Finding the balance: Negotiating Celerity’s contractual relationships

Finding the balance: Negotiating Celerity’s contractual relationships

To stay at the top of their game, large financial institutions and public sector bodies are transforming their legacy IT systems to take advantage of the combined benefits of hybrid cloud and self-managed IT infrastructure. These transformational projects require deep expertise in large IT systems alongside a knowledge of where technology is moving, both challenges that Celerity is ready to help overcome.

Founded in 2002 with the goal of becoming the trusted partner to support large businesses in mission critical IT projects, Celerity initially made its name as an IBM reseller. Over the last five years, Celerity has transitioned to become a cloud and managed service provider, with much of its business now coming from services rather than from selling equipment. The company has seen sustained growth and, since securing Private Equity investment in 2021, now has over 65 employees.

When contracting feels like David vs Goliath

While Celerity’s journey is one of success, a predominant challenge remains at the contract negotiation table due to the size of customers it deals with. These large businesses tend to have their own dedicated in-house legal resources and are used to working with the terms of their large framework contracts. So how, as a supplier, do you balance the commercial benefit of a deal with the risks of unfavourable terms?

It’s really about pragmatism; understanding what any red lines might be, and if those red lines appear, how we approach them

says Craig Aston, COO at Celerity.

For example, data privacy and GDPR is a major concern for us, whether we’re a data processor or data controller. In order to make judgements, we need legal advisors who really understand in detail what we do.

"As a business of Celerity’s size, when we were considering our options for legal support, we looked at whether to bring in our own in-house counsel. But the big thing for me is that there was no way someone in-house could offer the breadth of experience and knowledge that we can access from Harper James.

Harper James has now been Celerity’s legal counsel for just over a year and by working with us through our On-Demand plan, it benefits from a dedicated panel of solicitors who understand its business. This is immensely important to Celerity as, thanks to our close relationship, it can rely on our solicitors to be front and centre in negotiations with new clients.

Craig adds:

Having very senior solicitors on calls, who are acting for Celerity akin to in-house resource, allows us to punch above our weight legally and provides great credibility throughout the contracting process.

"Harper James delivers exactly what I want from my lawyers; someone who presents not only the risks and the legal argument but who also understands the commercial side. Take our recent work with Sarah Gunton for example; if we decide we’re going to take on a commercial risk, she’ll adapt the terms for us to do that while reducing the risk as much as possible. The service we get there is like gold dust for us.

Building a successful business future

In addition to helping Celerity manage its contractual relationships, specialist lawyers at Harper James have also provided advice on employment, data protection and security, and corporate matters.

With Celerity’s ambitions firmly set on becoming a market leader in the legacy business transformation space, Craig explains how the right people and networks will help get them there:

It’s the people that make our business what it is. Everyone at Celerity believes in our values and that’s what helps drive our relationships with clients.

"Our aim recently has been to bring new graduate talent through in the areas we work in. With our focus on the legacy area, we need to ensure those with experience pass it on to the next generation.

"Also, having a very good network of people is so important. Take our private equity investment as an example - having a support network of advisors to help with the planning and preparation was really valuable because once you get into the process, it can be very intense.

"We have an excellent legal partner in Harper James and I know that their breadth of expertise will help us continue moving forward.

About our expert

Sarah Gunton

Sarah Gunton

Commercial Partner & Chief Quality and Compliance Officer
Sarah has been practising as a commercial lawyer for more years than she cares to remember (having qualified as a solicitor in 1994) and has provided advice to many types of client – from start-ups to multinationals; from heavy industry through to ‘cutting edge’ technology businesses. With experience in-house as well as private practice, it is rare for her to be faced with a type of commercial contract that she has not come across previously.

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