As Inixion turns 15, we look back on a decade-and-a-half of gold standard work and glance forward to where the ERP market might be heading.
Many years ago, Inixion founder Ian Bromley took a trip to Paris with his then-only employee, David Spindler. They were to meet with Sage about becoming an official Sage X3 partner, an important meeting for the fledgling software implementation company – as one of the big names in accounting software, Sage rarely dealt with such small outfits.
Becoming an official partner would be a turning point for Inixion; it would mean they could deal directly with Sage. New opportunities were in the offing.
History records that the meeting went well; today, Inixion is a Sage Gold Partner.
And so, as they were waiting at the airport to fly home that fateful day, the two gentlemen were killing time in duty free. Ian told David to “pick a bottle” to take home as a thank you. Jokingly, David pointed to a bottle of Louis 13th Cognac – which retails at up to £2000 a bottle – and said he’d take one of those. Ian’s response was quick: “When we make our first million in a single year, I’ll get you one of those.”
A few years later, there was a knock at David’s door: it was Ian with a bottle of Louis 13th Cognac. The first million-year for Inixion was official, and it really hadn’t taken long at all.
The early days: offers too good to refuse
Founded by in 2006 by Ian Bromley and his wife Jo, Inixion has always specialised in one thing: the delivery and implementation of the Sage X3 enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. It has since grown to a team of 20, with more than 160 years of collective experience in the implementation of Sage X3.
It had always been Ian’s ambition to run his own business, and an opportunity “fell at his feet” when he was just 34: he was offered the chance to work for himself for one year. It was a risk, leaving a well-paid long-term job to support a stay-at-home wife and young kids on an uncertain wage, but Jo urged him to do it.
“Jo said if you don’t do it now, you’ll regret it,” he remembers. “I’d worked in my previous role for 15 years, so it was all a bit scary.”
The opportunity was straightforward. A company Ian had worked with in the past was embarking on a big project to move production to eastern Europe. They needed to move all machines and manufacturing equipment, and needed an IT system to support the change.
“The masterplan – and my wife laughs about it now – was to work on my own in a little consultancy business 3 days a week and learn to play golf in my spare time,” says Ian. “Within six months I was working six days a week, turning work down, and had employed an old colleague. In that first year, we turned over £250,000.”
David Spindler – he of the Cognac – was that old colleague and first employee.
“Ian phoned me up and said ‘Dave, let me take you out to dinner’,” he chuckles. “He drove an hour and a half to me and we met in a hotel. The bottom line was he had so much work on that he needed someone to deal with the manufacturing and distribution side while he dealt with the finance side, and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
“He didn’t know how long it would last, nor how much he could pay me. He had one customer and no salespeople. From a business point of view, it was a good fit: Ian can do the corporate and finance, and I’ll get my hands dirty on the shop floor.
“I’d always joined companies too late – long after the party had started. It was nice to get into the Inixion party early, to be one of the first.”
Adds Ian: “I think the reality is if I’d carried on with just me as a consultant, it wouldn’t have been sustainable. I can only do so much myself. What we’ve built now with the business is a much more sustainable operation with recurring revenue and great relationships with long-term customers.”
Recognition: relationships make the difference
It was a gamble, but just as Ian’s gamble to leave stable employment for the Inixion journey had paid off, so too did David’s jump. In the end, it was the relationship that sold him, and that is a recurring theme in all of Inixion’s dealings – whether it’s attracting staff or customers.
In business, those networks and relationships make all the difference. They can win work, or they can fill a missing piece in your own team – especially as demand grows and you need, say, someone to come in to look after sales prospects while you focus on the current workload.
Ian met Greg Hackney in 2011 through a mutual friend in the industry. At the time, Greg was happy as an independent consultant with a business that counted premiership rugby teams amongst its clients. With a background in project management and business development, he wasn’t quite the sales leader Ian thought he wanted.
The opportunity to work together, though? That proved too enticing on both sides. Greg has now been with Inixion for a decade, leading the sales and business development side by placing a strong emphasis on culture and relationships.
“I spend very little of my time trying to sell something; I spend more of my time steering the ship of relationships,” says Greg. “If Ian has one hand on the helm from an operational point of view, my hand is on the other from a customer and supplier relationship perspective.
“As we’ve grown and gained more customers, we needed to ensure we were servicing those customers and looking after them in the same way on day 100 as we did on day one. Things do sometimes go wrong because it’s not a perfect world, but it’s about how those issues and challenges are dealt with that counts. It’s about helping to steer the ship. What we do and how we do it is really important to me, so important I joined Ian and Jo as a shareholder a few years ago”.
The waters Inixion is navigating are ever-changing, ever-evolving; technology is like that. But while the humble mobile telephone has come along in leaps and bounds since Inixion was founded – before the first iPhone launch – Greg believes some things never really change.
“People’s expectations of technology have definitely changed,” he says. “And yet business requirements and the need to keep a business going have not changed. Neither has the way people invest or put their faith in you to help with the systems running their business.
“When you chip away at all the periphery, our customers either make something or buy something, put it in a box then put it in a warehouse, then take it out and send it to somebody. And the way they account for that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years – double entry accounting has been with us for a very long time.
“We need to find the halfway line between the change and the constant, and manage expectations through strong relationships. While you might be able to update your iOS overnight, a big heavy ERP system that’s running a business will take some time and effort to feed and water and look after. We are a very long way away from the world of business applications being anything like the apps that sit on our mobiles.”
Steady growth through focus and passion
And that’s what has fueled Inixion’s growth over the last 15 years. Now a company of 20 employees, it has had zero employee attrition. Yes, everyone who has joined Inixion is still with Inixion.
The latest to join is Callum Melluish, who joined the support team in mid-November 2021.
“My previous company used Sage X3, and it was my role to support that,” he says. “It was the full process journey from implementation and training to the support as well. But I had grown at a quicker pace than the company had, and this role seemed like a good fit for me. There is room for me to grow.
“I’ve always had an interest in logistics and want more of an understanding of how companies interact with that sector. I’m keen to move up in the support world, and potentially touch on development as well.”
As with the others quoted here, Callum believes it’s the knowledge, the passion and the relationships that make the Inixion difference.
“Certainly one of the reasons I decided to work with Inixion was my initial conversations with David McCallum (Inixion’s Customer Service Manager) and Ian – their knowledge and passion for the Sage X3 product was obvious. I was talking to another company at the time, but the fit here just seemed a lot easier. It was effortless.”
Into the future: some things never change
Will that steady growth continue in the post-Covid world? Inixion has been lucky, says Ian, over the last 18 months. While many businesses have struggled with layoffs, Inixion has expanded and employed four additional people in the last year.
Likewise, the old model of consultancy and delivering in-person training and implementation is no longer the norm. The normalisation of remote working means training can be delivered online, opening up the opportunity to spend half a day with one client and the other with someone different – something that wasn’t possible when consultants had to travel to be on-site.
Those customer needs though? With the exception perhaps of a need for more remote support, those are still constant.
“I strongly believe that if you were to interview me for our 30th anniversary, I would still give you the same answers,” says Greg. “Businesses will still have a fundamental requirement to have systems to assist them in doing their business, and companies like ours will hopefully evolve with the changing technology in order to support them in that goal.”
And Inixion will continue to do so with that strong emphasis on attention to detail, good relationships, and consistency of delivery. Is that what the “Inixion difference” is all about?
“The values that we’ve tried to install in the business and how we operate as a business hasn’t changed – our moral approach to things,” says founder Ian. “The Sage product is a good product, but I believe that unless you have good people, the product doesn’t matter. You need to have good people and a continuity of people, too.
“We put a lot of effort into looking after our staff. My favourite statistic is that we’ve never lost a member of staff in 15 years, and that provides continuity to the customer. They will work with us, come back two years later and have the same consultant that knows their system, their business, their people. It gives a level of confidence to the customer, and I’m very happy that people who work for Inixion are clearly happy because they stay with us.
“We select the right people to work for the organisation, and we only employ people who know the product and have experience with it and enthusiasm for it.”
It sounds like younger Ian, 15 years ago, had a strong idea of what was needed to make this risk worthwhile. Today, as he reflects on that journey, he has one piece of advice to his younger self: “Have confidence that you can do this. Have more confidence about the decisions you make and push forward. Don’t get to the end of a journey and regret not having tried.”
If you’re looking for a safe pair of hands with your business processing software, discover the Inixion difference and get in touch.