Pastel tones up for growth

Having recognised potential for strong growth Pastel Group MD Mark Thorndike is resolutely doubling down on the move to wholesale, third party partnerships and closer customer engagement.

As Thorndike proceeds to strengthen Pastel Group’s influence and presence in the market he continues to execute his strategic growth plan on a number of fronts, supported by impressive year-on-year revenue figures that culminated with an 81 per cent increase in 2022 over the previous year, driven largely by a significant boost from wholesale billing which was up 170 per cent. Early indications are that 2023 is shaping up for a record year with wholesale billing up 45 per cent on 2022’s Q1.

“We have many priorities this year, one of which is a strong commitment to building our Pastel Partners programme,” stated Thorndike. “Third parties can join with no minimum requirements and go straight into offering a full suite of voice, data, mobile and IT. It’s a great way for any business that doesn’t currently offer comms to jump in with our support.”

Staffordshire-based Pastel Group began its commercial life in 2013, originally trading as Pastel Solutions and specialising in the mobile arena which was Thorndike’s first stomping ground since leaving university (after graduating he worked for an independent mobile phone reseller and within three months became Sales Manager). “However, since diversifying our product offering to include voice, connectivity and IT services we took on the Pastel Group name and went through a rebrand in 2021,” explained Thorndike.

The company opened a Truro office in 2015 and a new office in Whiteley, Fareham, this year. The Truro move extended Pastel Group’s geographic reach and coincided with the business branching out from being mobile centric to offer other products such as hosted phone systems and data lines.

“At first, we started working with partners like Gamma on a dealer model basis but soon realised we needed to bring these key elements in house on a wholesale, self-billed model,” added Thorndike. “In 2021 our Sales Director, Ollie Moseley, joined the team and contributed greatly towards UCaaS growth especially. We also launched Pastel IT Services and the Pastel Partners sales channel designed to give third parties the ability to sell our core products.”

Partner loyalty
Thorndike is confident that his early decision to select and align with core partners will keep Pastel Group on track, helping to drive growth by remaining loyal and gaining preferential ‘rights’. “By showing partners loyalty we have been included in many pre-release stages of their services, enabling us to mould and tailor our approach to the market,” added Thorndike. “For example, we recently became a Gamma Technical Alliance Partner. The team put many man hours into up-skilling and development and the designation shows customers that we know our products. It also supports our interest in finding out how customers work on a day-to-day basis. This includes digging below the surface to unearth potential issues. And we advise customers on the true market, not just the product that makes the most margin. We aren’t product pushers and this is reflected in our retention figures.”

Where resellers like us can add true value is by knowing the market, listening to the pain points and finding a joint solution

Pastel Group promotes a 94 per cent customer retention rate, and according to Thorndike close customer engagement is key. “We looked at how our customers were talking to us, how they interacted and what that looked like for them,” he added. “That’s why we invested in our CCaaS offering. This year we are looking at how this service can sit in all businesses, not just the classic contact centre filled with outbound traffic.”

This all points to real momentum around customer engagement strategies supported by consultation. “Real value is created by listening to customers and letting them dictate what is important for their business goals,” said Thorndike. “Where resellers like us can add true value is by knowing the market, listening to the pain points and finding a joint solution. Pairing that with providing a realistic expectation from both parties for roll out and ongoing support is where we have found our success.”

High exposure
The imperative to turn up the volume on Pastel Group’s many advantages for customers is not lost on Thorndike who is now placing a great emphasis on broadening the firm’s exposure to potential clients and most importantly the existing base. “We need to improve on how much we shout about what we do,” he added. “A long-term customer told me recently that they didn’t know we could provide IT services. If they had known we could have saved them a headache.

“This year we are putting more investment in our outbound image. We are going to do our best to tell the comms world what we do. The business has gone from strength to strength and we know with all the work being put in to build our supplier relationships and customer engagement we are on to a winner. Our great strength is our relationships with customers and suppliers. We move heaven and earth to achieve their goals. Equally, we are not afraid to have disruption conversations.

“From the research we have conducted, some of the best customer engagement we have seen is when we show the outside world what it’s like to work at Pastel. We have a great team, the offices are lively and people enjoy their jobs. We want like-minded individuals who have the desire to build and scope their own careers and we strive to keep this ethos going.”

Just a minute with Mark Thorndike...

Your main strength and what could you work on?
Attention to detail and building relationships is a strength, but I need to work on making more time for my family (my golf game also needs improvement).

Lesson learnt:
Realising that I am not an expert in every field. Having the best people around me to complement my skills gives us the best chance of thriving.

In hindsight:
I would have moved into the wholesale market sooner. It’s a great sustainable model and will always allow for organic growth as opposed to capital investment.

Industry bugbear:
Regulation. There are still too many companies that price incorrectly to win the business and then mess it up. They tarnish the reputation of legitimate companies.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know:
I was an extra on Eastenders.

Name three ideal dinner guests:
Jonny Wilkinson, Robin Williams and Steve Jobs.

One example of something you have overcome:
Weight: I went from 18.5 stone to 12.5 stone.

Top tip:
Get the right people around you to succeed and look after the customer.


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