Culture

In conversation with Rob Dance: what next?

In just over a decade, ROCK has grown from a one-man-band into one of the UK's leading firm of tech consultants. Here, Rob, our CEO, describes our journey, what shaped us, what drives us forward and where we're going next.

In 2008, ROCK took its formative steps when it began offering hardware repairs and anti-virus solutions to consumers. Rob had just left university, had sold his Renault 5 car in order to buy a van for the business and, along with £1,000 and four others, setup ROCK in his childhood playroom in his parent's house.

Now, ROCK has grown to over 130 staff and is proud to support clients in a range of industries and across a range of technology solutions including award-winning managed IT support, telecommunications, cyber security, application development and managed consultancy. Rob, in his own words, talks about the important question we ask ourselves and our clients regularly- what next?

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Rob Dance
Rob Dance Founder & CEO

The Early Days

At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I’d started a business during one of the most uncertain economic periods in history. I believed in my vision and neither the financial crisis or ensuing recession ever crossed my mind – I was focussed on growing ROCK, on hiring new employees, winning new clients and beginning to offer services to commercial organisations.

Whilst I wasn’t mindful of it at the time, I think that forming within such an environment galvanised our dedication to client care. We were operating within a more pressurised and competitive environment and, whilst we weren’t necessarily aware of this at the time, needed to work harder to meet our clients’ needs and seek more innovative and effective solutions to problems. We adapted our business model to offer clients unlimited IT support, for example, and were amongst the first companies in the UK to offer this. These values have been instilled into the very essence of ROCK and, whilst the world’s markets recovered, our standards remained resolute. We were fortunate, too, as our small size enabled us to adopt an agile approach when most other companies, concerned for their futures, became more rigid. We remain adaptable to this day.

A willingness – a desire to learn, in fact – is enshrined in the company’s values, too. I can still recall an occasion when one of our first clients asked me if ROCK built servers. We focused originally in the consumer sector, but despite this said ‘yes’, before going on to spend the weekend researching this with our still small team. We’ve grown into a company possessing some of the finest technical minds I’ve ever encountered (other IT companies regularly ask our staff for advice at conferences), but we’re all aware of the fact that there’s always something new to learn. In the world of tech, things move quickly, and you need to be willing to adapt and to regularly absorb new information if you want to be able to offer the best possible service.

These initial experiences alone were not exclusively behind the development of ROCK’s core beliefs – I sought to ensure the company embraced agile practices and an innovative outlook from the start – but the circumstances we first encountered as a business, I think, channelled this desire in the right direction. The need to go the extra mile was indispensable and became habit as a result. Our early years resulted in exceptionalism – our warrior spirit – becoming embedded into our core identity. 

Competitive markets also meant that we needed to be innovative. We didn’t realise it at the time, but we’d been using techniques such as automation and machine learning for several years before we encountered the relevant terminology. At the time, we assumed that the new techniques we were adopting were widely used, only later discovering that we’d been harnessing new and innovative means of making ourselves more competitive.

Our Journey

In just over a decade, ROCK has become an established and trusted brand. We employ more than 130 people across four offices throughout the UK and have a substantial fleet of company vehicles. We’ve grown quickly and within a short space of time but I can honestly say I never doubted that this would happen. I knew we were offering our clients an exceptional service and I had every faith in the remarkable people I’d employed.

Vitally, the thought of providing clients with an excellent service – of making a real difference to the way they operated and their performance – drove me far more than the idea of turning a profit. The same is true of building a company that embodies my personal values. It is extremely important to me that ROCK’s recruitment policies and practices are designed to identify applicants that are not just diligent, skilled and hard-working, but also resilient, agile and passionate about the difference they can make to both ROCK and our clients.

Our portfolio of products and services has – thanks in no small part to our desire to diversify and the trust our clients place in us – grown substantially in recent years. We began offering telecommunications solutions in 2017 following a recognition that companies operating within this sector were failing to provide exceptional service. In 2018, recognising that the unrelenting growth of digital platforms and technology presented a significant threat to businesses and other organisations, we moved our cyber security offerings out of our managed IT services portfolio, layering on top a seperate dedicated team. In turn, we’ve built alliances with some of the industry’s biggest names; ROCK is amongst SonicWALL, Bitdefender and Datto’s most prominent partners in the world. Alongside this, we created our Security Operations Centre to monitor our clients’ infrastructures in real-time, thus providing them with the holistic, robust defence they need to combat continuously evolving and evermore sinister digital threats.

In 2019, we began to offer both application development and managed consultancy services. We’ve used bespoke applications to enhance our offerings, improve our performance etc. for several years. In addition, we’ve consistently leveraged tech as a means of developing our business. It occurred to me that, as we’ve been so successful on these fronts, we could add tremendous value to organisations by doing the same for them. It was a logical extension of what we did already: moving from managed IT services to a more holistic tech-themed service that allowed us to identify a multitude of ways businesses could improve their performance. Our digital transformation consultancy services – capable of improving multiple business functions across a variety of practices – are designed to identify tech that can propel organisations forward and considerably improve their performance.

Historically, consultants have come from accounting backgrounds but, personally, I know that I’d feel a lot more comfortable knowing that my technology consultant (most solutions these day need to use the growing digital toolbox to bring about results) came from an IT background. A consultant from a technical background but with business acumen can leverage their knowledge of existing and developing tech to determine precisely how it can help an organisation achieve their goals. They can still consider how this is likely to affect an organisation financially, but their overall approach is more nuanced – more balanced.

Both ROCK and I have won several business awards over the years. We’ve been recognised for our outstanding customer service, innovation and, of course, various services – but it’s being recognised as the best place to work within the digital sector for two consecutive years of which I’m most proud. It’s indisputable proof of the effort we’ve put into creating a working environment where people feel valued. We have, as a company, put a great deal of energy into forming a great team – to bringing the very best people together and ensuring that they’re happy. They are, after all, the people that drive ROCK forward and provide our clients with an exceptional experience each and every day.

Where We're Going

I will, as ever, look to innovate. It may have been more than ten years since I formed ROCK, but I’m as passionate about helping our staff and clients grow and improve as I ever was. I’m genuinely enthused by the projects we launch. I find myself excited about project completions because it means I can move on to the next – it’s another opportunity to rise to a new challenge.

We underwent a rebrand in early 2019 – it symbolised how ROCK have changed as an organisation. We’re maturing; constantly growing, developing new services and undertaking larger and more ambitious projects for an ever-growing list of organisations of all sizes and throughout every conceivable sector.

This was a painstaking process. I believe in doing things right and, thanks to our aforementioned recruitment process, ROCK’s employees share this value. We have a penchant for both seeing the bigger picture and simultaneously harnessing a truly granular approach to everything we do – whether rebranding the whole company, installing cables at a client’s new office or anything else.

ROCK will continue to grow our product portfolio, too. I want us to become the biggest company in the world and have always been upfront with regards to my ambitions. It may be difficult to envisage exactly what ROCK would look like following this, but I’ve consistently maintained that it’ll involve a broad array of business-centric services. With many organisations now moving from models involving multiple vendors to those where outsourcing is assigned to as few providers as possible, current business trends support my beliefs.

I’m often asked about my exit strategy by other business owners and decision-makers. It seems that everyone has such a plan mapped out but I can honestly say it’s not something I’ve ever considered. My dedication to growing ROCK – to enabling client improvement and nurturing our expanding team – has never wavered. Every single person that makes ROCK is dedicated to establishing ourselves as the world’s leading provider of technology business solutions and – by continuing to deliver innovative and transformational services to our clients – are confident we’ll achieve this.

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