Ms Lindsay, a former BT executive who set up Telecom Networks with a small loan from her father in 2010, offers services such as telephony, IT and mobile phones to businesses across the UK. “It’s fast-paced and really exciting,” she told Sir Tom and his co-host Lord Willie Haughey. “We are trying to diversify at the moment.”
Discussing barriers to growth, she said that while business with the SME sector was robust with a portfolio of about 1,000 customers and an annual turnover of £2 million, she was finding it challenging to make inroads into the public sector as larger competitors possessed greater buying power and were also on the acquisition trail, buying up smaller firms.
Noting that she was inspired to launch Telecom Networks after seeing BT clients “lose faith” in that business when it moved contact centres to India and the Philippines where it created 50,000 jobs “that were not in the UK”, Ms Lindsay said: “They just didn’t offer the same customer service and I saw an opportunity in the market to take my own knowledge from BT, the bits and the bad things, and go out on my own.”
Sir Tom said that in his experience, services businesses moved “further away from their customers” as they got bigger, pointing to Ms Lindsay’s comments about BT opening contact centres in other parts of the world. Suggesting that when she was pitching for new business “the person you are sitting opposite is going to see your passion”, he added: “You’re the business owner and they’re going to see you’re really going to take care of that customer.
“Price is just one thing in the whole mix of what you have to sell so get that message out there that ‘we are a small business and we care about your customers’.”
Ms Lindsay pointed out that her company had recently started to do more networking and was working with other firms offering different services, the idea being that they collaborate and pass on leads and referrals to each other. “We’re coming out of our comfort zone, and attending events, doing seminars and so on,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lord Haughey agreed that sales and marketing within the telecoms sector was tough, alluding to some of the challenges experienced by his son who owns the Glasgow-based business Comms FM.
He also welcomed her collaborative approach and suggested that working with other smaller telecoms business could be mutually beneficial.