After ringing up big success in the mobile accessories business, Genuine Solutions Group is looking to artificial intelligence for its next phase of growth.
A twin business model has worked wonders for Surbiton-based Genuine Solutions Group.
On the one hand, the firm distributes the latest mobile accessories to smartphone-hungry consumers in an increasing number of international territories, through Genuine Solutions Ltd.
Meanwhile its other business, GSUK, has built a reputation for recycling the same products for reuse as they become obsolete, working on behalf of manufacturers, insurance companies, national retailers and mobile network operators.
It’s a strategy characterised by co-founder Chris McBride as “divide and conquer” – and it’s done just that, driving the group to a 130-strong UK workforce, with exports to more than 50 countries.
Shrewdly, Chris and co-founder Bav Majithia recognised early on that the firm could benefit by offering an environmental solution even while feeding demand for fast-evolving gadgets.
“Society is focused on environmental impacts, and our industry is a significant contributor to that,” Chris says. “In the UK alone, 26 million handsets were sold last year. We’re able to reduce the impact by recovering products and reprocessing them.”
Location: Surbiton, Surrey
Challenges: Finding and recruiting the right people as the business grows
Opportunities: Expansion into the wider technology sector
But Genuine Solutions’ next phase of growth will see it diversify into even more revolutionary devices.
“Technology is converging, with the impact of the artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things,” Chris notes.
“We’re gearing ourselves up to go beyond the traditional marketplace focused on telecoms. We see potential opportunities in AI and connected devices from both the distribution and recycling point of view, which we believe will see us grow by another 20% over the next 12 to 18 months. After that, we’ll be seeking external investment to go out with a fairly aggressive mergers and acquisitions plan.”
Among the many challenges the business will face in these new ventures is to maintain its distinctive culture. Its engagement with employees has earned it accreditation from workplace engagement specialists Best Companies as a great place to work.
It’s probably this award that Chris is most proud of – though there are plenty to choose from in the company’s trophy cabinet. The Silver Investors in People accreditation, rare in the telecoms sector, is another satisfying accolade.
Genuine Solutions has also earned a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of its promise in international trade. It has won praise from the Department for International Trade after boosting its proportion of overseas revenue to 70%.
The overseas advance continues, most recently with the launch of a New York operation. “There’s not a requirement to set up a facility there, but we deployed a strategy to send out one of our senior guys on secondment to the States and establish boots on the ground,” says Chris.
“We’re gearing ourselves up to go beyond the traditional marketplace focused on telecoms.”
Genuine Solutions Co-founder
“Genuine Solutions has a clear and impressive strategy in place to build on its growth over the next few years.”
As it puts the finishing touches to its new strategy, the company has Haines Watts at its side – where it has been since Genuine Solutions was a start-up in 2005.
As a fledgling business, Genuine Solutions received essential guidance from Haines Watts in areas ranging from record-keeping and VAT returns to payroll and banking. And later, as the firm became bigger, the support it required became more sophisticated, Chris recalls.
“We were very lucky in the early years in being able to leverage relationships with existing contacts to find people we wanted to work with,” he says. “But as we grew, we had to branch out with a people strategy and succession planning to achieve our growth ambitions.”
Haines Watts pointed Genuine Solutions to candidates for a couple of key posts and saved the company hefty agency fees in the process. “Supporting our recruitment was something we wouldn’t have expected from an accounting firm,” Chris admits.
Haines Watts’ ability to “really get under the skin of the business” has been critical as Genuine Solutions has grown and will be equally as important in the company’s next phase, Chris adds.
“Haines Watts will be advising us in a number of different ways – providing a sense check for our plans, ensuring they’re sustainable and advising on potential acquisitions.”
“Genuine Solutions has a clear and impressive strategy in place to build on its growth over the next few years.
At Haines Watts we’ve helped to facilitate that new plan, partly by inviting the owners to attend one of our workshops with other like-minded business owners. It’s just a way of giving people headspace away from day-to-day pressures, to better assess each area of the business objectively.
We’re also acting as a sounding board as part of a new non-executive team that will come together quarterly. The leaders of the business are strong characters, and we’ll be there to challenge their decisions and help them maintain a clear focus.
Besides responding swiftly whenever advice is needed, we’ve been able to suggest more fundamental ways to improve the business. For instance, we carried out an assessment of its finance function, and recommended potential recruits to fill the skills gaps.
And since the new strategy includes 30 potential projects to develop new systems and processes, we believe Genuine Solutions will be eligible for R&D tax relief. We’re now supporting the firm to put together what I think will be a strong R&D claim.”