Smell the coffee

Smell the coffee

Craig Forsyth, DFC technical director

Craig Forsyth, DFC technical director

Aberdeen-based Dick Fleming Communications (DFC) has it all; a business that is still going strong 13 years down the line, a solid customer base of oil companies and businesses associated with supplying the demands of that huge sector, and even its own coffee shop.

Coffee and oil are the two things that keep the cogs greased at DFC. First thing in the morning, a coffee from the company’s own franchise of Costa Coffee, and second thing, get down to business and on the phone to the oil firms that have made Aberdeen world famous.

The coffee shop is a great feature of daily life at DFC, which is tucked underneath the railway arches at South College Street in central Aberdeen.

Forsyth explains how the shop came into being: “We still do a lot of car installations on a purely corporate front, from Ford Fiestas to Ferraris. As people came in, we kept giving them free coffee. The coffee shop was inspired by all these people hanging around with overlapping appointments; our poor reception girl was off making coffee all the time!

 

“We had two workshops, so we pushed them further back into the building and turned the space at the front into a Costa Coffee shop,” continues Forsyth. “We had more space than we actually needed, so turned that in meeting rooms which we let out as well.”

Surviving in Scotland is about being more than a low cost supplier, says Forsyth. He explains: “Aberdeen people need a service. A lot of it’s around the oil industry here, so while price is key, it’s actually all about service. If a guy is going out to a rig that afternoon and needs a new mobile phone, we will meet him at the airport to give him that phone. It’s really about personal service, focused on the oil industry and businesses supplying the oil industry, which most companies in Aberdeen are.

“Rather than just be a mobile phone shop, we are a one stop shop with everything the customer needs,” adds Forsyth.

Without the aid of advertising, DFC provides customers with O2 and Vodafone services. Forsyth states: “Aberdeen is a big city, but it can be like a village sometimes as well. We don’t advertise. A lot of our new business is off the back of existing customers. We’ve a premium brand here, which gives us an advantage over national companies.”

Through its years of local experience, DFC has a strong relationship with the Aberdeen Harbour Board. A year ago, following five years of dabbling in the world of WiFi, Forsyth says the company struck up a deal with the Harbour Board that allowed the business to provide WiFi to the whole of Aberdeen’s harbour. Now, DFC charges local businesses and fishermen either daily or monthly fee to connect to the WiFi network in the harbour, bringing the internet to the sea.

“It’s a lot quicker and a lot more reliable than other services available to them, like satellite,” explains Forsyth.

That five years of working in the WiFi space stemmed from the company thinking innovatively and supplying WiFi services to remote Scottish villages that at the time were unable to get broadband services. When BT finally got its act together and gave the villages what they needed, the DFC WiFi product was no longer needed; until, that is, DFC applied what it had developed and learnt to the Harbour Board service, and hotel chains and offices that require leased WiFi.

2009 is all about doing more of the same, Forsyth comments, referring to what DFC does best, serving its customers with both technology and good coffee. “It’s a case of looking after what’s yours,” he sums up. “We will look after our core competencies.”

 

DFC, a real local business

In 1986 Dick Fleming saw an advert in the local paper for a cellular salesman. Being out of work at the time he decided to go for it and began working at Pinnacle Telecom shortly after, establishing a name for himself in the Aberdeen area amongst the oil, fishing, haulage and transport sectors, all of which were tied to the oil industry in some way. Soon after, Fleming established a reselling business for Pinnacle, which was the start of Dick Fleming Communications.

At that time, Craig Forsyth, now DFC’s technical director, joined the growing business, which was then involved in the installation of ‘brick’ mobile phones into cars, helicopters and boats. Today, DFC has a small but focused staff of 10, and still works in the same industry, supplying mobiles and installations, IT such as WiFi, plus backup for data products as a managed service.

Now under the watchful gaze of Dick’s daughter, Fiona Fleming, the focus for the business is adding value. That means being a company the customer knows will come through with the goods when and wherever they are needed, whether that is on a boat in the harbour, a Ferrari, or rushing a handset to the airport for a client on the way to an oil rig.