Our October Member of the Month is Kyle Sharland. Kyle is the Managing Director of Oh-Tech. Oh-Tech offers managed IT support to companies of all sizes in the UK. This can include their user base and their networks such as servers, wireless and cloud-based requirements.
Kyle set up Oh-Tech in 2016 at the age of 25. At the time, he was working for someone else and realised that he had a different vision from that of the business owner, so he decided to set up his own company. Kyle talks about his passion for relationship-building and developing trust, along with the hurdles he faced when setting up a business in his 20s.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey – how and why did you set up your own IT business?
At 15, I began working with my 2 uncles at Chalwyn Industrial Estate, north of Poole, in Dorset. I started working on their computers; I was curious about how to fix them and found that I really enjoyed it. This was followed with me doing the IT for most of the other businesses on the estate. I realised that I seemed to have a knack for it. During this process, I taught myself everything and decided that I would complete some NVQs. I then went on to study a degree in Computing and Networking at Southampton University.
I got a taxi to university one morning and I bumped into a guy who needed help with his laptop. I told him I was studying IT and he began asking me questions, and I helped him out. He explained that his son-in-law was moving down from London to set up his IT business in Dorset and asked if he could take my email in case his son-in-law needed an extra hand. His son-in-law was Lee, who runs IT Support Business, now Vistech. I gave him my email and I did not think anything of it after that.
2–3 weeks later, I received an email from Lee. We went for a pint and got on well, and we began working together. It was great working with Lee; I worked with him for about 4–5 years, but I realised that he wanted to run a more corporate-style business. I discovered that I preferred a more relationship-style business, and this is when I decided to set up Oh-Tech. I wanted to create a business with relationships at the forefront and that is why I communicate with the Owner or Managing Director of every company I work with, including in bigger businesses. I did not want to be seen as a third party but more as part of the business, part of the team. I personally feel that this works better. I set up the business 6 years ago, in 2016, when I was 25–26.
The thing that I love about IT is that it is always changing. I love problem-solving and the nitty gritty side. Sometimes you have to work backwards. I find it fun. I looked up to the men in my family who had their own businesses and I wanted to be the same as them, but I also had my own mindset of where I wanted to go when working at Vistech. A combination of these things made me want to set up my own IT business.
2. What hurdles did you face and how did you overcome them?
I started off as a 1-man band and I was picking up small companies as clients. But I struggled to pick up bigger companies. When you are a 1-man band, bigger companies see you as a risk. If you were on holiday, or got sick, they worry that they could be left without someone knowing their systems. So, I partnered with other IT companies in the UK that acted as a back-up so they had that reassurance that someone would always be available. This helped me enormously to get over that hurdle. As I started to grow, I took on staff, and now I have 7 people who work for me.
When I was in my 20s, I felt that my age was held against me. One company stated that, because of my age, they felt that I did not have the skillset. I found it crazy, as I had been working with computers for 10 years and probably knew more IT systems than most people working in IT. This became easier as I got older.
Another hurdle I faced was during COVID. I hired a new staff member when remote working was the norm and realised that their growth was slow. Without being in an office, they did not have a chance to ask questions, the opportunity to jump in and help, or to learn from the more experienced staff. So, the way I overcame this was to rotate them with senior members of staff when they went out to different locations, and I saw them learn and grow more quickly. Now, I offer hybrid working, which is going well. I love staff who want to learn and I also put them on courses. For example, one of my staff is studying Microsoft Architect in his free time and we are funding it. I love seeing a thirst for learning. Having happy employees is important to me.
3. What is an ideal customer for Oh-Tech?
I find this hard to answer. As we are based in Dorset, we work predominantly with businesses of all sizes in the South of England, but we also enjoy working with companies all over the UK that have IT support needs and want to get the best out of their IT. We have customers in Bournemouth, all the way up to Scotland.
4. What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt?
My most valuable lesson that I have learnt is that, if you say you are going to do something, then do it. It is about being accountable. This was engrained into me at a young age.
5. What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you could go back in time?
Be more care-free and enjoy life, as you never know when your last day will be.
6. What are your future goals for your company?
I want to grow the business steadily in the right way and continue to strengthen the trust with our customers.
I want to be able to look after my employees and keep them on good wages; it matters to me that they have good lives. I want to make sure that they are not worried about money as that stress can impact them and also affect work. I also believe that, if you invest in the people around you, they give back.
By the time I am 45, I would like to be able to step back, have 4 days off and enjoy weekends.
7. How has Bizpedia benefited you and your business?
Bizpedia has introduced me to new customers I wouldn’t have met without the club. I have been a member for about a year and have gained a 10x return on investment to date. Within 24 months, it is looking like it will be a 25x return on investment.
The club also allows me to meet other likeminded business owners and to get advice when needed. I have gained a lot of knowledge. Everyone is so supportive and kind.
8. What is the best holiday you have had?
A holiday I had in Italy in 2017 for just over 2 weeks. My wife and I visited Rome, Florence, Venice and Lake Garda. I am a culture and history nerd and we visited temples and churches, and tried the local cuisine. We dined out every night. The places were stunning, and just having some quality time with my wife was fantastic.
9. If you could meet anyone, who would you want to meet and why?
Ricky Gervais. I would love to go for a beer with him as he makes me laugh and speaks a lot of sense. He also loves animals (as do I) and he has good views on comedy. I would like to know what led him to be so care-free as it is something I admire in him.
We would like to thank Kyle for his time. If you would like to speak to Kyle, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.