Winning a Comms Business Award means different things to different people. Here, Clifford Norton, MD of Channel Telecom, speaks about his recent win, Entrepreneur of the Year, and where he sees the real value in the market.
Comms Business (CB): Firstly, congratulations on your award win! Tell us a little bit about the win and how the last three months have been for you?
Clifford Norton (CN): It has been great to finally win it as I have been after Entrepreneur of the Year for a number of years now. It has been not only a brilliant personal achievement but it has also been good for the Channel Telecom brand. We have been quite successful with awards recently and have also just got into the Tech Top 100 for the first time so I am excited about that too!
CB: What kind of response have you had since winning?
CN: After I won the award I got a lot of emails and LinkedIn messages from people that wanted to congratulate me. I have added a fair few connections as a result. They were mostly from other entrepreneurs that wanted to say well done, I have had more response to my award win than I have for anything I have done before which was really great. You never know where those connections can lead you or what kind of opportunities they might produce.
CB: What have your partners had to say about it all?
CN: This is where the win has probably had the most impact. All of our partners have been talking about the award win which has been good for us. Our partners always seem to mention it and I think they are proud that Channel Telecom has this accolade. Just recently I was in with a partner that had been speaking to a competitor of ours, they had heard about the award and were interested in Channel Telecom as a result.
We have had quite a few recommendations over the last few months and I think being in the press and people picking up on the fact we won has helped with that. No one is ever going to say we are doing business through you just because you won an award but it has definitely helped.
CB: Channel Telecom has experienced significant growth over the years, what do you put your recent success down to?
CN: The summer has been the best on record for us, we billed about 25% more than usual. Ethernet, and data products generally, have been the main drivers for that. Generally these products take three to four months to install and a lot of those have come to billing stage now. We are also recruiting about four new resellers each month from a number of areas. Some have been from word of mouth and advertising etc, some have been from things like winning awards, and a fair few have come to us because of the fall out in the industry. When Coms had all that trouble a while ago we picked up a whole stack of new resellers off the back of it for example.
CB: Where do you see the market heading long term?
CN: I think the industry has a few problems right now, we have so many hosted and SIP propositions out there it can be confusing for customers. TTB just launched free SIP, as long as you take their data products, Gamma came out with free FTTC with their hosted products, NTA has a different kind of offer again. It’s hard to know which is best for your business. This is where I think we are unique, people come to us because we aren’t tied to one provider so we can sit customers down and give them the best product for their business and align that with their objectives in the market.
CB: Where is the value now for resellers?
CN: I think the whole industry is suffering a little bit from the ‘cheap or free’ mentality, customers want everything for cheap or free and when it goes wrong they expect you to do everything. The biggest problem we have in the industry is that you can’t just sell the SIP and hosted now, you have to be selling the IT services, the WAN the LAN and everything else too. I think that’s why some of our partners have become a lot more IT orientated. That is where they add value and make the money.
For me, it’s all about selling that Ethernet product into the customer, then you can sell the value added products in off the back of it.