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City IT consultant finds digital connectivity in rural Wales

Business hopes to double turnover in 2018.

A former IT specialist, who swapped life in the City of London for rural Carmarthenshire, says his decision is paying off as superfast broadband has helped him build a successful consultancy business.

John Dray advised hedge fund managers and companies in the corporate banking sector on how to manage their IT systems, including areas such as disaster-recovery and cloud computing. Seeking a major lifestyle change, he took the plunge and left to start his own business.

Cloud Genius is a ‘micro-consultancy’ that specialises in implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and building websites for small businesses, charities and voluntary organisations.

After moving the business to Wales, he got a first taste of the challenges that many rural businesses face when looking to embrace new technologies. “I was effectively running an online business, with little need for face-to-face customer interaction but the lack of a reliable high-speed internet connection did create a number of challenges,” recalled Mr Dray.

The arrival of superfast broadband in Carmarthenshire marked a step-change in fortunes for Cloud Genius and Mr Dray started to unlock the potential of his new business. He was immediately able to make cost savings by transferring from the satellite and 4G internet connections previously needed to provide the necessary bandwidth to run the operation. However, it was the time savings that allowed Cloud Genius to more than double its work capacity and put plans in place to grow the business and take on new staff.

“Superfast broadband has really been a game-changer for my business. We’ve introduced Voice-over-Internet calling and increased the amount of online training we do with customers by more than 200%. Uploading customer websites, which used to take half a day, can now be done in under an hour and the possibilities for online file sharing and collaborative working mean that I’ve probably released an extra two days of my time every month. Time I can focus on exploring new opportunities and growing the business.”

Cloud Genius also accessed support from Superfast Business Wales, attending a digital marketing workshop and receiving one-to-one support in areas such as developing digital marketing strategies, social media, advanced analytics and e-marketing.

Mr Dray has already started implementing a number of SFBW’s recommendations, including the creation of a series of animated videos and the development of several new e-mail marketing campaigns, designed to raise awareness of the brand and drive visitor traffic to his website and generate sales.

“I recruited and trained a second member of staff through the Jobs Growth Wales scheme and we have plans to recruit again this summer, in order to meet increasing customer demand,” said Mr Dray. “We are anticipating a 50% increase in turnover over the next 12 months and maximising the use of superfast broadband-enabled technology, alongside the development of a robust digital marketing strategy, is going to be instrumental in achieving this.

“It is clear to me that Welsh Government investment in fibre broadband is already making a difference and is certainly bringing employment to rural areas. The added focus on digital education and training, through organisations like Superfast Business Wales, has the potential to maximise that investment and allow small business owners to be successful, as well as enjoying a good work-life balance.”

John Dray - Cloud Genius

We are anticipating a 50% increase in turnover over the next 12 months... superfast broadband-enabled technology... is going to be instrumental in achieving this.