When Steve Austen was starting his IT consultancy, Customer Systems, he offered a wealthy friend a 10% stake in return for a £50,000 investment. ‘Had he invested, his holding would now be worth £1.4m and he would have received £450,000 in dividends,’ says Austen. Surrey-based Customer Systems helps blue-chip companies like Nokia, Merrill Lynch and Novartis improve their use of CRM software and systems. Sales have grown 100% a year from an annualised £638,000 in 1999 to £5.1m in 2002, when the company made a good profit. This year, however, sales have levelled off.
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