From snipping hair to cutting edge UC, how Sprint Convergence Managing Director Paul Bloxham got ahead in comms.
How many industry leaders began their entrepreneurial career in comms holding a pair of scissors in one hand, a comb in the other, and making a bet with a customer? "I was introduced to telecoms by a larger than life character called Simon who owned a small telecoms company in Hertfordshire," recalled Bloxham. "I was working as a barber at the time and made an off-the-cuff bet with him on the premise that I could install a PBX with just a manual in return for a job on double my earnings from cutting hair. The rest is history."
Bloxham had displayed a level of bold cheek that could perhaps be traced back to a time when he worked on the markets from the age of 11. While manning the stalls and operating as a barber he gained experience of interacting with all types of personalities at all levels of society. "I learnt how to listen and converse to a wide spectrum of people," he added. "But in telecoms such interactions become partnerships."
Having won the bet and developed his skills as an engineer Bloxham moved into technical pre-sales before accepting an opportunity to work self-employed as a sales person on 100 per cent commission. "This gave me a grounding in how to run a business with minimal risks," said Bloxham. "I met some like-minded individuals in late 2009 who boosted my confidence and I decided it was time to play my part in raising the standards of service across our sector."
Sprint Convergence began its commercial life in early 2010 and was the manifestation of 'scribbled' ideas, notes and business plans made on many Pukka pads, the final scrawl being 'I'm going to do this!'. "I went out to look for the product, established excellent relationships, sought the right people to form a team and here we are," stated Bloxham.
As well as displaying a clear ambition and get-up-and-go, Bloxham also showed bravery in bringing about a turning point for the fledgling business. "I had the gumption to purchase 1,000 seats of lifetime licences from Gamma in my first year of trading," he explained. "I saw the opportunity Gamma presented and listened to my gut feeling on the way the market was heading. This was soon followed by another 1,000 seats. Another milestone was installing our first international hosted solution into an office in New York's Time Square in 2012."
Time may have indeed seemed rather short for Bloxham as he hurried along his early stage growth strategy. Running true to his company's name, it took only three months for Bloxham to move his business from the dining room table to an office HQ within the splendid surrounding of Wrest Park where he also housed his first employee. "We now have a 125-strong team of highly skilled and personable professionals representing Sprint across the UK," added Bloxham. "In our first five years we grew our bottom line between 35-45 per cent each year, which was phenomenal and exciting. We keep growing thanks to our relationships."
Sprint Convergence also has wholesale partnerships with Zen, TelcoSwitch and BT, and as an engineering firm provides site surveys, installations and training to its channel partner network. The company recruited an average of one new channel partner per week in 2017, and kicked off 2018 by collaborating with two new partners to expand the product offering and establish relationships with non-telecoms partners wanting to explore the opportunities that Bloxham believes will shape the industry over the coming three-five years. These include CRM solutions and IT network management.
As a company that is always on the move, progressively upwards, it is a given the Sprint Convergence has the scalability and flexibility to continue partnering and developing its channel, which consists of start-up companies through to channel partners with turnovers of £100-plus million. "We appeal to every UK telecoms and IT company that prioritises the delivery of their products and services, that want to add value to their business and reputation but at a cost well below the expenditure required to employ, train and maintain staff in-house themselves," explained Bloxham. "If their company grows or shrinks we flex with them and support their journey as if we were a department within their business - but without the headache and cost."
In meeting this requirement another of Bloxham's talents is exposed - fitting the right people to the right job and nurturing the dependable skills that many channel businesses need so badly. "Our management team shares the Sprint Convergence vision, ethos and ethics," commented Bloxham. "Everyone passionately cares about why they do what they do. We hire people who will challenge the status quo. We seek disruption and strong delivery skills. We nurture staff to bring out their true capabilities, never stunting their potential. We want to follow in the path of large organisations that have successfully grown over the years. We intend to represent the industry and truly be recognised as the John Lewis of UC implementations."
No surprise then that Bloxham sees 2018 as a year to scale up, increase staff headcount, add more channel partners, push hard along the product development path (which includes CRM systems), and leverage a well thought out sales and marketing strategy with the key message 'we make UC and CRM integration simple and available to all companies throughout the UK'. "Our growth has been driven by recommendations," enthused Bloxham. "Now we need to be more vocal about what we do."•
Just a minute with Paul Bloxham
Richard Branson for his independent cheeky spirit and amazing ability to build businesses
What talent do you wish you had?
Mind swap with anyone and everyone in the universe at will
If you could transform any area of the IT industry what would it be?
Encourage companies to focus on the delivery
What do you fear the most?
My ego stunting my growth and ability to be empathetic. I'm constantly working on this
Tell us something about yourself we don't know
I have a private pilot's licence, ride an RT1200 motorbike, played rugby since I was five, support Bath RFC and I'm going to South America for a month this year!
We all have strengths and weaknesses: What are your greatest strengths, and what could you 'work on'?
I am very creative, but could work on delivering my creative mind in a more straightforward way
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who helped others
Give one example of something you've overcome
Starting a business from scratch without help
If you weren't in telecoms what would you be doing?
If money wasn't an object I would take people on adventures around the world free of charge, giving them life experiences. You only live once
What's the biggest risk you have taken and why?
I don't see risks I only see opportunities to experience. I thrive on life so I guess getting out of bed in the morning as you never know what's going to be presented to you that day.
How do you relax when not working?
Active in as many different sports as possible and passing time in a restaurant with great company - the world seems to stand still.
Top tip for resellers
Become the best at what you do and don't except anything below your company's values, standards and ethos
Recognising the potential in people with no qualifications or knowledge of industry and seeing them develop into confident amazing people