Sheila Ebbutt, Managing Director & Martha Matthews, Production Assistant
This company began life as an advisory project for maths teachers within local government in 1987. Islington Education Authority took over BEAM in 1990 although it eventually became self-funded three years ago. As maths education specialists, BEAM caters for nursery teachers through to secondary schools teachers. They have also extended their portfolio to contract publishing and consultancy with clients like the BBC.
Back in 1990, BEAM’s staff comprised of Sheila Ebbutt, now the Managing Director, plus one part time member of staff but has now grown to a team of thirty. They are still based in Islington but have moved to larger premises where we met Sheila and production assistant, Martha Matthews.
SupportPlan & Beam Education
BEAM is a Mac based operation as they started as a design publication business and chose to keep Macs for all of the administration and operating systems. Sheila explained that she’d experienced a lot of problems with computer maintenance for Macs and had moved support companies a number of times due to receiving very bad treatment. She told us, "I was tearing my hair out! They all seemed completely hopeless. They didn’t respond to our calls, gave bad advice — it was just appalling." Out of desperation, Sheila looked in Mac User and after contacting several companies SupportPlan came back with a very user friendly and accessible sounding brief. "Since then I’ve developed a very good relationship with the people within the company and I’ve never felt inclined to try anyone else." She added, "We’ve had very good advice from SupportPlan. They helped develop the whole network system when we moved premises. They’ve given us genuine solutions."
BEAM has its own mail order service and large databases and Sheila explained, "We can’t afford for our server to go down and that’s why we were prepared to spend money on a reliable service." They have SupportPlan’s Premium service contract, which includes eight-hour call outs, OS issues, parts, labour, and unlimited telephone support. Sheila said, "We’ve had a few problems along the way with the server but SupportPlan has responded very well in the middle of a fairly big audit for Justin and he has every confidence in their handling of it. The project is to update their main database and servers. Justin explained, "We’re predominately Apple Mac and the new Mac OS is out. Apple haven’t done anything so dramatic in years so it’s important, from a commercial point of view, to get this done."
Justin recalled a recent situation when they bought a new data base software, "We didn’t have any experience of using it so SupportPlan came in and set up the server for us and carried out the initial installation." He continued, "If we have a problem with it now we know that they're there to help and it’s given us the breathing space to actually develop the product itself. If it hadn’t been for SupportPlan we would’ve had to buy someone in as a full-time resource." Justin laughed, "I’m rather singing their praises! That’s unusual for me to praise service resources because in the past other companies have been very frustrating."