Another recognised leader that Finance Monthly speaks to is Tony Snaith, the CEO of Communicate PLC. Here he tells us in more detail about his CEO responsibilities and the company’s biggest achievements and goals for the future.
How did your career path lead you to becoming a CEO of Communicate PLC and what motivates you about working within the telecommunication sector?
I have worked in the comms industry for over 30 years and originally started as a Network Engineer and actually installed the very first commercial Cat5 cable system in the UK for Sumitomo Bank in London back in 1991. We then rolled out installations for all of the major banks throughout the City and then nationally. Another major milestone was installing the very first Avaya (then Lucent) Definity Call Centre System in the UK in the early nineties for what was Halifax General Insurance a new subsidiary of the building society. It was here that I originally had the idea of providing a fully managed IT and telecoms infrastructure service and actually presented this to the Halifax who had at that time around 40 service (business) centres and over 700 branches. We planned to have engineers in each business centre who would then service 15-20 local branches on a full-time basis. The business model was viable, although the internet at that time would struggle to support what we required without hugely expensive leased lines. The idea was planted but it took another 20 years to deliver it (let’s hope Openreach don’t take as long for the next stage of development).
The thing that motivates me most with this business is seeing other companies grow and develop using our technology. That way it’s a win-win situation and we both benefit from the growth.
CEOs are well-positioned to lead and change the culture of a company. What goals did you arrive with as CEO of Communicate PLC?
I decided very early on that we needed to own the infrastructure and hardware to allow us to grow exponentially. Having lots of different products and manufacturers to keep happy was never going to work if we wanted to grow as we have done. We proved the model worked in the early days and then just rolled it out very successfully across the UK. I have also always believed that people prefer dealing face-to-face so we decided to place engineers and offices in all our major hubs. We have an open door policy so that clients can call in and discuss any issues with us directly instead of having to travel and schedule meetings.
What were some of your biggest achievements in the past twelve months?
Without doubt number one has been the addition of Touchdown Offices Limited to the group. We quickly ascertained that the business would be a fantastic fit for Communicate allowing us to have our own SIP platform and route telephone calls globally over IP. As part of the acquisition we gained some fantastic staff with many years of experience, some big global clients and over 10 million minutes per year routed on the platform. We are now busy migrating existing clients over to the SIP platform and offering resilient connections that can absorb huge fluctuations in call volumes. Once again the fact we own the platform and do not have to rely on others to sub contract our services to gives us greater control of quality, resilience and cost.
The second was outgrowing three of our original offices around the country giving the staff a bigger, more comfortable working and meeting environment and also building bespoke tech suites on site. The Tech Suites are our high-tech showrooms which allow us to demonstrate products and services to clients in a calm, controlled environment without having to rely on travelling and wasted time. The sooner they see it, the sooner we can implement it.
Third was introducing a staff EMI scheme that rewards staff with shares and options for contributing to the success of the business. I have always believed that your engineers and support staff are the lifeblood of the business and need looking after and we will continue to grow the scheme as we get bigger and develop across Europe and globally.
What were Communicate PLC’s beginnings and how did it develop into the company that it is today?
We started in 2011 with four staff at Wynyard Park in the Tees Valley. The idea was, and still is, to be the provider of choice for IT and Telecoms managed services to business parks throughout the UK. We offer landlords a new revenue stream that was previously never available to them. BT, Virgin, Talk Talk, etc. would just come and install their internet and telecoms services to tenants and expect the landlord to provide the access and all the space and power they required, taking 3 months to connect tenants up. We quickly purchased what we needed and put everything in place and connected clients up straight away. We can now offer whatever internet bandwidth a client needs from 10Mbs to 1GB at any of our sites on a flexible monthly basis.
We were then invited to replicate this at Discovery Park in Kent, the old Pfizer UK Headquarters and this proved a turning point for the company. We were suddenly working with world class, global organisations such as Pfizer and Mylan and have since added National Grid and Hornby to our portfolio along with another 130 clients on site. Once we demonstrate the savings and benefits of transferring technology service to us directly to the CEO or FD then the question simply becomes: ‘how soon can we proceed?’
Colworth Park in Bedfordshire quickly followed where we work with Unilever providing site services to both them and new clients in a serviced office environment. We took this site over from a previous company that were unable to offer all the services we could.
Two smaller Business Parks in Kent and Durham have also come online recently and are rapidly expanding as new tenants move in.
The recent addition of Touchdown has significantly added to our portfolio and in four years we have added over 250 clients and doubled turnover every year to an expected £3m for this year. We are forecasting organic growth of £10m for 2017 and £30m for 2018 without any further acquisitions. A flotation is also planned towards the end of 2017 to facilitate our growth plans.
Communicate PLC currently supports Five Business Parks spread across the UK – how is the company’s chain of command set up, and how often do you work with its other branches?
Each park has its own Infrastructure Manager responsible for delivering services to tenants. We have a central Network Operations Centre (NOC) with HQ and billing and administration facility located at Wynyard. This enables site staff to do what they are good at, move new clients in, relocate growing clients, respond to service desk issues and demo new services. I usually visit each site at least once a month and get to meet virtually every client – if not in person, then via Video Conference. I am happy to give my mobile number to any client and am always available to discuss any aspect of our business.
Looking into 2016, what do you anticipate for the company?
We are busy integrating Touchdown into the business and some of their existing long-term clients are looking to discuss additional services we can provide to them. Meetings are already planned for Paris and Barcelona with a major global financial business to demonstrate to board level how our model would benefit their business.
There are also a number of other acquisition targets lined up and our shareholders have already confirmed funds are ready and available to use when required.
We have a new FD and two new Non-Exec Directors who have joined us from Touchdown to offer additional experience to our board in what looks like a very busy few years.
Touchdown Offices Proposition
With a wealth of experience that spans well over a decade of supporting and building long-term relationships with clients, we have many customers within the finance sector, including managing in excess of 5 million minutes of mission critical traffic per year for one of the biggest insurance companies in the world.
Touchdown specialise in personalised telephony services that help manage your business calls effectively. Services include Virtual Numbers with flexible business phone numbers, local or national, single or multiple destinations and Call Management Services to manage and monitor your calls, make call recordings and add bespoke multi-layer interactive menus.
Here are some of the benefits our clients are enjoying:
- Excellent account management – response time is set as 2 hours however we always get a response within minutes
- Year on year savings – Set out cost saving targets over 2 years but actually achieved them within 12 months
- Flexibility to re-route calls in disaster scenarios enabling them to meet Business Continuity Plans
- Giving our clients presence within each country
- Consultative approach to our requirements – customised platform that specifically benefits our projects
- My clients can now contact me when I am not in the office which is really important to making my business grow
- As well as providing a very efficient service it obviously saves me money not having to employ someone to answer my calls