Vodafone Platinum Partner Excalibur is in acquisition talks with six companies in the mobile, fixed line and IT sectors as it continues its drive into the unified comms space, according to the company’s MD James Phipps.
He told Mobile last week: ‘We are in negotiations with a number of mobile, landline and IT companies – we have non-disclosure agreements with half a dozen of them and we have extended banking facilities in place to fund our growth.’
The company’s acquisition strategy is backed by a major recruitment drive that will see it create six new management positions this year and increase its sales force by a third.
Phipps says: ‘We have created a number of new roles because we are trying to create a structure for us to grow. We are hungry for growth and we want to make sure we have the foundations on which to build that growth.’
To this end, since January Excalibur has taken on new sales director Ben Rossiter as well as its first finance director Karl Mutton and its first head of retention and customer care Mairi-Claire Gornall.
Over the next six weeks the firm will also take on a new operations director, a training and development director, a new marketing director and five technical support and sales and business development managers. It also plans to expand its sales force by a third by 2012.
Phipps adds: ‘We have a total of around 50 staff, which we expect to grow to 70 by the end of the year, plus any staff that come via acquisitions.’
Excalibur’s buying spree and recruitment drive follow a major restructuring at the company over the past 18 months. This has seen it sell off its non-core businesses and close its retail division as it moved into b2b and unified comms, concentrating its existing business into three regional offices. To mark its successful transition, the firm also plans to rebrand the company next month, renaming it Excalibur 2.0.
The restructuring appears to have paid off. Excalibur has just posted results that show a £17m turnover, a 10% growth in sales, churn levels down from 10% to 4%, connection run rates up by a third and profits up tenfold on the previous year.
At present the company has over 5,000 customers, most of which are SMEs with between five and 100 employees, and around 30,000 connections.
Phipps says: ‘We have effectively spent two years almost contracting in order to grow. We got rid of a lot of dead wood and in that time staff numbers went down as we moved out of the consumer sector into b2b. Now staff numbers are climbing rapidly again as we drive into unified comms.’
He adds: ‘We have invested millions in the last couple of years to make us right for the marketplace and to become aligned with One Net. Now the marketplace is maturing and we are starting to get payback for that investment now.’
Vodafone One Net is a key weapon in Excalibur’s unified comms armoury. Phipps says that despite initial teething problems, Excalibur’s faith in One Net is paying off, with high levels of customer satisfaction and sales gathering momentum.
He explains: ‘We landed our biggest ever One Net customer so far in June and did as much One Net business last month as we had done in the previous three months.
‘We have done several One Net deals now and what we are finding is that we have 100% satisfaction from all our customers.’
Phipps says One Net is playing a pivotal role in helping Excalibur grow its customer base, as well as enabling it to cross-sell into that base.
‘We have signed up hundreds of users on One Net Core – either existing customers or under other products.’
Phipps says sales of One Net at Excalibur are not just down to the quality of the service but also to the way the company delivers the product.
He explains: ‘We are the only Vodafone partner that can provide design, installation and support – all the other partners have to go through Vodafone.’
Phipps says the company stands out from its rivals because of the investment it has made in unified comms. He says: ‘That’s why our rivals’ sales staff are coming to us asking for jobs. We are not into just selling mobile. It is about the whole conversation. We want to build long-term relationships, which is what One Net Core does.’
He adds: ‘It’s about investment. You have to lose money before you make money. There are a lot of short-sighted dealers out there that just aren’t prepared to do that.’
‘Excalibur is buying, not selling’
Excalibur is not up for sale, despite being made a number of ‘cheeky offers’ recently, Excalibur MD James Phipps says.
He adds: ‘We have had a number of offers but we will not sell, not in a million years. We are buying – we are not being bought.’
He jokes: ‘We had one offer recently which would have taken some years off our working lives.’
However, joking aside, Phipps makes clear Excalibur is not about to sell up.
‘We know we are at the start of a journey and we know we have a lot more growth to come over the next few years.’
To fuel that growth Excalibur is on the hunt for mobile dealers that are looking to sell up. He says: ‘We are keen to talk to mobile partners that only do mobile and nothing else. We are looking at those businesses that are good businesses but for whatever reason just can’t cope with the transition into the unified comms market.’
Excalibur is mainly looking at dealers in the south of England but Phipps doesn’t rule out making an exception if the deal is right.
He adds: ‘We will look at any opportunity if it fits our criteria.’