Home' InDaily : June 18th 2010 Contents It was computer geek heaven -- a
house in Flagstaff Hill with 200
incoming phone lines and a living
room packed with modems, wires
and patch cords.
The Adelaide Amiga Club s
200 members knew it as the 1980s
headquarters of their computer
"Everyone thought our place was
where NASA launched rockets,"
recalls Scott Hicks as he ponders
the rapid recent expansion of
the Hicks family business, Adam
As a business case study, Adam
defies most of the rules written
for traditional business models. It
was meant to be a hobby, became a
family obsession and then rode the
internet wave into business and
"It s not a normal business that
you can write a five-year plan
around because everything changes
so rapidly, you re not sure what will
be normal in a year, let alone five,"
32-year-old managing director Scott
But there is something
traditional in the Adam Internet
success story -- local service by local
people for a local market.
Back in the mid 1980s Scott s
father Greg (now 57) sold fax
machines by day and with his
enthusiastic teenage son spent most
nights running the Adelaide Amiga
It was a bulletin board system
with about 200 members, who
shared information on the technical
wonders of the revolutionary
Amiga 500, computing s equivalent
to the T Model Ford.
Members, who paid $60 to join,
would dial into the club using their
phone line and a modem, making
the Hicks house a "spaghetti
nightmare of patch cords and
In time, the hobby would evolve
into something none of those
original members could have
In the late 80s the name Adelaide
Amiga was shortened to the first
two letters of each word -- Adam --
and connections were made with
like-minded people at Universities
in SA and WA through a new system
"This was the beginning of our
understanding of the internet,"
Scott Hicks says.
"It was in text only form, but
it was the first time you saw an
exchange and availability of
information, but it was academic
"Dad still saw it as a hobby."
While the Amiga Club had
morphed into Amiga Users Group
-- a quasi-commercial operation
with Greg Hicks as it s "Sysop", or
system operator, it wasn t enough to
bring up a family on.
"In fact the bulletin board and
Amiga thing was a sinkhole for
money," father of two, Greg Hicks
said this week.
"I was fortunate to be making
enough money from selling fax
machines and the original JVC CD
burner that I could still experiment
on my hobby."
In 1995 Greg s son Scott finished
high school and was thinking
about various job options when
something unexpected took hold.
"I was making money by setting
up computers for people who were
the first ones to get them in their
house or business.
"Then in 1996 it just went crazy."
At that time terms such
as internet, world wide web,
megabytes and gigabytes, RAM
and ROM were only just starting to
come into general use.
Those who had home computers
would connect to the internet by
dialling in to an internet service
Adam was ideally placed to be
on the ground floor of a business
"We didn t advertise. It was all
done by word of mouth and we
couldn t keep up with the demand,"
"And with each change or
improvement in technology, the
amount of data people used and
needed climbed dramatically."
Of the 420,000 households in
metropolitan Adelaide, around
half are connected to the internet.
A third of those are Adam
Another 1700 new customers sign
on each month, and it s this volume
of business that provides the
conundrum for what is still a family
"We could go national, but I
suspect we then might lose our
value for money advantage," Hicks
The Adam business model is
a seeming contradiction to the
product it sells -- a connection to the
"All we have ever wanted to do is
provide value for money, reliability
and speed for our customers.
"That means that our help desk
is based here in Adelaide, with
"We take pride in the fact that
the average waiting time before a
customer gets to talk to one of our
own help desk staff is around two
"Mums and dads are our bread
and butter. Our data use surges
from around 5pm when people get
home from work or school.
"Our networks are built to cope
with that demand and our support
services are also modelled around
"Basically, we ve never forgotten
That philosophy extends to the
company s staff where selection
processes mean they look for people
who share their enthusiasm.
Staff turnover is low and job
satisfaction ratings high.
While the 186 staff at Adam
concentrates on that local home
and small business market, the
company is starting to branch out.
A massive data centre that
provides data back up and storage
for big users is getting major
contracts with corporate and
The Departments of Transport,
Energy and Infrastructure,
Treasury and the Public Trustee
are recent sign-ons to the Adam
"We are now branching out
into the broader business and
commercial market, but we haven t
got any plans to go national," Scott
"Australia is a very big place.
"One single internet service
provider can t possibly get
consistent customer service levels
because the needs vary so much in
different regions of the country.
The IT revolution
team Greg and Scott
Hicks' hobby into one
of the state's biggest
Continued Page 14
Scott and Greg Hicks.
Photo: Kate Elmes
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