Chris Jones, Managing Director of Dextra Airtime Solutions, is an industry veteran who started out as a successful photographer. Supermodels throwing themselves at your feet could well get boring – but fortunately life at Dextra is more interesting…
Chris graduated from Birmingham School of Photography in 1975 and switched to a sales career in 1982. “To take a good photograph, you have to put people at their ease, relax them and get on the same wavelength. So it’s a good grounding for sales”.
His first sales job was selling life assurance for Liberty Life. “It demanded tact because you had to discuss the inevitability of death, which is hardly a bundle of laughs. You also had to be disciplined because you were finding your own leads and in creating a commission income, running your own business. It worked for me – I became a regional manager within the year.”
In 1984, Jones joined Aircall. “It was in the BC – Before Cellular – era. When cellular was launched in 1985 it came as something of a shock but we became one of the first Service Providers and I was National Sales manager until 1989.”
He then joined Nokia as Sales Director when it was an airtime provider eager to capitalise on the handset market. “It was an exciting time. I recruited Carphone Warehouse, John Caudwell, People’s Phone and the networks, and in 1994 was given the opportunity to work with Nokia in China at the same time as John Caudwell made me an offer to become Phones4U’s first Managing Director. I chose John, later moved to Dextra and then became the Managing Director of Caudwell International.
"You have to know what you are doing but the results are superb… "
“In late 1997 I set up my own consultancy. Subsequently, I worked with Cellular Operations, which originated from the Ford Motor Company, where I became Sales Director in 2002. It had a narrow focus on the motor trade but I made 500,000 connections to Vodafone in 2003. After that, I played golf, acted as a company angel for small technology businesses during 2004-6 and took up my present post later in 2006.”
If he has any regrets, the one that counts is that lack of time has sent his golf scores soaring.
“There’s a character in a PG Wodehouse novel whose aunt tells her friends that he’s a brilliant golfer because he always scores much more than anyone else. If only that was the way it worked …”
Another enthusiasm is cars. “I got an Aston Martin DB9 two years ago but my wife and I are expecting the arrival of a new baby. I’ve seen James Nesbitt in the Yellow Pages ad struggling to get a child’s seat into a sports car. How I empathise. I’ve just bought a Land Rover Discovery.”
He may still be able to support Coventry City – his home town team – or enjoy a day at Cheltenham races. “But one skill my wife would love me to acquire is mastery of the Aga. You have to know what you’re doing but the results are superb.” So he likes his food? “Yes. English, Italian, Chinese and Indian are all great but I think that French is much overrated. We entertain frequently at our home in the Cotswolds and nothing beats dinner and a few bottles of fine wine shared with friends.”
His home spans three eras – a Georgian original, with a Victorian extension and a further modern one completed five years ago. “Fortunately, it’s not listed so we’re not trampled to death by inspectors agonising about the colour we paint the window frames.
 “I enjoy the garden but have outsourced its maintenance. I do, however, make an exception of the lawn. When the Wembley groundsman is eventually appointed he won’t get finer stripes on the turf than I manage on my ride-on mower. It’s a great play area for me and my three children from a previous marriage.”
He always looks to the future so can’t wait to apply his considerable skills as a photographer taking pictures of his new baby. As he says, “Being a dad is fun.” n
My sports Golf, supporting Coventry City and motor sport. I have three classic Jags at a friend’s Coventry workshop
Indulgences Acquiring Arts and Crafts pieces for our Cotswold home. And fine wine
My music I’m a hi-fi buff and have had my music room acoustically designed by professionals
When I relax … I like to dine with friends. Manicuring my lawn on my ride-on mower is therapeutic
My ideal Sunday A pint at the village pub, lunch with all my children then visiting the local antique shops
I admire … John Caudwell, who couldn’t?
1975-82 _ Professional photographer
1982-83 _ Regional manager Liberty Life
1984-89 _ Aircall
1989-94 _ Nokia
1994-97 _ The Caudwell Group – successively Managing Director of Phones4U, Dextra and Caudwell International
1997-1998 _ Consultancy
1998-2003 _ Cellular Operations, which originated from Ford Motor Company
2004-July 2006 _ Investment angel, company advisor
July 2006 – _ Managing Director, Dextra Airtime Solutions
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