A1 Comms is best known as a mobile phone re-seller – through its chain of Go Mobile shops and its consumer website buymobiles.net. However, since 2000, the company has also specialised in the communication needs of businesses. Here, Managing Director Paul Sisson explains market changes that provided his company with the perfect opportunities for growth.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Why did you decide to head down the business communications route?
Paul Sisson (PS): When BT announced the phasing out of ISDN lines, business owners suddenly faced a crucial decision to make when it comes to the future of their communications. Not all customers will want to stick with BT. On its own this represents an opportunity for companies like A1Comms to challenge BT for the business.
However, we took the decision some time ago to broaden that towards the hosted phone, fixed line technology. That is the way it’s all going in terms of the market.
The lines have become blurred now. Telecommunications and computers are all becoming one thing, yet at the end of the day, it’s about handling data in one shape or form.
Traditionally, a telephone call was made down a copper wire but everything is done now over the internet.
It doesn’t matter whether it is via broadband or a 3G or 4G connection – it’s still the internet – where modern phones aren’t just phones anymore, they’re actually computer terminals.
CBM: How do you recommend new technology to your customers?
PS: It can often come down to how much it costs. The reality of it is that even the smallest company, with maybe one or two handsets, could have all of the features that a large corporate would previously have spent tens of thousands of pounds on.
Our service is not just about telephones, it’s far more than that. Its connectivity, broadband and IT support. It’s every aspect of what businesses currently buy from three or four different providers.
Now it can be one package. Shaped in such a way that each of those systems all talk to one another and all the information is pulled together. That obviously brings with it cost savings.
CBM: So, do you practice what you preach?
PS: Yes, just looking at our own example, we had a call centre with about 30 seats, which was costing us thousands of pounds a month to run.
We slashed the cost of that by doing for ourselves what we would go out and do for other companies.
Everything’s hosted now. You don’t need these expensive systems and engineers coming out all the time with their service fees and whatever else.
My own technology allows me to keep in touch with the office, so you could say that I live and breathe the principles on which we sell our technology.
You’ve got to be able to run your business from anywhere. I’ve always had my business in such a way that I can run it from home, abroad, it doesn’t matter.
CBM: Which sort of market changes impact a business like yours the most?
PS: In September last year two things happened, which had a positive impact on the business.
Firstly, Phones 4 U went bust. Of course, it’s never nice to hear of people losing their jobs. But a massive player like that disappearing from the market certainly helped us.
And secondly, the iPhone 6S came out, which stimulated a lot of business because it was the iPhone that people had been waiting for.
CBM: What are your ambitions for the future?
PS: Our ambition would be to get many fixed, hosted lines over the next two to three years. That would put us in a good place.
We want to go from being a re-seller of other people’s products to being a provider of our own products and services.
With all the changes, hopefully the relationship won’t change with our existing customers. The great thing from the point of view of A1Comms is that going forward our destiny will be in our own hands.
A couple of years ago, my ambition was to boost turnover – but that focus has shifted towards making money. We’re expecting to turn over £80 million this year but it’s not a focus I have as a metric – I’m focused on the profit we make.
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