With only one O-level to his name, Dave Carrington began his working life in a scampi factory in his home town of Whitby, North Yorkshire. He found his vocation several years later, when he began selling computer hardware in Wokingham, Berkshire. By the age of 28, he had accumulated £20,000 savings and in 1996 he was ready to start SkyNet Systems, reselling computers from the bedroom of his Basingstoke home. He decided early on to specialise in Cisco products, and went on to win contracts with Sky TV and the BBC, driving up sales 220% a year from £317,000 in 1997 to £10.4m in 2000, when he had 10 staff. His company competes against industry giants such as British Telecommunications, Cable & Wireless and Siemens. Carrington says it succeeds by offering high levels of customer service. ‘Our engineers never leave the premises until a customer is completely satisfied’ he says, ‘The customer should not have to find out there is a problem before we do.’ The company, which has its headquarters at Long Hanborough, Oxfordshire, has branched out into lucrative systems integration work, but its founding principles remain the same. Attention to customers is the top priority and Carrington still tries to meet all the directors of client companies in person. ‘We are a £16m-a-year business. Our competitors have sales of £16 billion. Who do you think is going to care more about a £500,000 deal?’ he says. Carrington is also considering an expansion into the Middle East to maintain his company’s fast growth.
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