Dean Grossmith, who has just set up his own company called Deagro Computer Know-How Ltd, belongs to a new breed of businessmen just starting out in the UK computer industry who have taught themselves how to program using languages such as dBase. The company, which is based in East Horsley, Surrey aims to offer computer […]
Dean Grossmith, who has just set up his own company called Deagro Computer Know-How Ltd, belongs to a new breed of businessmen just starting out in the UK computer industry who have taught themselves how to program using languages such as dBase. The company, which is based in East Horsley, Surrey aims to offer computer expertise to businesses in the South East. Correction, the company aims to offer computer know-how to businesses in the South East. The distinction is key to understanding the philosophy behind companies such as Deagro, which are not hung up on professional parlance or formal approaches, but which are nevertheless based on astute business acumen. Grossmith had his first taste of computing at Guildford Technical College where, while doing a business studies course, he learnt some Basic on mainframe. After working for a small, London-based unit trust company for a short time, Grossmith entered employment at the banking and investment house Schroders. He began, as most Schroders recruits do, in administration. His particular department was pension fund management, and he quickly became involved in the development of the company’s computerisation planning. Self-financed His interest in this field was sparked off by the design of spreadsheets and the potential use of big databases. His fascination with computer development was given time to grow at Schroder’s research department within investment management, where, in his own time, he carried out research into the problems of small businesses. He came to the conclusion that many businesses had bought computers on the back of white heat hype, and did not really understand their full potential and what they could add to a business. Many such businesses require a lot of very simple advice on how to devise a spreadsheet, get their hardware, software and printer working together and so on. With this research under his belt, Grossmith left Schroders to set up his own company, Deagro, in an effort to fill this know-how and support gap. The venture is completely self-financed and, at first, is catering for businesses with 15 or more employees who belong to the age group that missed out on a computer education but who have picked up a knowledge of word processing and spreadsheets, and now need help and support to get more benefits out of the computers too often sitting idle in the office. Consequently, Grossmith is currently to be found at business clubs in the Surrey and Thames Valley area stimulating latent demand. His service includes defining computer requirements, proposing the necessary systems, advising on hardware and software, designing specialist software, training users, helping with day-to-day issues and planning future developments. The second Deagro strategy involves packaging software for niche markets. To this end Grossmith has already developed a program for newsagents called Quick News which retails for UKP1,700, thereby considerably undercutting rival packages such as that offered by Computer 100 which costs over UKP3,000. The package requires an IBM micro with hard disk and printer, and its low price stems from the fact that it is menu-driven with easy-to understand windows so that users don’t need so much training to handle the program. Grossmith feels that price is important in such a price sensitive market, and that the computer industry’s penetration of newsagents is essentially a marketing problem. It follows that he is hoping to combat this problem by recruiting a sales team from trades like Do It Yourself where the social and educational level is comparable to that of the people he wants to sell his packages to. Although it is something of an understatement to say that the newsagent business is not highly computerised at the moment, this, according to Grossmith, is about to change as the big retailers move in on newsagencies with the intention of streamlining their operations. Other niche markets on the Deagro horizon are accounting packages for general practitioners on the one hand, and the Do It Yourself trade on the other. Apparently, DIY
retailers outside the majors are not well served by computerisation at the moment, something which is again likely to change in the near future. Last but by no means least in Grossmith’s eyes, Deagro will offer consultancy services to financial institutions. This arm of the business will draw on its chairman’s experience within investment banking at Schroders where he helped to develop a support database system to analyse information which aids fund management decision making. Deagro believes that the future of database products within large financial institutions lies with Structured Query Language, SQL. For since it has fewer than 30 commands, it is quick to learn and implement, and has the advantage that it is enjoying something of a renaissance in the micro environment. As soon as it is fully implemented at the desktop level it will offer hardware savings by enabling an SQL server to draw data down from dBase IV and will thus become a feasible management tool. Politicking While Grossmith evidently owes a lot of his knowledge and insight to his career experiences at Schroders, one aspect of working within a large City company that he is happy to leave behind is what members of the Tudor Court termed politicking. A not unbecoming glint of idealism enters his eyes as he talks enthusiastically about the Computer Management Group’s open management strategy, saying that, everyone should know everything within a company as well as have a financial share in the company’s fortunes. And that is clearly the philosophy behind Deagro. As regards his position in a trend of young businessmen within the computer industry Grossmith acknowledges that the difference between the new generation of entrepreneurs and their predecessors is that they have taught themselves from their position as end-users and worked backwards, and have communication and management skills that other generations of programmers have sadly lacked. Therefore, not only do people like Grossmith know that MS-DOS and the 80286 have a lot of life left in them and offer the best solutions for their type of client, they can personally explain why. All in all, Dean Grossmith looks to have a long future ahead of him, especially if one takes into consideration the fact that he is presently only 23 years old.