Happy, Smiley People

Comms Business Magazine talks to James Phipps, CEO of Swindon based reseller Excalibur, about his business, the challenges and outlook for the future.

Excalibur has been trading for 20 years, 15 under its present name, and employs some fifty people. CEO James Phipps, 32, has been with the company since he was 17.

Excalibur became Vodafone UK’s first Premier Partner for One Net in the Vodafone UK’s indirect partner program.

One of the key elements to our success has been our product mix and position as a complete solutions specialist. The roots of our business are firmly in mobile but our aim is to be 50/50 on our mobile and non-mobile business within 3 to 5 years.

To have such growth in turnover, EBITDA and pre-tax operating profit and over performance against budgets and targets during the worst period of economic instability since the 1930’s is a significant achievement. We believe this is due to the unique offering of products, services and focus on innovation delivered through a 20-year knowledge of the marketplace and industry leading staff and management team.

Business Challenges

We pride ourselves on being a true service provider, but achieving and then sustaining this at the highest possible level doesn’t happen by accident. Day in, day out, it’s a challenge.

Last year we made £1.6M profit on our £9M turnover, yet our business thrives on doing what is best for our customer – not just what is best for us.

A company culture of complete transparency requires total commitment, especially in how we manage the challenge of converged services. Complete transparency also includes management. There isn’t one rule for ‘us’ and one rule for ‘them’.

We refuse to take the easy option. We don’t want and won’t do IVR. Never. Having a named, dedicated Account Manager who knows what he/she is talking about is a big challenge for us to first find and then keep the right people – the latter of which has now become a key strength.

We invest heavily in training. In our experience, customers want to speak to a real, knowledgeable, helpful person who gives them honest advice. Isn’t that what every company should challenge themselves to achieve?


Businesses won’t want to be reminded too much about the bad connectivity that used to give them such a poor experience with VoIP.

During the past 12-18 months, quality has certainly improved, and with full 4G roll-out from Vodafone not too far away, convergence is truly arriving.

BT’s dominance will be under serious threat. You can already hear customers saying: ‘Landline? Why do I have to have a landline?’

Training and Accreditation

We are only as good as our people.

This year we’ve already invested more than £100K in training to make sure that we stay at the top of our game. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, the bar only gets higher – and even higher.

Excalibur now has Prince2-certified (Projects IN Controlled Environments) Project Managers, which is unprecedented for a company of our size and type in the communications industry.

From apprenticeships, NVQs, to accountancy exams, we now make a major ongoing investment in nurturing the progress and long-term future of our team.

‘Sickness’ and ‘Absence’ here have been reduced to almost zero. Properly trained staff, who like their management, aren’t here to get rich quick, do tend to stay. Of course we get motivated by sales, but unlike some in this industry, we’re not about to vanish in a puff of smoke, only to reappear in a new mask five minutes later. Happy motivated people work wonders.

Business Outlook & Plans

Over the next three years we plan to double our turnover from its current £9M. We have recently agreed terms to move into new offices, which will quadruple our space. This is mainly designed to ensure that we continue to give our customers a Grade A experience.

Market Observations

At the expense of Apple and Blackberry, Microsoft has enough wherewithal to crack the B2B market. Samsung are also being noticeably proactive.

Dealing with every market sector in the UK, we increasingly see customers wanting the same information, with the only differentiation being screen size. There is also a more natural movement to Cloud as companies begin to build it into the culture and operation of their business.

As tablet sales begin to plateau, the message coming through from businesses is for a better understanding of how technology can help them succeed. IT managers can still cave into pressure from Generation Y. However, if you look more closely at how best to allow decent, phone and IT solutions to get you where you want to be, the panic-buy: “Go out right now and get each sales manager the latest tablet!” – (even though they might not know how to use it properly) will hopefully decline.

At Excalibur we don’t do technology for technology’s sake.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine