Cleverboxes a year in review – 2010

2010 has been a very exciting year for Cleverboxes, a year full of change and, despite continued economic instability, a year of growth. This is a review of the year in the life of Cleverboxes, as told by the staff, old and new.

2010 started off pretty much like any year for Cleverboxes owner Vernon Yerkess and his small team, Gareth Clarkson, Anne Maher, Jodie Ramsbottom and Steven Langtree; although the company had experience exponential growth, since its inception in 2002 and, although there was always a vision for the company, I don’t think even Vernon could have expected the meteoric growth that the company was to experience during the coming months of the year.

Aside from Vernon, the longest serving member of staff and the person who has witnessed the most changes is the company’s Operations Manager, Gareth Clarkson , who joined in 2006. I caught Gaf, as he is known to all, in a reflective and somewhat poetic mood, as we were about to close for the Christmas break, and the night of the works party.…”well what can I say… the whole of Cleverboxes’ world seems to be transforming before our very eyes. A swan has risen from the broken egg shells of last year and has set flight into territories previously unknown. Showing grace and beauty in the way this magnificent bird has touched the lives of staff, customers and vendors alike, the last year has proven to be one of great success.

I ask him what it’s like now that the team has grown to such a size…he says “like the cygnet grows into the swan, so Cleverboxes has grown over the last year into a thing of beauty. The office has a vibrant buzz of anticipation with every new morning, team members enjoying the banter that every new day brings. As that first call comes in there’s the mad rush of tiny feet trying to get to the phone first, “you’ve got to be in it to win it” is the call from the crowd.”

He goes on…this time leaving the swan analogy and moving on to trees…” like a mighty oak tree the branches of Cleverboxes are spreading outwards towards the light, quickly gaining the recognition that they deserve for the levels of service, previously unknown in the overly crowded internet marketplace. Constantly striving to better itself Cleverboxes will continue to push boundaries in an effort to provide not only the best pricing possible but customer service in a league of its own.

And what about 2011 Gaf?…”who knows where next year will take us. It’s fair to say we’re a happy crew though and will paddle as need’s dictate, one thing we can promise you though is that next year’s hold music will be another adventure for everyone to enjoy.”

Also part of the original team is Jodie Ramsbottom, who will have been with the company for 3 years in May 2011. During this time Jodie’s role has developed and grown with the demands of the business, and has been involved in many areas, from basic admin to accounting, sales and purchasing.

Jodie has recently taken over the role of Customer Service Manager for the company, a position she relishes, it is a key role and a fundamental part of the structure of Cleverboxes, an area on which the company prides itself. I ask Jodie about the Customer Service function, she says “whilst we always do our best to ensure that our customers benefit from an outstanding buying experience, from the initial enquiry through to a speedy delivery of the order, we are aware that things happen that are beyond our control. We will always endeavour to ensure that every problem, or issue, our customers may face is dealt with quickly and efficiently.”

And she has the ammunition to back this up too. Since we recently introduced a customer feedback form, to find out what our customers think, we have had some very good reviews, so don’t just take our word for it, see what our customers have to say.

Excellent service

“Order placed for HP notebook with various accessories, the accessories were delivered promptly and although the notebook was out of stock, it was delivered on the said date. The mini mouse failed to work but was replaced promptly.”

Superb Service

“As always Cleverboxes came up trumps even though WE got our order wrong!

They arranged for the correct items to be delivered speedily and efficiently and I’d be delighted to recommend them to any of my business contacts.”

Better than excellent

“They delivered my item one day ahead of schedule. When there was a defect with my product, they immediately made arrangements to have it returned. Best service ever!!”

I asked Jodie how she saw the Customer Service function developing in the coming year and she said, “My aim for 2011 is to further strengthen the customer service department. We need to ensure that with the increase in sales that we have predicted with the arrival of our new B2B sales team that we continue to provide the first class service our customers have come to expect.”

Another member of the original pre-2010 team is Steven Langtree, who joined in October 2009 as Warehouse Operative. Steve is a local lad, who, since joining the company, has completed a National Diploma in Warehouse Management and has now been promoted to the position of Warehouse Manager. Steve says “I applied for the position and was lucky enough to get it; I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the Cleverboxes team and am looking forward to the opportunities to come.”

The new growth on Gaf’s mighty oak tree started with at the turn of the New Year when, on 4th January, there was an addition to the team, with the arrival of Paul Collins, who’s appointment as Chief Technical Officer, would bring about a turning point that was to further the expansion plans.

Paul joined from online IT reseller IT247, where he had been responsible for setting up and maintaining their back office systems, and e-commerce website. Paul says, “I started with Cleverboxes at the turn of 2010, with initial responsibilities to develop the online presence for; this was launched in spring 2010. Since then the online and business-to-business operations have shown significant growth, especially with the addition of camera, 3d tv and brand-specific online micro-sites to our portfolio; and with the recruitment of dedicated Product Management, Marketing and Sales teams.”

He continues, “as for me: aside from bringing the internal IT up to some (slight) semblance of order, the New Year will bring some ambitious projects to fruition – including some new vertical specific sites, breaking the whole Cleverboxes offering into new and interesting territories, and with an emphasis on strengthening our Managed Services proposition.

And what about the coming year Paul? “2010 has been a great year and key in the development and growth of the business, and whilst it has been busy, productive, and won us some really important customers, I feel 2011 will be bigger and better and am looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

April saw the launch of the new and improved site, which coincided with the arrival of myself, Gary Sargent, or Sarge to all who know me, which I now believe to be a happy coincidence. I have worked in the IT industry for 17 years, taking in all aspects of the channel, from manufacturers, distributors and resellers; I had worked with Vernon previously in the early days and had always kept in touch. In February I had been made redundant and was feeling disillusioned with the industry and was on the verge of turning my back on it for good, when I got a call from Vernon, asking me if I’d provide him with some cover, while he was on holiday.

The appointment was only supposed to be a temporary two week contract, whilst Vernon was away; however, it was the time of the Icelandic volcano ash cloud and he got stuck in Tenerife. By the time he got back I’d been here for almost four weeks and on his return I was offered a full time position, which I readily accepted. During the year my position has evolved from that of monitoring web sales and some account management duties, to that of IT Product Manager, looking after the main Cleverboxes and HP sites and all IT vendor and supplier relationships, a position which I relish and has seen my renewed enthusiasm in the industry.

Cleverboxes is a forward thinking company where ideas and creativity are encouraged and nurtured and it’s good to be part of such exciting times.

As the website developed and sales grew, additional resource was sought. In June we brought in a Marketing Manager, Rick Ingham, to develop the company’s marketing strategy and to help build the Cleverboxes brand. Rick says “throughout my career I have always chosen roles that pushed boundaries and Cleverboxes ticked all the right ‘boxes’ for me.” Rick has spent the last 15 years in marketing positions, building brands and in recent years has been involved in foreign property, advertising / publishing and email marketing.

June was a busy month, which also saw the arrival of Paul Hanley, to develop and launch additional “Clever” brands; and Paul previously worked for Progressive Consumer Electronics, and Sony and specialises in consumer electronic products such as digital photography, networked audio products and AV. was quickly launched after his arrival and at the end of August the company launched the website specialising in digital photography products and accessories. 2011 is going to see further development of the website to offer an even better consumer buying experience.

September saw the arrival of Amber McCallum, who was brought in to bolster the sales function, which had by now exceeded £100k and outgrown the capabilities of the small team. Amber says “I joined Cleverboxes because I saw a very exciting opportunity to be part of a fast growing and energetic business, having worked for an IT distributor, for 7 years, specialising in Networking. Since my arrival I have gained accreditations for HP, Cisco & Microsoft, which has helped me to offer a high level of service to my corporate & public sector customers.

And thoughts for the coming year? “I am looking forward to the New Year where I would like to continue my vendor and product knowledge that will ultimately help me to give our clients a higher level of service and to grow stronger customer relationships”

In October the finance and sales department were bolstered by the appointment of John Meadowcroft, as Financial Controller and Chris Kelly, as Sales Manager.

John joined Cleverboxes because could see the potential and growth in the Company and he also wanted to put his own stamp and controls place. John is another local lad, that trained at a big 5 Accountancy firm, starting in 1989 and progressing on to being senior auditor and management accounts specialist. John says “my vision for 2011 and beyond is that he can see the Company developing into a Group of Companies by expanding and diversifying into other areas, because of the expertise of the team and the power of the internal systems.”

Chris Kelly has been brought in with the task of building the sales team and growing the Company’s account portfolio. He has worked within the IT Reseller Industry since 1994 and for the past fifteen years has worked in various sales manager roles for PC World Business/Equanet and Dabs/BT Business Direct. The first three years were spent working with teams servicing SME businesses and then moved into the corporate space.

For the last ten years he has worked in Public Sector verticals (including NHS, Central & Local Government and Education), Chris says “I have always instilled long term business relationships based on trust and honesty into my sales people.”

Although Cleverboxes are a relatively small in comparison to the size of some of Chris’s previous employers he says “I continue to be impressed with the ethos of the business, it’s agility, honesty and the fully integrated systems that underpin its ability to present a customer offering second to none. We are currently recruiting experienced people and are preparing to launch several initiatives (including a dedicated Education website) to make the year ahead an exciting one. I am confident that we will achieve our growth plans and continue to impress both existing and new customers by exceeding all of your expectations. Joining Cleverboxes was an easy decision to make!”

One of Chris’s first signings is 19 years old Daniel Cornish, from “glorious” Bolton, his words not mine! Dan has joined the fold from where he was responsible for managing 200 accounts Dan says “I joined Cleverboxes because I wanted to join a fast growing company and I believe that there are lots of good opportunities here and I will be able to help further the company and my own career.” Dan loves skiing more than anyone should, and has spent time living in Cyprus and South Africa. He is also an avid rugby player and used to help teach judo to our British forces in Cyprus.

So just to recap, throughout 2010 we’ve invested heavily in technology and are well on our way to building an excellent, dedicated, team of professionals, which is now 13 strong and has achieved much since January. Some of the highlights of the year, in no particular order, have been achieving HP Preferred Partner and Cisco Select Partner accreditations, launching our dedicated HP website, creating the Be Clever Group of Companies, introducing Professor B Clever to the world, sending out our first marketing communication, setting up and Clevercameras, getting a dedicated fibre connection, getting a new VoIP telephone system, new desks, running our first customer promotion

And finally to round off this review a word from Cleverboxes owner and MD, Vernon Yerkess, without whose vision and determination there would be no company. Vernon says…“2010 has certainly been a great year, not only have we put an extra £3million of sales on the top line we have also established ourselves as a serious player in the supply of IT products.”

“Our back end integrated cloud based ERP and CRM system has enabled us to scale up quickly and economically, controlling and managing our costs on a monthly basis – after spending many a pound and man hour on the development of our merchandising and web site solution we finally deployed this in April although we have been using the data analytics since early February which has enabled us to reach out further to a different set of customers and products sets.”

“This has seen our profile within our suppliers and customers’ increase as well as productivity and activity levels. Our transactions have increased tenfold over the year meaning we’ve had to manage the roles of our staff internally carefully.”

“During the course of the year we have employed key members of staff to further support the growth and development of the business ensuring longevity of supply to our trusted customers.”

“2011 promises to be the best year as we leverage on the success of 2010 and look forward to welcoming new customers on board as well as continue to support those that have come on for the ride this year.”

“With this in mind I’d like to thank all existing customers for the continued support throughout the year and look forward to a very prosperous 2011 and beyond.”

Well that’s it from me and the team; so what’s in store for 2011? Well for a start – there’s more growth, new projects and all manner of exciting things, but if we told you all that now, we’d have no surprises in store for you, so all that remains for me to say is…thank you for your continued support and custom and we look forward to serving you in 2011..stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment.

A very Happy and Prosperous New Year from the Team at Cleverboxes