EBS is 40
EBS is 40 years old this year. When I was asked to write a short newsletter introduction about this topic, I thought wow, where do I start? Unbelievable as it might sound, we do still have a couple of customers who were there at the start and have grown their business alongside ours. However, for the majority of our customers, it’s fair to say that the history of EBS is probably not something that people know much about. So, here goes.
Electronic Business Systems Ltd was incorporated in 1979, but actually started trading in 1980. It originally sold business machines including fax, typewriters and early business computer hardware.
EBS was owned by 4 people, Fred Chamberlain, Peter Godden, Len Bane and Patrick Underwood. Fred was in charge of sales and was MD, Peter was stationery and consumables, Len was a hardware engineer and Patrick was product development. EBS was located close to Spaghetti Junction on the Tyburn Road in Birmingham. We also had a sister company called Albany Office Equipment, which sold stationery and consumables to accompany the hardware and office equipment that we sold. Albany Office Equipment had a showroom on Birmingham’s famous Broad Street.
In the early 80s EBS won a contract to supply the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) with hardware which would print DWP giro cheques for the unemployed and benefit claimants. By the mid-80s EBS had written software to run on a new style giro machine which allowed the automated processing and more secure giro printing. We also produced a version for HMRC which allowed them to upload of a list of recipients to the giro machine for continuous multiple printing rather than each giro being processed individually.
In the late 80s EBS started selling a software called ‘Fairway’ which was an ERP solution for bookkeeping and accounting. Due to obtaining the source code, Fairway could be altered and bespoked to a client’s specification.
I joined EBS in autumn 1987 as a 20 year old to assist in the accounts department and hopefully become a software developer.
In the very early 90s EBS became a Sky Software reseller. SkyBase was an ERP solution build upon a language called RETRIEVE 4GL. Sky Software became Sage and SkyBase became Line100 (and subsequently Sage 200) very shortly afterwards.
I left EBS in 1996 to start my own business reselling and developing Sage solutions.
In 1999 two of the owners retired, I re-joined EBS in 2000 on the understanding that I would be able to acquire the business when the other two owners retired.
Patrick Underwood retired in 2002. EBS then acquired Myratech, which was one of the UK’s leading Sage resellers. Then EBS relocated to bigger premises which were still on Tyburn road.
In 2005, the first version of our in-house developed REACT case management software was released, written in Microsoft Access. REACT was written for a client in social housing to case manage anti-social behaviour, and has subsequently now grown to be the UK’s leading community safety case management solution.
Fred Chamberlain decided to retire in 2007 and true to his word, I was offered EBS and was able to undertake a management buyout. No sooner had the sale completed, the world plunged into the financial crisis and the UK nosedived straight into the ‘Great Recession’, which was an extremely unwelcome introduction to running a business!
Over the following years, EBS has shown steady and incremental growth and has now doubled in size. Our Sage department and Hardware/Technical Services department work well together with many clients consuming both services from us. EBS has always believed in delivering excellent customer service and communication built upon its foundation of trust and openness. With these fundamentals in place we find our clients trust us to deliver the correct solution and services upon which their business can depend and grow. Indeed, we have our company motto (stencilled onto an entire wall in the office), ‘The best way to build trust, is to actually be trustworthy‘.
And so we come to 2020, 40 years on, and what a difficult year it has been for us all. Like all SMEs, we have grappled with COVID-19 and seen parts of our business all but disappear. However, we have also seen growth in other areas such as home-working, threat protection and web based telephony. We are lucky enough to have a business model built on recurring revenue, and as such are we in a great position to successfully navigate through the pandemic. I could write a complete newsletter on our COVID experience, but perhaps that’s for another time.
I sincerely hope that your business navigates the difficult period we find ourselves in and emerges stronger and more successful than before. Under normal circumstances we would be throwing a big birthday party for all our clients and suppliers, but this is sadly not to be for obvious reasons. No doubt, when we are all free to gather again in the same location we will ensure your invite will be winging its way to you.
Jason Tullah, Managing Director