Following their outstanding win at the Comms Business Awards in June we spoke to Chris Goodman, Director of Reseller of the Year Focus Group, about his company and his outlook on the market.
In a very positive move Focus Group appointed Rhys Bailey, a 25-year-old ‘Millennial’ as their new Sales Director at the start of 2016. Director Chris Goodman says there were two reasons for this.
“Firstly, we have a young sales team and Rhys is thinking on the same wavelength. He’s clearly not ‘set in his ways’, is gelling with the team and secondly he is bringing a new perspective and new thinking on our marketing and to our routes to market. For example we are now making greater use of online and email based marketing and making more effective use of the user data that was sitting there waiting to be used.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Apart from that appointment what else has changed at Focus this year?
Chris Goodman (CG): It’s clearly apparent that revenues from carrier pre-selection (CPS) are gradually reducing so firms such as Focus have to look at alternative new income stream opportunities. As a result we have launched a print side of our business. We have a good range of multi-function devices and have found it is a relatively simple add on product and service to existing comms and IT sales. With sales models that include a ‘pence-per-click’ we are also increasing recurring revenues which in turn increases that value of our business.
CBM: We note your suppliers include Gamma, Vodafone, Ericsson LG and Cisco. We would therefore like to hear your views on Unified Communications and how you are responding to customer demand.
CG: Focus started out as a lines, calls and minutes reseller but since our 2012 acquisition of ABTEK have become, we believe, the second largest Ericsson LG supplier in the UK working via their distributor Pragma. Having said that we also sell a significant volume of Samsung PBX and Gamma Horizon hosted telephony products.
Our shift to hosted telephony solutions has been noticeable; today around 55-60 percent of system sales are hosted and address client sizes from a handful of users to over 1200 seats. I have to say that the Gamma products has been incredibly well positioned for the channel and their users. I would say that Gamma has been the only provider of hosted telephony that has successfully marketed a salable product to the channel. We get new feature releases all the time and commercially there is nothing else that competes wit the product which makes it easy to sell. Gamma is a key supplier for Focus as we sell their data connectivity products as well.
Our affiliation with Cisco is tied in to Meraki, an innovative wireless Wi-Fi based firm they bought a few years ago. We launched Focus Integration two or three years ago as a Managed Services Provider and this has proved very successful for us. Meraki applications are a good fit here especially in the retail sector where we can pull in customer data from their mobiles and push to Facebook. These are exciting projects.
CBM: How would you characterize the market today? Is a demand building for say UCaaS?
CG: All the products are moving away from being commodity led and are now more about being part of a professional service. You can’t ring up a prospective customer and open up with ‘We can save you 20% on call and lines. You just can’t say that now and in any case that lower end of the market is too risky due to the likes of BT and EE getting an effective/compelling offering that could sweep up users.
Focus has now built its own core network; we have our own data centre and have made many strategic investments for our future and our customers.
With regards to UCaaS we have intentionally positioned ourselves to maximise opportunities. Ideally we would like to supply multiple apps to one customer on a single platform. That’s hard for anyone to do but currently we have our core network, data centre, hosted telephony and converged mobile apps. Of course not everyone wants or needs a complete UC solution and many suppliers are trying to fit all users in to a single pigeonhole.
Five years ago the UK was lagging the world when it came to connectivity speeds but today that has all changed. On a case-by-case basis we look at what users may need and establish the local exchange capability and user budgets. We think it is vital for the sales team to understand the value of leased lines. Yes they may cost say £300 a month but if that line went down for a week how much would it cost that business? All of us therefore have to create that value concept for the user.