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Harwell BIC Planet IT: Picture: Ric Mellis

Planet IT wins major award and expands to new offices

A friendship that began at an Oxford school when two 12 year olds, Gavin Jones and Sean Smith, embarked on a car washing service, has grown to see the duo become successful business partners and founders of Planet IT, a multimillion pound company that celebrates its 15th anniversary this year with an office move from Harwell Innovation Centre to premises at Milton Park in addition to beating 2,500 competitors to be crowned the Sophos Partner of the Year 2018.

Planet IT first moved to Harwell Innovation Centre in 2005 where the company expanded five times during its tenure, taking office space ranging from 125 sq. ft. to 1,500 sq. ft. plus two satellite offices.

With business thriving and boasting national clients such as The Royal Household, Museum of London, Royal College of Music & Drama and media giants Conde Nast (Vogue Magazine), the company graduates from Harwell Innovation Centre to secure a three year lease for a 2,700 sq. ft. office at 80F Park Drive, enabling Planet IT to expand by recruiting a further 14 technical engineers over the next 18 – 24 months.  The company currently employs 34 people in Oxfordshire and 20 people in Barnstaple, Devon.

Gavin Jones, Co-founder and Managing Director of Planet IT, said: “We have been on a crazy journey and are now looking forward to growing our Oxfordshire client base and team, but we can’t thank Harwell Innovation Centre enough for the support they have provided us since we took a two-man office 13 years ago.  It was quite a daunting prospect when first starting out, but the centre team and being surrounded by like-minded companies made it feel less of a risk.  We have benefitted hugely from the centre’s flexibility over the years, being able to expand significantly and no less than five times, without costly overheads and upheaval to the business.

Harwell Innovation Centre is managed by Oxford Innovation, a leading operator of innovation centres with 24 across the UK.   The company’s Managing Director, Jo Willett, helped to establish the centre and has been on hand to help Planet IT blossom into the company it is today, in line with her own career progression.

Jo Willett, Managing Director, Oxford Innovation, said: “Gavin and Sean have achieved notable success with high profile clients and have experienced significant business growth.  It has been a pleasure to support Planet IT’s journey, which proves what can be achieved from personal drive and ambition combined with a great team and business support. We look forward to hearing about their continued success.”

Harwell BIC Planet IT: Picture: Ric Mellis

Planet IT offers consultancy services, project management and operates as a managed service provider (MSP) as well as reseller.  The company provides an IT services and support team for over 150 companies nationally as well as 60 businesses in Oxfordshire including Oxford Space Systems, Slade Legal and Oxford Pharmagenisis, plus, has sold hardware and software to 2,000 clients across the UK, US and Europe since 2003.

Gavin Jones said: “Our journey hasn’t always been plain sailing.  We saw constant growth throughout the early years and recession, before hitting a sticky period lasting about three years.  Since then, we’ve changed our approach and have really turned things round, progressing from being a reseller to becoming fully immersed in projects combined with investment in our talented team to ensure we provide clients with immediate access to knowledge and expertise they may not possess in-house.”

Following a change in strategy, Planet IT’s turnover jumped from £3.5million in 2015 to £5million in 2016 and £7million in 2017.  The first quarter of 2018 looks set to make its 15th year in business a record breaking year.

Gavin Jones concluded: “I would like to personally thank Jo Willett and Harwell Innovation Centre’s reception teams who have always gone above and beyond to support our business.  For anybody thinking of taking the leap to lease office space, an innovation centre can really help to nurture your business, promote collaborations and provide a friendly front of house team for any visiting clients, not to mention flexibility in terms of expanding and hiring meeting room space.”

To find out more about Planet IT’s business journey, community work to encourage more girls to opt for a career in IT or for help with IT services, visit: planet-it.net.

Harwell Innovation Centre is located at the prestigious Harwell Campus, South Oxfordshire, a UK Enterprise Zone and in the heart of Science Vale UK. The centre has business facilities and a commercial infrastructure to support over 60 companies, from single entrepreneurs to expanding businesses.   Find out more at www.harwell-ic.co.uk