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Our latest guest on Inspired Edinburgh is Tom McDonald. 

Tom is Managing Director of the Exsel Group, Scotland’s local technology expert and mobile partner of the Scottish Football Association. In 2016 he was listed on SBNN’s 40 under 40 list and over the last two years has grown the Exsel Group from a sub £100k business with 3 people to a 50 person strong organisation with turnover in excess of £3m.

A highly astute business leader with some great insights and fantastic advice.

Below is an article recently written about the Exsel Group by Deloitte:

“From its offices in Glasgow and Aberdeen, Exsel Group delivers professional, cost-effective and easy-to-understand IT solutions to companies of all sizes. 

Founded eight years ago as a one-man band, Exsel prides itself on being able to strip the jargon out of technology, and delivering solutions tailored to a business’ precise needs.

“When you’re speaking to a managing director they just want to know it’s going to work properly, and how it’s going to impact the business,” explains Tom McDonald Exsel Group Managing Director, who joined the business five years ago. “We’re not looking to provide a product – we’re looking to improve their business. We ask ourselves how we can make it better.”

There a lot of confusion about what cloud technology means and how it can improve mobile, desk and office systems, says Tom. The fault is often lies with IT specialists who are not good at translating technical features into business speak or a language that everyone understands.

“We’re looking to combine a high-value consultancy that helps to educate the marketplace, along with excellent customer service and fast response times,” he says. “This sits well with the medium end of the SME market, where they often need a little external help to make their own technical decisions.”

The company’s vision is to establish itself as a recognised, successful global brand. In addition to featuring in the Deloitte Fast 50, Exsel was named ‘Reseller of the Year’ by Communications Dealer, nominated for the Communications Dealer and Communications National awards, and was a runner-up at the Scottish Business Awards.

Exsel has grown organically and currently employs 46 people, of which around half are in sales, and the remainder divided up between IT support and development, management and administration. With growth has come the need to create a leadership team that can take the business to the next stage of its development.

“The biggest change has been in our management structure,” says Tom. “We’ve looking at a different skill set in people today. We want people with a background in consulting and data centres at a high level, often from well-established competitors. They are often in their 40s and 50s and have real experience behind them. It’s imperative that we have a team that also understands the future — one that’s based on cloud connectivity – and can deliver the vision we’re striving for.”

With accelerating growth, recruitment costs have become so high that Exsel recently took the unprecedented step of starting up its own recruitment agency, hiring specialists in house to drive it. When hiring Tom values attitude as highly as skills, and seeks to attract people who can add value to the team, and not just as an individual.

“Culture is a bit of a buzz word, but we’ve really built a culture in which people strive to be the best every day. We’re very open and everybody feels part of it,” he says. “We want talented people who are the best in their field, but we also want them to be happy in their job and in our culture.”

Giving back to the local community by working with charities, and sponsoring individuals and teams has become an important part of Exsel’s culture. “Our employees love to be involved — to be part of something positive and make a difference. We think that being part of the local community helps us to grow as well.”

Looking ahead, Tom anticipates a tougher time for IT service providers across the board, as major manufacturers and suppliers increase their prices to make up for the fall in sterling after Brexit. Even so, Exsel plans to push forward, testing new solutions under development and looking for untapped opportunities in the market.

“Because we’ve grown organically we have this mentality that we’re an entrepreneurial business, and because we’re relatively small and regional we can move very quickly,” he says. “Having said that, I wouldn’t rule out taking investments at some point in the future if we wanted take our business to that next level.”

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