Published On: Tue, Nov 1st, 2022

Rhonda Ridge, Managing Director of Ab Initio Systems

Facts and Figures:

First Job: Joined NatWest Bank straight from school. 

When did you set up current company: 1995

Most useful gadget: I couldn’t live without an iPhone 

Most useful websites: Slack; and Confluence! Slack for communicating with staff in different locations and with our key suppliers. Confluence for keeping internal and external documentation organised.

Business person you admire: I’m a big Dragons Den fan and especially of the successful ladies on there. They’ve made me realise I don’t have to say yes to everything, that it’s OK to say ‘no this isn’t for me’. You just need to be confident in your own vision. But at the same time, I try to be flexible in my mindset and prepared to listen to ideas from people of all ages and backgrounds.

Lesson about business over the last 12 months: I have realised that I need to step back from day-to-day development, and focus on supporting my staff to handle the day-to-day stuff. That allows me to spend a good proportion of my time on the strategic direction we need to take in the medium and long term.

What has helped you during lockdown: Working from home was great and I think I learned to be more content with the simple things – enjoying a good meal with my family, and my garden. However, I am glad things are returning to normal. To be back in a routine where work and home life don’t merge into one is a definite plus. Best business decision: When we first started selling AdminBase it was usual to sell perpetual software licenses and then charge an annual support fee. Converting to an all-inclusive ‘software as a service’ licensing model was the best thing we have ever done. To not have to have endless conversations about the cost of custom reports for example, leads to a much better customer experience.

Other interests: Couture sewing, fine dining and wine drinking!

Working Day:

My office is a short mile and a half journey from home. I tend to start the working day early from home and then head off to the office to carry on. My day is usually a mixture of supporting my staff and answering their queries on work I’ve assigned to them, together with speaking to customers and answering their questions on implementing AdminBase. I am often to be found testing new AdminBase features before we release them or I am writing specifications and designing new features in AdminBase. I tend to leave the office about 5-5:30, have dinner with my family and then often carry on working in the evening depending on how many interruptions during the day have stopped me completing urgent tasks.

Working Location:

Our office is based in what used to be the Sergeants Mess in Bordon, Hampshire. Bordon was an army town and when they moved out the building was converted into a business centre. We moved here over 3 years ago and chose it because of the availability of high-speed internet – something we couldn’t get in our previous location. We have a couple of large offices with staff that live nearby working from there. We do have other staff though that work from home permanently due to their being based all around the country.


I created AdminBase almost 25 years ago and we have seen many changes in that time, but the last 12 months have seen the most significant shifts in the market that have resulted in unprecedented growth in our turnover. We have taken on additional staff to cope with the massive increase in AdminBase users, prompted by the changes in working practices in the industry, and changes in society of course. I can only see that growth continuing into the future and the reason for this I believe is a fundamental change in the way installers, our core customer base, think.

Historically people started a company offering home improvements and grew their business to a size where they realised that they needed to look at systems to assist them. What we have noticed is that companies now start looking for a CRM system far earlier in the life of their business. Business owners and managers have realised it is far better to get a system in place when the company is small, rather than waiting until things become unmanageable. The lockdowns had a significant part to play in that. After all, you can send staff home to work on a laptop but that isn’t practical if all the information relating to the business is in paper files or on a TCard system in the office.

AdminBase solves that problem. For example, it provides such basics as an interactive digital diary for all staff, with all documents stored digitally and available from within the system, all customer communication generated from within a single system and available for everyone to see.

The greater efficiency brought about by installing a CRM like AdminBase also helps with the difficulties experienced by many companies with staff recruitment, with many of our existing users able to reduce staff dependency when they have implemented our system.

In fact, flexibility is the key now: for example, we understand that companies don’t just focus on one revenue stream. Yes, their core business may be the retail market but, they nearly always do some trade and commercial work. AdminBase is flexible enough to cater for all these things and any type of product be it windows and doors, conservatories or as some of our recent new customers sell, solar panels, resin driveways even artificial grass.

We also feel it is important for companies in this industry to realise that the boom brought on by the pandemic and the lockdown will settle back down and whilst enquiries and new business may be aplenty now, that might not be the case in 12 months’ time.

It is a bit of a ‘Catch 22’ situation, but companies need to ensure they have flexibility built in to their systems which allows them to adapt easily for different trading conditions, including preparing for leaner times, even if they don’t look likely currently.

We have found that because our system runs at the heart of a company, we also become business mentors and consultants, as our customers discuss new methods and practices for handling a whole range of new demands. I enjoy this aspect very much as I have always run AdminBase on the maxim that our support has to be as good as or even better than the software.

Change can be difficult…One of the roadblocks we sometimes see to introducing a CRM system is unwillingness to change among long- standing staff. This can be a real issue – after all – good people are hard to find. It can be all too easy to get into a situation where the tail is wagging the dog so to speak. Change needs to be handled sensitively. Employees may feel threatened by new systems, that they will become redundant, but in the current climate when it so hard to fill vacancies – they need to be reassured that rather than being no longer needed their workday can be less frustrating, less repetitive and less stressful with a good digital system in place.

To that end we recommend business owners take an active role in learning and understanding new systems whilst taking on board their employees’ concerns and listening to their ideas for improvement. When we train new customers to use AdminBase we are experienced in handling these challenges and because our trainers have industry experience, we understand the problems they face and that we can help them. This makes for a smoother transition and a quicker implementation.

We have always made it a byword of AdminBase that it is flexible, that it will work the way companies work rather than having to change to fit the software. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when changing to a better practice makes sense of course, but that tends to happen through evolution, because everyone can see that the new method brings improvements all round. We have therefore learned to work with our customers, to listen to our customers’ needs and accommodate those needs within the software, not the other way round.

All the features of moving to a CRM system such as AdminBase are not immediately obvious – that just makes things complicated – but they are there to be discovered as a company progresses. The challenge of encouraging customers to explore the full potential of what our system offers – and the potential of just how their business can benefit – is a major commitment for us during the next few months.