Genmar IT: The Nigerian back story to a Bishop's Stortford business celebrating its 25th anniversary
Garry Moore, managing director of Bishop's Stortford business Genmar IT, writes a monthly column on IT for the Indie...
A few weeks ago I noticed my LinkedIn account was showing a large number of messages from contacts all congratulating me on achieving 25 years at Genmar. I was a bit taken aback as I thought it was our 25th anniversary in 2022, but it seems LinkedIn was right!
This got me thinking about the journey over a quarter of a century, how our industry has changed and how we have changed with it.
I am often asked how the name came about as it is unusual. Before I started in IT, I worked for a large PLC as the MD of a start-up in West Africa, mainly Nigeria. In the late 1980s and early 1990s we worked on government supervision programmes, inspecting cargoes for export and import for both quality and quantity. These were mainly crude oil and products, but also more interesting cargoes such as cocoa, gum arabic and coffee.
Due to the odd nature of doing business in Nigeria, we were advised to set up a UK company and, while attempting to incorporate the Nigerian end, we were told that the name we wanted would cost some exorbitant amount. We suggested they tell us what names would be acceptable for a more tolerable amount and they suggested General Marine or a shortened version of Genmar. We incorporated both Genmar Nigeria Ltd and Genmar UK Ltd in September 1996.
On completion of the contracts we returned to the UK with our fledgling family and settled in Henham. Looking for new opportunities, I decided to open an IT company with a good friend. We found a great location in a double-fronted shop on The Causeway just opposite the war memorial. Genmar UK Ltd no longer traded, so I decided to use it as the name for the new business.
Opening seven days a week for up to 10 hours a day, we worked hard to get the business off the ground, offering custom-built computers to both businesses and residential customers. This soon evolved into offering support and other services to local businesses, many of whom are still valued customers today.
Despite suffering three floods and four break-ins, we were saddened when some seven years later we were confronted with a demand from the landlords to vacate as our shop, along with the rest of our neighbours, was to be demolished to make way for the new shopping centre and multi-storey car park, giving us three months' notice to find new premises.
We soon found out that this was no easy task. The rent and rates on our little shop was about £10,000 per annum whereas the only available alternatives in the town were out of our reach. If I remember rightly, there was a gallery we looked at on South Street at £50,000 per annum.
At the end of our tether, we started looking out of town at the various industrial units and we found a very run-down ex-MoT unit at the bottom of Raynham Road with an asbestos roof full of holes, but it was the only place we could afford. Fate stepped in – as we drove out, we saw a sign at the top of the road advertising units for rent at The Links Business Centre. After a quick call to the landlords we soon moved into our new home.
We were initially concerned that being tucked away on an industrial estate would mean losing walk-in trade, but were very grateful to find our loyal customers still with us and a whole bunch of new ones. So much so that, a few years later, we took the option on the adjoining unit, allowing us to expand both the business support and the workshop to meet demand.
As computers became more reliable, along with home users becoming more computer literate, the need for repairs waned. At the same time businesses became more IT reliant, pushing us into the managed services arena. Due to some excellent staff, we became an early adopter of cloud technology and were one of the first managed service provider in the UK to offer hosted private cloud services such as remote desktop.
This saw our customer base grow along with the area we covered. New customers from all over the UK, and a few overseas, came to us mainly through referrals, allowing us to grow into the company we are today.
When I started Genmar all those years ago in the oil game in West Africa, I would never have guessed that it would end up in Bishop's Stortford as an IT company. While I take great pride in the work I put in to get it here, it is really down to the staff and, more importantly, the loyalty and support of all our customers, both residential and business, over the years.
To celebrate this anniversary we are holding a party in August at our premises and will be inviting any customers who want to come and join us for a drink and a bite to eat. Here's to the next 25 years!
See genmar.co.uk to find out more.