Axis: Small, Nimble and Powerful

portsmouthherald

PORTSMOUTH — Axis Business Solutions is a technology company, but don’t expect its president, Peter Estes, to present himself as the most technical savvy person in the building.

“I’m not the most technical person in the company,” Estes said. “It’s all about resources and getting the best resources, knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, and hiring people that can complement and enhance what you do.”

“That’s not a technical thing,” he added, “that’s just a life thing.”

Estes said he hires the best people he can find for the kind of high-tech services Axis offers. That model has helped him grow clients, grow revenue, grow his headcount … and outgrow building space.

He expects revenue growth of 30 percent this year and anticipates 50 percent growth next year. He’s gone from one employee — him — when the founded the company 13 years ago, to nine employees five years ago, to 34 employees today.

He started in Portsmouth in 2003 at 55 Green St. in what used to be a Portsmouth train station. He outgrew that space and ultimately moved the operation two and a half years ago to its current 5,400-square-foot space at 57 Green St.

Axis Business Solutions describes itself as “a full-service technology provider, expertly offering a wide range of traditional and emerging technological solutions, including Cloud, managed services, telcom, print, and procurement.”

According to Estes, the company has three major disciplines: professional services (such as IT management), technical services (telecom, for example), and emerging technologies (“that can help our clients into the future,” as Estes put it).

“The key there for us is that they all intertwine,” he said. “That’s what I attribute our growth to. In this area, for sure, there was a gap. You have people that do some of those professional services, but they’re not equipped to take you into emerging technologies.”

He added: “Those two things usually don’t marry. There’s an emerging technologies company or a technical/professional services company. When you put them both together, that’s where I think the demands of clients were, to have one place to go for both of those things.”

Too often, according to Estes, companies are forced into what he describes as a “box” when it comes to technical services – companies have to choose certain set services for certain set recurring fees.

“Putting people in boxes doesn’t give clients a competitive advantage,” Estes said. “Listening to their desired solutions around their true business needs gives them an advantage in the marketplace. And that’s what we’re selling to our clients.”

“It’s like buying a car,” added Estes, “you may not need all that stuff, but you’re going to pay for it.”

According to Estes, Axis tailors a customer’s technical needs and prices it accordingly.

Estates believes word of mouth, as opposed to full-fledged marketing campaigns, has helped Axis grow in the past and will help continue its growth in the future.

“It reminds me of that shampoo commercial where two friends tell two friends, and they tell two friends,” Estes said. “Clients in certain industries talk to other clients in their industries: ‘Have you heard of these guys, this is what they do for us.’”

That word of mouth is also spread, literally, by the talking Axis’s experts do at professional seminars the company regular sponsors throughout the region.

“We see an obligation in what we do to educate our community about technology. We’re doing a couple of those a month. We do them all over northern New England. That helps a lot of folks understand who we are and what we do,” he said.

Estes’ educational background is in history and political science as a 1990 graduate of Providence College. He wanted to be a lawyer; in fact, he had a Navy ROTC scholarship to become a lawyer for the Navy’s Judge Advocate General.

But Estes said he had too much of an entrepreneurial spirit for the button-down life of law. He had worked a variety of jobs, and after college headed to San Francisco where he worked for a communications company and became exposed for the first time to emerging technologies.

He is happy to be in what he calls the “tech rich” Seacoast, and is excited about the prospect of growth at Axis, but limited growth. He wants to cap his headcount at 50 from the 34 he has today.

The not-too-big culture creates a place where people like to work, where people will remain, according to Estes.

“When I started the company it was on very basic principle that your life didn’t need to revolve around your work that work could revolve around your life. And I think that culture does carry through with the culture we have here,” he said.

Capping the number of employees, said Estes, keeps Axis “small enough where we can be nimble and react to our customers’ specific needs. That’s exactly what makes us successful today.”

– See more at: http://www.seacoastonline.com