In the company of Harrogate's Patrick Clayton, the IT services boss programming his tech company for rapid growth

The Harrogate Advertiser speaks to Patrick Clayton, managing director of Deans Computer Services Ltd in Boston Spa, Wetherby.

By Gemma Jimmison
Monday, 16th May 2022, 1:14 pm
Updated Monday, 16th May 2022, 1:17 pm
In the company of Harrogate's Patrick Clayton, the IT services boss programming his tech company for rapid growth
In the company of Harrogate's Patrick Clayton, the IT services boss programming his tech company for rapid growth

Q: In a nutshell, what does your company do and how did it start?

A: Our company provides a range of IT services for businesses throughout the UK, but mostly small to medium-sized businesses across the Yorkshire region.

We provide everything from IT support to implementation of infrastructure, ERP and bespoke software.

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Deans Computer Services (DCS) started when our founder and chairman, Peter Rogerson, computerised behind-the-scenes processes for his family’s toy business in the early ’80s and spotted an opportunity to do the same for other local businesses.

Q: What’s the most surprising thing about it?

A: In a rapidly evolving sector, we manage to retain our customers and staff for so long – over half our staff members have been with the company for more than 15 years, and plenty of us have been here for longer than that!

We still have customers from the ’80s too, which is a real testament to our dedication for excellent customer service.

Q: What do you do?

A: I’m involved in absolutely every aspect of the business, from preparing contract renewals to preparing sales pitches, organising marketing activities and more.

I started at DCS as a programmer and still try to find the time to dip into that every now and then. It’s a cliché, but no two days are ever the same when you’re a managing director.

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Q: How did you end up here?

A: After attending sixth form I spent three years at agricultural college and then found my way into an agricultural co-operative in Kent.

After deciding that wasn’t the path for me, I took the decision to switch careers and enrolled on a six-month computer programming course in Leeds.

Soon after that, in 1992, I was taken on as a junior programmer at DCS using a DOS programming language called Delta 5. A couple of years later, I then progressed to department manager.

Although sales were always something I resisted, I naturally became heavily involved in consultative sales and became sales and software development director in 1998. In 2014 I took over as managing director when we completed a management buyout.

Q: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

A: I’d more than likely still be in an agricultural role – I still have a yearning for working with cattle in the great outdoors.

Q: What motivates you?

A: Pleasing people; it’s always so satisfying designing, writing and installing bespoke applications for our customers and seeing how happy they are with the results.

Ensuring the success of our company by making sure our customers and the DCS team are happy is just an evolution of that.

Q: What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in business?

A: That it’s OK to fail and try again – nobody gets it right all the time. Many well-known successful business-owners have had a string of business failures before they finally make it.

Q: What excites you about business?

A: The IT sector is ever-changing, so things don’t stay the same for very long, which is very exciting.

I’m told that in 1982, most of our sales were to customers with no existing computer technology.

They were moving from manual paper-based accounting systems to computerised ledgers at a time when the idea of the internet hadn’t even been conceptualised.

Now, internet access is so widespread, our customers can be connected to the internet almost anywhere in the world and at any time.

Q: What is your pet hate in business?

A: Passengers – people who don’t pull their weight. It’s not fair on others who put their all into their work and want the business to succeed.

Q: What advice would you give to people just starting their careers?

A: Don’t worry about taking the wrong path at the start of your career – you can change track and be successful if you put your mind to it.

I also find that it helps to make a personal plan and review it every year to make sure you stay on track career-wise.

Q: Who in business do you most admire, and why?

A: There isn’t one particular person in business I admire the most. I admire anyone who’s started from the bottom with very little and made their own success - it takes consistent focus and determination, which is very admirable.

Q: What moments of your career so far stand out?

A: I was invited to join the board at DCS in 1998, which is definitely a stand-out moment for me. It was a totally unexpected promotion and solidified the fact that I’d made the right choice to chase a career in IT.

Another stand-out moment for me was the start of 2014, when we completed the management buyout of DCS and a new chapter in the company’s history began.

Q: What sets your company apart from the competition?

A: I’m always rather in awe of the fact that we have so many long-standing, loyal customers and staff members. Several staff members have returned to us after trying something different, showing how good our company culture is.

Loyalty is always reciprocated in business and helps to build enviable and enduring partnerships.

Q: What is the most difficult challenge your company has faced...?

A: The start of the Covid pandemic in 2020 was a challenge for us, as I’m sure it was for the whole nation. A sudden and massive demand for our services was tough to manage at first.

Many of our customers had to switch to home-working, which we had to facilitate as their IT partner of choice. The team pulled together, though, and we soon got used to a new routine.

Many of our customers also struggled financially for the first few months of the pandemic, which had a knock-on effect for us.

Q: ...and what challenges are you experiencing at the moment?

A: Currently, uncertainty around the Ukraine war and possible recession is a real business concern.

Q: Have you got a five-year plan for the company?

A: Yes, we plan to grow quite rapidly over the next five years. We have a full five-year business plan in action… but this isn’t the place to share it!

Q: Why is it good to do business from Boston Spa?

A: Boston Spa is a charming village and has easy access to the A1, which is ideal for business purposes!

The village also boasts many bars, restaurants, delis and shops, and is right in the countryside too, so lunchtime walks through fields or by the river are a real treat.

Factfile:

Name: Patrick Clayton

Age: 56

Birthplace: Harrogate

Job title: Managing Director

Company name:

Deans Computer Services Ltd

Company address:

Boston Lodge,

42 High Street,

Boston Spa,

Wetherby LS23 6EA

Website address:

www.deansplc.co.uk

Company founded: 1982

Turnover: £3.5m

Number of staff: 44