6/10/2010 12:31:00 PM
Paul Sisson, A1 Comms and Buymobilephones.net
How long have you been established?
A1 Comms was set up in 1997 as a retail high street business. We opened a small chain of high street outlets consisting of 14 shops around market towns in the Derbyshire area. In 1999 we launched A1comms.co.uk. We realized that to get people interested in buying online, we had to be really competitive, and this affected the kind of deals we did in shops. Buymobilephones.net was launched as a white label in 2003 and really started to get going in 2004-5. Eventually it was selling more than all of my stores put together. We sold the shops in 2006 and have concentrated on the online business ever since.
Is there another part of the business?
A1 Comms has been established as a b2b business for the local area and continues to go from strength to strength.
How has Buymobilephones.net grown?
The company has grown enormously. Initially, Buymobilephones operated out of the cellar of one of the shops and had only three or four members of staff. The profit from the website allowed us to buy a head office in November 2004, and we have had to take staff on. We have established different parts of the business and now employ more than 60 people. Last year we had a turnover of £30m.
What are the benefits of online trading?
The shops barely made enough money between them to cover their overheads. The internet allows for much more volume with relatively low overheads. The main cost comes from getting people on to the website through advertising. The internet gives us the ability to compete with bigger players in the industry.
What networks do you connect?
We connect all of the networks apart from Vodafone. The key thing is to have a broad range of handsets – there are over one million separate offers on the website.
Have there been any other key achievements recently?
At T-Mobile’s conference in January we won best quality of customer and highest number of connections. To make this business a success, it is important that we are profitable. We have a very low fraud rate and do not want to lose money through clawbacks – we can’t afford excessive clawbacks.
What are the plans for the future?
We try to improve as we grow. As we have made more money, we have had the ability to invest that money back into the business. Just after Christmas we built our own call centre, expanded into the building next to us, and employed someone with management experience. We now have an inbound call centre for customer service and a separate inbound team for sales. We’re in the process of establishing an outbound retention team. We want to continue growing the business. Our turnover will easily exceed £40m this year, and I would like to reach a turnover of £100m in the next few years.