Comms Business Magazine talks to Wayne Cartwright, CEO of Manchester based Communicate Better, a reseller established in 1993 and a recent winner of the Comms business Award, Overall Reseller of the Year 2012.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What is the background to your business?
Wayne Cartwright of Communicate Better (WC): The company started as a mobile phone business selling B2B contracts and operated from small offices in Swinton, Manchester with six staff. I bought in to the company in 2008. Previous to this I had been co-founder of Britannia Communications Group which Was sold in 2005.
Our vision was to create a fully converged telecommunications company. Firstly a fixed line division was created and then in 2009 an IT company (Advanced Computer systems) was bought to create the three legs of the group – voice, IT and mobile. A new head office was bought in 2009 at which point all staff and operations moved into single premises. 2011 saw the purchase of MH Communications and Greenhouse Telecom with a second office in Liverpool kept open after the MH Comms acquisition.
In 2012, Beacon Telecom was also purchased. The company has doubled in size every year since 2008 when the turnover was £600K and we are on target to achieve £4M this financial year ending March 2013. We now have 32 staff that will increase to 40 by the end of this March. This will be due to another acquisition that we are nearing the end of due diligence. This is quite a strategic purchase that will open up a new territory for us and a third office.
CBM: What are your greatest challenges in the business?
(WC): From day one, I took the decision to invest heavily in IP telephony. This has paid dividends as we have had some major contract wins that traditional telephony would not have been able to achieve. We firmly believe that we are ahead of our competition as we have learnt the lessons and pitfalls of SIP and Internet Connectivity already and so are quite expert at delivering it. Over 80% of our connections are either IP PBX or hosted seats.
Finding new business is always a challenge but it a challenge that we have been up to which our impressive growth has proven. This has been achieved by both cross selling other products and services into the databases that we have bought, and also the diversity of products and services that we are actually able to deliver. I suppose the main challenge was the implementation of our CRM system. This has been three years in the making and still not finished as it’s a moving target. Every business operates slightly differently especially across the three different sectors. Having one system that talks three different ‘languages’ in essence has been essential. You need to be able to see what products and services a customer takes from you across the board. Vital information when you want to sell more services into the same customers. The more products into a customer, the less the churn!
CBM: Tell me about your suppliers and vendor partners.
(WC): We have fantastic relationships with all of our suppliers. Our largest network provider is Gamma Telecom, and I am led to believe we are their largest IP circuit reseller, but we do deal with others. They provide both hosted platforms that we resell as well as most SIP circuits. Recently we have been awarded a direct Mitel Reseller Agreement after we won the contract to maintain all of the Guoman Thistle Hotel group estate with Mitel 3300 platforms. In the mobile division, we were the first in Europe to develop fixed routing over the air for winter maintenance vehicles supplied into Lancashire and Bolton County Councils, using the specialist Tom Tom product for business. We are also only one of 20 resellers in the UK to be able to offer EE, although we deal with all 5 mobile networks.
Training is a big part of our company. Not only is it a commitment to our staff, but it definitely reaps its rewards by making them ‘best in class’. Everyone in the company is either on a long term training program, or attends regular weekly training sessions. That includes Directors who are all signed up to a Management Training Program. It all seems to be paying off, we have just signed our biggest single order and are about to have yet another record month in business!
CBM: What is your outlook for the future? Your business and the market?
(WC): Our plan is to try and keep on expanding in a controlled manner and our strategy is that of a ‘Buy and Build’ organisation. Target companies are those that have bases that only operate in one area, which gives us the possibility of cross selling opportunities. I don’t want to be the biggest but I do strive to be the best. We do give excellent customer services and use an outsource company (Feefo) who conduct independent surveys to all customers that we talk to in any week. We have over 96% positive feedback. Whilst there is a still reluctance for customers to spend cash, if you can demonstrate efficiencies through technology, people will listen and invest in what you tell them if they trust you. You will get the trust by doing a good a job and driving excellent customer service. I do strongly believe customers want a one stop shop, and this is what we deliver.
The biggest thing that will happen is FTTC and FTTP when it becomes widely available. This will open up a whole host of new products and services that we can promote. Likewise we are very excited about the opportunities that 4G will open up for us and our customers.