62nd Interview

62nd Interview

Tom Fellowes of Spitfire
Up Close and Personal meets Tom Fellowes, director of Spitfire Telecom

Spitfire was established nearly 20 years ago and today employs 80 staff and turns over in the region of £17m.

“Spitfire made the decision six years ago to become an infrastructure provider as both a Telco and an ISP. We are one of only 29 CPS Operators in the UK and are a top 10 UK SDSL provider. We offer one of the widest range of business quality network services in the UK, from WES circuits to SDSL to Direct ISDN30e to Mobile data, as well as standard WLR products and hardware from Avaya, Nortel and Panasonic.

“Being the network operator has a wide range of benefits, especially the control it

gives us over such things as fault reporting, call routing, disaster recovery, call forwarding, number allocation and provisioning. All this leads to reduced churn and increased customer satisfaction, as well as giving us an in-depth understanding of how the UK’s telecoms infrastructure works – this rubs off onto our sales staff who sell in a really consultative way, and are able to give genuinely good advice to our clients.

“We are a real SME specialist and understand what our customers need – many vendors and operators pay lip service to the SME sector but do not really have a clue what SMEs want and can’t be bothered to find out as it probably contradicts their strategy. Our combination of core network engineering skills, on-site engineering, customer service and account management allows us to get a deep understanding of what an individual client needs for their business, and enables us to deliver that service on a continuing basis, at an affordable cost.

“Many customers have been clients for 10 or 15 years, or even longer, which is testament to the levels of service we provide, from sales people, our provisioning team, engineers and customer service staff. Everyone who has any contact with a client is an ambassador for the business.”

 

GETTING PERSONAL

Married? Yes, to Nicola.

Kids? Three, two girls and a boy.

Lives where? In the Wylye Valley, Wiltshire.

What is your favourite car? Don’t really have one, if pushed I would be slightly unimaginative and say a Porsche 911.

What do you drive? Volvo.

4X4s Chelsea tractors?
Great in the country. Why do people need them in London?

What really gets your goat in business? People not doing what they say they’re going to do.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Treat clients how you would like and expect to be treated. Also to look at the bigger picture – if you can understand the other point of view you can position your argument better and use this to your advantage.

And the worst? The property market is about to crash – now is the time to rent. (From a property professional in 1999). Luckily I ignored their advice.

Favourite Film? The Big Chill.

Who is/was the best James Bond? Sean Connery.

Last CD bought? Ray LaMontagne – Trouble.

Sport? Rugby and Racing – as a spectator.

Favourite team? I would have to say teams, and despite the above, both are football. I also know one cannot support more than one team, especially when both are in London, but my favourite teams are Arsenal & West Ham. We have managed Arsenal’s comms for the last 10 years and have 4 season tickets we give to clients and staff, we have looked after West Ham since 2001 and have season tickets there as well.

What’s the best thing you’ve bought this year? A Stihl chainsaw – not really appropriate for a technology magazine, but fantastic none the less.

What have you wasted money on? I am reasonably frugal and tend not to waste much money on gadgets etc. I also believe it is also often better to buy on quality rather than price, I just wish our clients would follow this maxim more often.

If you could pick anyone to go to dinner with who would it be and why? For business purposes, Ed Richards, CEO of OFCOM, we could have an interesting conversation regarding BT’s relationship with the channel. But Anthony Worrall Thompson for good food and amusing company.

What could you not live without? Family and friends.

Who’s been your greatest inspiration? Winston Churchill. Not necessarily an inspiration in a business sense, except on the basis of even when the odds are against you – don’t give up. We owe him a great debt of gratitude.

If it all went belly up tomorrow, what would you do? Start again – if you would rather be doing something else, get on and do it now. SIP and VoIP are starting to offer real opportunities and I think the next few years will be very exciting for anyone who can combine telephony with a QoS DSL network.

What would you do if you were invisible? Invisible? In our increasingly big brother society? If my car was as well, I wouldn’t have to concern myself with the congestion zone or speed cameras, bus lane cameras, traffic wardens etc. which would make life just a little bit easier.

If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be? Neil Armstrong (on the moon, 1969).

Your best blag ever? We don’t blag.