More than the sum of its parts

Onecom Group has brought Olive Communications, 9 Partners and 9 Retail into the family over the last few months. Martin Flick, CEO of Onecom Group, explains what we can expect from the group.

Half a million business-to-business mobile, fixed-line and cloud corporate and business users are now served by Onecom after the company acquired Olive Communications back in February. Together, the two companies look set to generate a combined annual turnover of more than £140 million.

Following the acquisition, Martin Flick, Olive’s chief executive, was appointed CEO of Onecom Group. Darren Ridge, who founded Onecom in 2002, remains a significant shareholder and plays an active role as non-executive director.

Flick explained, “Olive and Onecom coming together was a strategic move on both parts. Me and Darren have been friendly competitors for years, but the last year has brought flexible and remote working to the fore for many businesses. Many sectors were still working in a more traditional fashion, but that all changed as a result of the pandemic.

“Everybody rushed to [adopt] flexible, remote and agile working. And [we realised] it was the ideal time to bring the two businesses together, and that they would complement each other. Together, we can help customers build communications technology for the future, and adapt to what will undoubtedly be a different way of working for forever.”

Flick is enthusiastic about what the combined business can now achieve. He said, “Putting our two businesses together makes us by far the largest and most capable Vodafone partner, but also brings together strong relationships with Mitel, Gamma, Virtual1, Microsoft, and Google. Our portfolio of products, by virtue of the combined strategic partnerships, is really strong and differentiates us in the market.”

Scaling the business

The channel remains central to Onecom Group’s plans. Flick said, “We have a proposition now that will resonate through all parts of the market – small, medium and large. Our objective was to increase our reach and our ability to scale, and the acquisition of 9 Partners and 9 Retail gave us access to a fantastic base of channel partners.

“There are about 450 partners and the 9 Partners team are very experienced and have good, solid relationships with their partner community. They have developed a good product set and platform with some really good self-serve tools, customer portals and a fantastic billing engine. Our view was that the three businesses together would be more valuable than the sum of its parts.”

9 Partners will continue to run as a separate business under its existing brand, with Adam Cathcart continuing his role as managing director. Flick explained, “Although it forms part of the Onecom Group, it’s still going to operate under the 9 Partners brand. The team are going to continue to support the partners in the same way, but with an expanded portfolio and with more scale, and with that scale comes a compelling competitive advantage.

“My philosophy has always been that working with partners, and giving them the ability to differentiate in the market, is a winning formula because what partners bring is a close proximity to customer need. Partners get really close to their customers, they can understand the individual needs of that specific customer, and they can tailor solutions to meet the needs of that customer in a way that much larger organisations can’t do at scale.”

Customer needs

Delivering on the connectivity needs of businesses and organisations across the UK is the overarching goal. Flick explained, “Customer benefit is at the heart of the strategy. It’s about bringing together complementary businesses that are similarly aligned from a cultural perspective, that have got talented teams of people working within them, and a common objective and a common goal. And that common goal is to deliver benefit to end customers and deliver simply brilliant customer experiences.

“We are undoubtedly facing an economic downturn, there are tough times ahead for UK PLC, and we have a technology stack that can help end customers liberate their business to work flexibly and with agility.”

Embracing more sophisticated working practices, said Flick, will help organisations deliver on their aspirations. He added, “Go and collaborate, work collectively, but work in a slightly different way. This will liberate people to live better quality lives, whilst at the same time improving productivity.

“When I think about the amount of time I used to waste sitting in the car looking at loads of tail lights on the M25… I don’t need to do that now. It’s about encouraging our teams, our partners and our customers to adopt the lessons of the last 12 months into an enduring benefit for the future.”