The first was an unlikely prospect. “I’m a Holloway boy and our home was in the shadow of Pentonville, while school was next door to HMP Holloway. It was grim enough being on the outside looking in – being on the inside looking out is the stuff of nightmares.”
He took a mature decision to pay his own way through technical college to become a carpenter. “That was when I bought the suit, initially for a friend’s wedding. Afterwards I took a chance on sales …”
So he worked for a home improvement company in London for seven years. Then in 1992 he joined Harry Ramis’s Intercell.
“We were in a room with a few mobile phones and a tariff. The fact that I was naïve was a godsend. It was July, so conventional wisdom said that everyone was on holiday and business was quiet. I didn’t know that and managed to sell 141 phones.
“The following year, I was conventionally wise and my sales dropped. It just shows that it pays to ignore majority opinion.”
In 1996, after a year at One2One distributor Phonetec, he joined Sony as an account manager. “It was the first time I had ever completed a CV. I’m a direct kind of guy and had always got jobs by asking for them, and being prepared to stand or fall on my performance.
“To make an impression I submitted my CV on luminous orange paper. At least it got me on to a two-stage interview process at the end of which I faced a computer literacy test. I had to ask around to find out what computer literacy meant, and ended up spending a weekend mastering Excel, self-taught, from a book.
“As it turned out, I didn’t need it – but I was considered computer literate enough. As account manager, I set up the distribution channel and after three months was appointed Sales Controller.”
In 1998 he joined Convergent Communications. “Now, my overriding enthusiasm is for distribution; and at Convergent we had to try to satisfy the twin needs of distribution and retail shops. You really have to decide what horse you are going to back – and when the needs of the shops come first, distribution suffers.
“Sure enough, distribution folded.”
The happiest and most fulfilling years of his career started in 1999 when he joined Anglia Telecom as Sales Director.
“I have the greatest liking and respect for Aidan Coughlin who started Anglia Telecom, and the thing that I’m most proud of is playing my part in building a business that would have sold for £1m five years ago”.
When it was eventually taken over last year, Anglia Telecom was valued at £6.5m. It is now part of Redstone plc.
McGinn is a high achiever and that’s due in large measure to his unflappability. Here’s an example: “We had a Christmas do a few years ago. At the start of the evening I gave a recent recruit a fiver and invited him to get himself a drink. He returned with his pint, gave me the change, and to my amazement said, ‘I bet you had to kiss a lot of arses to get where you are.’ Yes, he’s still with us.”
He’s equally cool on weekend shopping trips with his 11 year old daughter, Morgan. “I’m often the only man in a dress shop, perched on an uncomfortable chair, passing judgement on pre-teen fashion. But then, I’m in great company.”
He’s also convinced that he’s in a great business – and that his dealers are, too, provided they adapt to suit the needs of the market. “The thing they have to watch is adding new revenue streams. They have to get to grips with the impact of new services such as Blackberry and data, and it’s important to watch their lines of communication with the networks to ensure that new developments don’t catch them cold.”
For him, the industry’s big plus is its people. “When I sold home improvements, our sales opposition was considered an enemy. We never got together with them. In mobile, you do compete – but you can get together, know your competitors, and be friends. It’s an intangible, but it’s worth a hell of a lot.”.
My sport Golf (badly) and skiing
My team I enjoy a good game where I can support the underdog
My car I relax in Mercedes comfort
My ideal night out A night out with friends
My home An apartment in the centre of Ipswich
My dream job I’ve got it
1985-92 Home improvements sales executive
1992-95 Salesperson, Intercell
1995-96 Account Manager, Phonetec
1996-98 Sales Controller, Sony
1998-99 Head of Distribution, Convergent Communications
1999-07 Sales Director, Anglia Telecom
2007– Acting Managing Director, Anglia Telecom
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