Woodhead returns with high intent

Simwood CEO Simon Woodhead stepped back from hands-on leadership in 2021 to support the medical challenges of one his three daughters. Now back at the helm, his appetite for growth has perhaps never been sharper.

To say that Woodhead is crystal clear about his strategic priorities would be to understate the nature of his ambition and clarity of vision. “Taking a year out of the hot seat has enabled me to come back with a fresh perspective,” he stated. “The next three years are critical for us. We’re ahead in terms of infrastructure and positioning and I see Simwood as the life raft for those in the industry who want to focus on their own business and not be burdened by their carrier’s underinvestment and need to play catch-up.”

Following his period of near absence, which provided mind space for new corporate initiatives to take shape, Woodhead hit the ground running on his full return to drive a programme of assiduously thought out strategic improvements. “I’ve made significant changes to address things that took hold while I was away and from seeing the wood from the trees on my own past initiatives,” he said. “I’ve also experienced first hand the impact a leader can have simply based on tone and direction, something that was easy to question before.”

Simwood is 27 years old and my focus is on the next quarter of a century. Any business that isn’t assuming they’ll be infinite will be limited and reactive. Sadly, I see too much restricted thinking across our sector

Following 27 years of uninterrupted growth, and 2021 being the best year on record, last year marked a pause in a number of respects, noted Woodhead. “Culture and motivation had suffered resulting in an impact on sales and customer service,” he added. “Those issues were the first to be addressed and came good quickly. Now I’m focused on energising sales growth along with cementing internal improvements. We have a hungry team and a high level new business opportunities that have dwarfed 2022 growth in the first two months of 2023.”

Woodhead’s primary objective this year is to get back to where he was in 2021 with the ‘real growth’ coming in 2024. “We’re adopting a simple strategy to achieve that... cutting waste and growing revenue while keeping margin and overheads tightly controlled,” he added. “The PSTN switch-off is huge for us. We’re ahead in IP migration having solicited an invite to what I called the Secret Club some years ago – in other words, our IP migration with BT is done and dusted while we enjoy grandfathered economics available to proper networks. This means our carrier services customers do not experience disruption when migrating number ranges or re-engineering our network to accommodate the PSTN switch-off. On the flip side, we have a product set that is exactly what the market is looking for now.”

The majority of Simwood’s business comes from carrier services such as providing numbering and calls to those operating platforms and running their own channels (Simwood is also licensed to operate across 100 per cent of the US). This continues to be where Woodhead sees important future growth with new customers including those providing mission critical services to government and enterprise as well as Simwood’s platform serving the financial services industry and SMEs through circa 200 UC platform providers.

“We’re a strong and agile alternative to the biggest carriers, and one of the main hosts of number ranges in the country,” explained Woodhead. “But in 2019 we made some acquisitions that gave us the complete vertical, including white labelled UCaaS serving 140 or so partners and our own direct to market brands for customer profiles not served by partners.

“In the confluence of those areas we developed a PSTN replacement service in 2021 which is going great guns – our major customers being alternative networks that need a PSTN replacement at a good price point and scale. I can’t overstate the power in owning our own supply chain.”

We skated to where the puck was going, now we’re ready and waiting for it

Woodhead’s confidence in the long-term viability of Simwood is supported by his foresight and pedigree in adapting to market conditions ahead of time. “We skated to where the puck was going, now we’re ready and waiting for it,” he said. “Simwood is 27 years old and my focus is on the next quarter of a century. Any business that isn’t assuming they’ll be infinite will be limited and reactive. Sadly, I see too much restricted thinking across our sector.”

Preparations for growth also involve a ‘significant degree of growing up’, pointed out Woodhead, including developments to HR policy, investing in people, carbon audits and further investment in ISO 9001 and 27001 awards. “In many cases this is simply putting a formal tick against something we’ve always done,” added Woodhead. “We already produce 28 per cent less CO2 than the industry average and 30 per cent of what we generate is mitigated by our own solar farm.”

Woodhead’s approach involves bold activism and giving the megaphone to industry issues while locking horns where necessary. “We’ve always picked fights with regulators and peers where necessary to drive a positive outcome for end users,” he said. “That approach has led to me being given many names over the years, but it’s paying off. For example, look at our action around the CPI+3.9% shenanigans. However, the biggest challenge facing the industry is regulatory and the fact that competition has failed in our sector.”

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