One of the founders of Abica answers the questions
The team behind Abica felt there was a gap in the market for a dedicated business to business telecoms company offering mobile, landline, broadband and IT services for the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector. Five years on Greg Barnett, one of the original founders, tells us how the business has grown.
What do you do ?
Abica supplies products to allow companies to communicate effectively in today's fast moving business environment.
Where did the funding come from and which organisations have supported the business?
Private investment, however Scottish Enterprise has offered significant support to the business.
What is unique about what the company does?
Our passion for great customer service is our key differentiator. Our ethos, product suite and service are geared specifically for SMEs therefore we can always fulfill our promise easily.
What has been the single biggest investment?
A few years back we invested in a state of the art billing system. This allows us to provide customers with easy visibility of their spend which in turn gives them full control and management of their telecoms costs.
Has there been a key moment or turning point?
In October 2008 we launched our own Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). This has allowed us to create our own unique mobile offering giving the customer end to end dealings with Abica to the exclusion of any third party. We act as a virtual operator similar to Virgin but we were the first provider to offer this specifically for businesses.
What is the business plan and how does the company intend to grow?
2009-2010 saw a growth of 50 per cent and we intend to continue that for the next few years aiming to reach a turnover of s5 million by 2013.
Do you have any non-executive directors, mentors or key advisors? Who are they?
We were fortunate to recruit the services of Rod Matthews (founder of Scottish Telecom, now THUS) who acted as advisor and non-executive chairman to Abica for a 12 month period and helped cement the foundations for our strategic development.
How does the company use technology and IT?
Every product and technology that we offer is used internally. The industry always says, eat your own dog food, which is testimony to our complete confidence in the products that we sell.
Who are your key customers/what are your key markets?
High profile private sector businesses as well as the public sector including the NHS and the Department for International Development. We work with a wide range of clients from small start-ups to household names like Mactaggart and Mickel and McConechy's Tyre and Exhaust Services. We also offer products specifically geared towards the financial services, legal and creative industries and as a result we have established a strong foothold in these particular sectors.
Does the company have international sales or does it intend to grow internationally?
No, we are a UK-based company. However, many of our clients have international offices and we have successfully networked their site-to-site systems and global communications.
What has been the best achievement so far?
We won the Best Customer Service Award at the 2009 Glasgow Business Awards and were finalists in 2010.
What has been the biggest hurdle which has been overcome?
Adapting through the last two years of the economy being in recession by restructuring the team, our costings and our business model. We have managed to overcome these difficulties by pricing products based on a rental model allowing customers to pay for their communication systems on a monthly basis as opposed to up-front.
What will the next 12 months hold?
We are steadily becoming the de-facto telecoms supplier of choice in Glasgow and we hope to expand UK-wide. Our aim is to reclaim the Glasgow Business Award for Excellence in Customer Service for 2011.
Where do you want the business to be in 10 years time?
There have been dramatic changes in technology in the past 10 years and we now look forward to being at the forefront of these changes in the next 10 years. By doing so we aim to mirror the success of Glasgow and create a UK wide presence.
If you were given £1 million to invest in the company how would you use it?
We would use the investment to acquire telecoms providers and cross sell our rich product suite to their client base. This would help accelerate our footprint on the market at a national level.
What's the best part of running a business?
Every day brings a fresh challenge. Who doesn't thrive on the money coming in and the sound of the gong when a new contract is signed? Profitability generates positive energy and I am a big believer in creating a fun environment in the office.