We recently caught up with Alex Welsh, our Regional Sales Manager in Toowoomba, Queensland to understand how he and the local efex team support our customers and the community.
You’re accent gives it away Alex! You’re from the UK. How did you find your way to efex in Toowoomba?
My accent is hard to miss isn’t it? I’m originally from the UK but have called Australia home since 2012 when my Lockyer Valley-born wife and I moved to Toowoomba. You could say I found my way to the technology industry because I wasn’t hitting enough sixes in my cricket career! I have a business and sports management degree from Loughborough University which helps me understand what my customers want to achieve for their businesses when they’re investing in technology.
Who works with you at efex in Toowoomba, and how far geographically does your branch reach?
We look after a large geographic footprint from our base in Toowoomba. We cover from the NSW border to west of Roma and north to Kingaroy. You need to enjoy spending time in the car in this job!
Our Toowoomba team consists of three Senior Technicians, Allan Casey, Phil Swenson and Keith Peacock. We also have Project Engineer Gareth Lloyd, Cloud Specialist Reece Wise, and Sarah Locke is our Service Works Controller. Rounding it out we have Technician Brian Fisher who works from our Roma base.
What excites you the most about providing IT services to businesses in your local area?
What's exciting is the difference we can make in people’s businesses. We learn about the challenges they’re facing and what they’d like to achieve. It’s often quite an in-depth conversation about the business from which we develop a tech solution. When they adopt some of the technology we offer, it can be powerful. However, we understand that technology is just the enabler to reaching their goals or operating in a better and more efficient way.
An example is a local business I met in its start-up phase. The owner wanted to lease an office space. We showed her different ways of working using the right Microsoft365 suite of products which meant she could work from anywhere. The cost of the M365 licences were far cheaper than the office lease costs. The financial impact of saving on an office lease at that time was huge as she needed the cash to invest in other aspects of her business. She’s subsequently moved into an office space but it’s for the right reasons now the business has grown. That outcome is really satisfying and part of what keeps me energised about my role.
What do you enjoy most about living in the local area? Any favourite local spots?
Toowoomba has so much going for it. It has big city advantages with country town soul. It operates in its own little bubble and by that, I mean the house prices aren’t as volatile like other parts of Australia. There’s a great community of people that value those that do the right thing which translates into long-term loyalty. And there are some strong businesses run from this region. It’s great to see great job opportunities growing here. And it’s a bonus there’s no traffic!
My favourite major event is the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, including the Food & Wine Festival, which is held each September. We see a lot of tourists visit just to enjoy the Carnival and all it offers.
Personally, I love how beautiful this region is. There are so many trees, parks and greenery. It’s just a picturesque part of the world so it’s hard to nominate just one favourite spot.
How do you and your team contribute to the local community?
efex is part of the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE). It’s an independent, member-run body that helps attract and develop businesses in this area which trickles into business and employment growth opportunities for locals. For example, we helped a large Canadian company when it moved its head office to Toowoomba. The Canadian owners were able to tap into the local workforce and expertise, including engaging with efex as their technology partner. It’s such a win-win for everyone if we can support bigger businesses to operate effectively here. It means jobs, skills and growth for other local businesses.
On a personal level, I’m involved with local cricket. I'm on the committee for my local cricket club and get involved where I can with Toowoomba cricket tournaments. I may not have turned cricket into a profession, which is what my 18-year-old self hoped, but it’s something I’m still passionate about.
Gareth is passionate about supporting local businesses and people. He volunteers with Rotary and Civic Assist Safe Night Precinct Street Crew. Rotary has done some fabulous things including a massive bike ride fundraiser and built a patient lounge for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Gareth’s role with Civic Assist Safe Night Precinct Street Crew involves providing first aid, offering water, support and welfare checks to ensure the safety of people whose night in the Toowoomba CBD hasn’t turned out as expected. He really does an amazing job of giving back to the community.
Can you share a success story or a memorable experience of how your team helped a local business overcome a significant IT challenge?
The Canadian company that moved its head office to Toowoomba is an interesting example. They were total newcomers so needed introductions around the area and of course staff, services and infrastructure.
They literally started in an empty shed in Toowoomba and now operate nationally. They’ve become a very good customer to efex. We have a similar story because like us they now have an Australia-wide footprint. It makes their lives easy dealing with just one technology partner that can support their dispersed operations. For example, they may ring us needing a laptop in regional Victoria and I can tap into efex’s branch network to get them the gear and support they need, wherever they need it.
Are there any unique challenges or opportunities that come with providing IT services in your specific regional area?
One of the primary challenges for this area is staffing. While there are exceptional operators in Toowoomba, I feel like there’s not quite enough to cater to everyone. The difference with efex compared to a one-office local tech company, is our national coverage. Realistically 90% of the support customers need can be and is handled remotely. This means they can tap into our national help desk with a deep pool of specialists in any of our hubs - Adelaide, Sunshine Coast, Wollongong, Sydney or one of our other regional branches.
This structure also benefits our local team. Our national resources help the Toowoomba technicians continuously improve their capabilities with formal and peer-to-peer learning. That practical knowledge from working across scores of customers when technology is changing so fast is priceless.
What kind of IT solutions do you believe are crucial for businesses in the local area to thrive in the modern digital landscape?
I think there’s two parts to that. First is cybersecurity - a lot of value can be put on peace of mind. Certainly I know I'm best in my job when I'm not worried or distracted. efex has developed a range of cyber products for different needs and budgets which are good value when it comes to having peace of mind knowing you’re doing what you can to avoid a cyber incident.
The second part is support. For any business operator, freeing yourself up from managing your IT means you can get on with running your business to the best of your ability. I like to think that efex is a partner. It means you don’t have to worry about the tech because we’ve got it covered.
How do you and your team stay updated on the latest technology trends and advancements to better serve local businesses?
Continuous learning is key because everyone knows technology is constantly evolving and cyber criminals are constantly getting smarter. The efex team regularly attend product training sessions to stay on top of hardware and software capabilities. They’re also constantly upskilling through online courses. efex has a great internal platform for training & development which we access frequently. And as I mentioned before, our team share knowledge, experiences, and skills with each other across our national network. It’s through this peer network you really get to know the practical ‘gotchas’ and solutions that you won’t find in a user manual. I think marrying local knowledge with national capability is at the heart of efex’s secret sauce.
Anything you want to particularly call out to your local customers?
Yes! efex is more than printers and copiers. I think a lot of people around here still think of us only when they have a print need. While we may have started as that sort of business, we have expanded into so much more. The phrase one-stop-shop is a bit overdone, but it does reflect what efex is today when it comes to helping businesses with their technology. We offer IT managed services, cyber security solutions, telecommunications including internet, telephones, video conferencing, cloud solutions and the list goes on. If I could urge local businesses to do anything I’d say talk to us when you’re thinking of anything technology related. Chances are we’ll be able to help. And we’ll do that from a business perspective not just a ‘bright shiny tech object’ perspective. Other than that, I’m always up for a chat about the cricket!