For Neil Nicolson, director at Systal Technology Solutions, creating a successful IT business is all about people. Specifically, it’s about giving individuals the confidence to make good decisions – having first surrounded them with good governance.

‘Organisations often limit individuals,’ Nicolson says. ‘Even when we bring in older, experienced individuals, it’s about imposing a culture on them and allowing them to make decisions.’

That’s why the Robroyston-based provider of enterprise-wide technological solutions, which was founded in 2008 by Nicolson and fellow directors Gary O’Neil and Douglas Cumming, doesn’t follow the contract-based model that is so common in the IT industry. Neither does it rely on an offshore work force. Instead the company’s success is built on locally based full-time employees.

‘Many technology companies are all about return on equity with less reliance on the individual,’ says Nicolson. ‘We took a different view.’

Systal targets return on people rather than return on equity, investing in apprentices and graduate trainees, as well as ongoing professional development. The aim is to empower employees to go out and do what they want to do. This isn’t just a nice philanthropic vision but hard business sense.

‘Once employees have bought into what we are doing as an organisation, we invest in them and clients invest in them as well,’ says Nicolson.

As a result, Systal doesn’t have a strong brand name, but that doesn’t matter too much because its business arrangements are long-term. The company has, for example, just signed a five-year extension with Unipart Group.

Systal has built its reputation on fixing clients’ problems effectively and fast. In crisis situations in particular, Systal’s empowered full-time employees allow it to respond in the most appropriate way, Nicolson believes. This builds trust and loyalty.

Nicolson cites the example of a major security crisis six months ago at one of the large enterprises with which Systal works. The crisis unravelled within two hours, and Systal sent out a team of 20 people to engage with the customer to fix its issues.

‘Because we empowered our management team around that customer, we were able to help them,’ Nicolson says. ‘We know we’ll get rewards out of that. They’ll remember who stood with them and who didn’t.’

Systal’s people-centred approach certainly seems to have worked for it thus far. The company was named Scottish Power supplier of the year in November 2017, and its team has grown to 142 since it started 10 years ago with three people. It currently services clients in 63 countries, largely as a result of organic expansion. All its customers are headquartered in the UK, but word of mouth within organisations has pulled the company into different areas.

‘Our customer set has taken us to Hong Kong, Europe and now the US,’ says Nicolson. ‘We now support the majority of our customers globally.’

Early on, the company’s organic growth created a need for a wide talent pool, prompting the company to move from Edinburgh to Glasgow.

‘We moved because of how fast we were growing,’ says Nicolson. ‘In Glasgow, we have access to three great universities and 1.8 million people within a 30-mile radius.’

To boost its ranks, Systal runs graduate open days twice a year, typically recruiting four to five graduates per year. An apprenticeship scheme for school leavers brings in the same number. Across both schemes, only one person has ever left, thanks to careful selection.

‘It’s about personalities as much as anything else,’ says Nicolson. ‘We’re looking for people who have strong initiative and a real willingness to learn and develop. It’s hard work here because the tech industry changes so fast.’

The company has grown significantly each year since its inception and aims to reach an annual turnover of £60 million within the next three years. In January 2018, it announced the creation of 30 new specialist jobs in the incident management team. For Nicolson, allowing employees to fulfil their creativity remains the main goal as the company expands.

‘I enjoy giving a platform for success to our people, especially people who have struggled to express themselves elsewhere,’ he says.