CDEC first flourished in the heady days of the interactive whiteboard boom. The principles laid down in the 2000 still apply today, with the commitment and passion injected by founder Andy Duckworth and managing director Toni Barnett, reinforced by sales and support teams that have built a reputation as being both dependable business partners and ‘nice people to do business with’.
Growth in a slow market is surely the key measure of success for a reseller, and arguably essential to sustained growth is customer retention. When AV News visited MD Toni Barnett in CDEC’s Orpington HQ (there is another in Warrington), she recounted the company’s strategy for taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the BECTA tender: “We felt that the best way to approach it was to focus our resources on the needs of just six LEAs. Rather than adopting a scatter-gun approach, which some others did, we stayed focussed, won the business and – do you know what? – we still have it, ten years later.”
While CDEC has corporate and commercial clients, the company’s concentration on education technology takes full advantage of Andy Duckworth’s teaching experience, and further experience of ICT management. More recently, CDEC has broadened its reach into the HE sector, in which the company has achieved top Framework supplier status. Barnett explains that this achievement required a considerable commitment by CDEC:
“By achieving the position as top Framework supplier it frees our customers from the obligation to put every project out to tender – obviously a great advantage, but achieving top supplier status involved Andy spending months away from the office drawing up the paperwork.”
The move into HE also involved a degree of risk for the CDEC business. CDEC enjoyed an active partnership with the huge Capita Group – a resourcing and procurement business with many contracts with both the private and public sectors, including the NHS. CDEC’s growing success in the HE sector meant that the resources available to service the Capita work were stretched. Capita was one of the clients that Barnett took personal responsibility for and it fell to her to end the relationship.
She explains: “The Capita business was great while it lasted, but our HE Framework commitments grew faster than we expected. We wanted to fulfil any business that we took on to the standards we have set over the years – and, like any business, we wanted to transact that business under our own name. I had to give notice to our friends at Capita.” Her facial expression showed that this was not altogether a fun experience.
With the retained education business and the new HE business, CDEC’s prospects for growth continue to outperform the curve for the market, even without a significant concentration on the corporate sector. Barnett is not ruling out expansion beyond education in the future, but expanding the company has to go hand-in-hand with continuing to deliver an efficient and premium service to every customer.
To that end, the company has recently streamlined its internal structure, merging the operations and account management departments to create a solution-focused team. “We are primarily a sales organisation,” Barnett explains. “Andy’s background is in sales. I used to sell computers. We have a sales team here in Orpington of 21. Our Elite Reseller status for all the manufacturers on our portfolio means that we can offer warranty support and specialised technical knowledge for every product we install.”
Underpinning all of this is the passion and desire of the company’s leadership: “Our approach is very hand-on. It’s not unusual to find Andy tidying the warehouse or involved in a customer installation,” explains Barnett. The company introduced a new, freshened-up visual identity at the CDEC Conference in Mallorca to mark 15 years of trading (see the boxout and photographs below). As the two-times winner of The AV News Reseller of the Year Award, the prospects for CDEC seem set fair for continued success.
The CDEC family in Mallorca
AV News’ photographer and filmmaker Prem Konieczny joined 70 other invitees to the CDEC Conference held in Santa Ponsa, Mallorca last month. The CDEC Conference was held to celebrate 15 years successful trading and a record-breaking increase in sales over the last few years. This is Prem’s diary of events.
Hosts Toni Barnett, CDEC’s MD, and founder Andy Duckworth, made sure that all attendees took an active part in team building exercises, the supplier exhibition, corporate presentations and general fun in the sun. I had had an opportunity to meet both suppliers and CDEC staff for the first time. What could easily be a rather stressful experience for a newcomer, very soon became a great experience due to Andy and Toni’s ability to create a very relaxed atmosphere for all.
After welcome drink, all attendees were greeted by Andy and Toni in the conference room, where event objectives were set. Andy played a recording from the same morning interview at Radio 1 Mallorca, where radio DJ and Andy discussed the event on air.
As it was parliamentary election time in the UK, CDEC staff members were divided into 5 different political parties. Each party had 5 minutes to present their manifesto to the suppliers who would then vote for the best (or more witty, quirky and interesting) party.
In the afternoon, the group was split into 8 groups and given a task to create a music video to an old disco classic. Video cameras, maps and iPods were given to each team. It was a really fun, ice-breaking exercise and an opportunity work together, getting to know each other.
After very relaxed first day of the conference, Day 2 was business-oriented and the suppliers’ representatives set up their exhibits in the conference room. They presented their products to the CDEC staff in the manner of a speed dating session. After just 15 minutes, the members of CDEC’s staff would visit another supplier’s booth. In that way, every member of staff would speak to every supplier across a session that lasted from 10.00 am until 5.00 pm.
A gala dinner was held in the beautiful Tristan’s restaurant in the Marina of Santa Ponsa. Guests were greeted by Andy and a Radio 1 Mallorca DJ. The entertainment included an Abba tribute band and a DJ Diablo set. In the course of the evening, Andy Duckworth and the CDEC team raised an astonishing £15,719 for the Great Ormond Street children’s’ charity.
After breakfast, the Delegates went to a vineyard for a winemaking tour. After the tour and some tasting of local wine, all attendees took part in a session designed to test their sales skills. Each team had to come up with a name for their product (a brand of wine), create a poster, and pitch the idea to the judges. Presentations included a TV advert for their product, which the contestants had to make and act in themselves. It was a fantastic opportunity for the sales teams to show off their pitching skills and their creativity.
In the evening, CDEC staff teamed up with some suppliers to play a human version of hungry hippos (see the pictures above and you will get the idea).
Andy concluded the ConHErence by thanking the whole CDEC team for their hard work and presented awards. The night was rounded-off with a trip to Magaluf to see the famous Pirates Reloaded show and to visit some of Magaluf’s legendary nightclubs. In conclusion, the CDEC ConHErence was a memorable and enjoyable event for which the expression “work hard / play hard” could have been invented.