation to benefit from VoIP. It is a truly versatile communications solution. SMEs and startups can benefit because it’s so easy to set-up and use, and you can add new phones as your business grows. Plus you can benefit from various business features that come with the system, adding to the professionalism of your company.
Are you ready to discover more about upgrading your business phone system to a VoIP solution? Do you have more questions? The ITCS team are always happy to help. Call us today on 08456 444 200, or email: email@example.com. You can also fill out a contact form.
Standing at 5,895 metres high – Kilimanjaro remains one of the world’s great challenges. Brian Stokes will be taking on the gruelling charity trek this April in aid of LATCH. On April 5th 2019 he will push himself to the extreme, with a core team of 11 people, to raise money for LATCH Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity.
Who Are LATCH?
LATCH is currently supporting an amazingly brave little girl from Maesteg, Amira Barry. Amira was diagnosed with Leukaemia last year, and is currently receiving support from LATCH. The fantastic help and support provided by LATCH has driven Brian and ITCS to raise money to help the charity continue its excellent work.
The Kilimanjaro trek is set to take 7 days, where on average 44% of people fail, mainly due to altitude sickness. This is no mean feat, and a real challenge.
“The idea is to raise awareness around this vital support for Amira’s family,” says Brian, “LATCH Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity needs to raise, on average, £800,000 a year to cover the costs of supporting families like Amira’s. So, we wanted to test ourselves to the limit, and see what we are capable of, whilst raising money for a really worthy cause.”
The trip has been entirely self-funded by each individual, so donations are well received and go entirely towards the charity, not paying for any part of the expedition. The training has been well underway for many months, along with numerous trips to the doctors for a huge list of jabs. The malaria tablets and altitude pills are all ready to go – now they need as much support and encouragement as possible.
You can donate to Brian’s cause by visiting his JustGiving page – every donation, no matter how large or small, is gratefully received.
WebManaging Director Takes on World’s Highest Free-Standing Mountain in aid of LATCH