HSL founder answers the questions
HSL was set up in 1999 after airport operator BAA decided it wanted to use the SMS service which Mark Hay had developed.
Shortly after that logistics firm DHL came on board as a customer. Both those companies remain as clients and HSL is embarking on its biggest growth phase yet with a number of new jobs being created in the next year. Here Hay tells us about what is happening.
What do you do?
HSL provide mobile messaging services to enterprises worldwide. Mobile messaging services allow companies to integrate SMS (text messaging) into their day-to-day business practices. HSL provide services and solutions which facilitate the sending and receiving of SMS messages which is a highly important communication tool that allows companies, for example, to communicate with both internal employees, external customers and for critical alerting.
HSL has a global coverage of more than 630 mobile network operators worldwide, supplying to over 200 countries. Our robust technical infrastructure allows us to provide 99.9% network availability to our customers.
What is unique about what the company does?
We provide messaging services over the most technically capable and resilient SMS delivery infrastructure in the world. Our advantage over our competitors comes from our focus on providing such high quality of service which our customers can depend on. Additionally our focus on the use of SS7 – the telecommunications protocol that provides the most reliable means of SMS delivery - sets us apart from competitors.
What is the business plan and how does the company intend to grow?
We have just completed the strategic plans for the coming two years. The strategy is clearly communicated throughout the company so that all plans are in line with our end goal of being leading providers of mobile communication services to enterprises worldwide. This ensures that we actively pursuing and executing the strategy effectively both bottom up and top down.
Through the execution of the strategy we expect to grow by at least 30 per cent in the next year and to see new customer numbers surpass the 500 mark. We are currently building a new sales team who will be proactive in growing the existing customer base and generating new business. Additionally, we will be investing in a new development team of approximately 15 new employees.
Who are your key customers/what are your key markets?
We currently have around 450 customers from various countries. Strong in our UK domestic market, we have many large UK enterprises as customer and we intend to grow this further, likewise we will grow our customers from other key markets around the globe. Our geographic split of customers is broadly 85 per cent from Europe, nine per cent from the Middle East, Asia and Africa and six per cent from the USA and Canada. High profile customers include BAA, DHL, Sony Ericsson and Acision. We also work with small companies and the public sector, including local authorities, the police and government organisations.
What will the next 12 months hold?
The whole company is extremely excited about the coming months. We are very much looking forward to a highly profitable year.
Where did the funding come from and which organisations have supported the business?
The business has grown organically over the years and has almost entirely been funded from its own cash flow.
Has there been a key moment or turning point?
About two years ago. We started to focus with greater intensity on the bottom line and on how the company was run, the costs associated with it and our margins. This has resulted in a significantly better level of profit than we’ve seen in any previous year.
How does the company use technology and IT?
Fundamentally we are a technology company employing IT systems and telecommunications systems to provide our services to customers. We have racks of servers located at two separate sites in Scotland to which our customers connect via the Internet in order to be connected into our network to send and receive SMS messages. We have developed our own software systems to operate our services and in the interest of providing excellence in these services we avoid where possible outsourcing development or buying third party software.
What has been the best achievement so far?
Achieving our current levels of profitability.
What has been the biggest hurdle which has been overcome?
Realising when biting off more than can chew. There are only 24 hours in the day and it’s important to recognise when you are stretching limited resources too tightly while trying to maintain reasonable project delivery dates and control costs.
Where do you want the business to be in 10 years time?
Being the IBM of mobile communications services for enterprises globally.
If you were given £1 million to invest in the company how would you use it?
Scale up the sales team. Expand the software development team that is needed to build the products and services that our customers want. Hire and retain the right people for the company to achieve its strategy.
What's the best part of running a business?
Experiencing what works and what does not and using that experience to focus on what will benefit the business most. Devising a strategy for a successful business, executing that strategy and (hopefully) seeing the desired outcome. Working with enthusiastic and motivated people who believe in the business, its leadership and where it is going.