If one thing screams from the market disruption we are all witnessing it is that standing still is not an option, according to Active Business Communications Managing Director Mark Boyle.
Active was founded in 1997 by Ed Liston and operated as a family business trading from a small office in Hyde, Greater Manchester, with just a telephone, a card table and a garden chair. The fledgling company focused on selling business mobile phone contracts and consistently gained customers during its first seven years. Boyle joined Active in 2004, an appointment that moved the company away from being a family-only business. “This change in structure kick-started a period of rapid growth driven by the increasing adoption of smartphones and a successful partnership with O2,” stated Boyle. “At the start of 2011 it became clear that growth within the business mobile marketplace had started to plateau. We shifted our business model and evolved to become a business telecoms provider adding fixed line services and telephone systems to our product portfolio.”
Active currently has 37 employees working across its headquarters in Stockport and technical operations in Bromborough. The company is on track to achieve turnover of £5 million this financial year having grown by 25 per cent over the past three years. Boyle, who led a buyout of Active in 2011 without external funding, is aiming to double the size of the business over the coming three years through organic growth and acquisitions. The plan builds on the acquisitions of a number of smaller IT service providers in 2016 which added scale and capability to Active’s IT business.
Active’s evolution as a managed service provider with the ability to deliver integrated IT and telecoms began in 2013 with the rise of IP and increased adoption of cloud services by businesses. Six years later another market shift prompted swift action from Boyle. “We recognised in the middle of 2019 that we needed to strengthen our UC proposition to meet the needs of our customers so we added additional experience and capability to aggressively grow this part of our business,” he explained. “Another key focus area has been to anticipate the wider market trends and position the business to ensure it continues to add value for customers.
We will be looking to gain scale and capability through acquisitions to support the next phase in our growth
“Our growth strategy has been led through a combination of organic growth and strategic acquisitions to build capability. Over the next 12 to 24 months we will be looking to gain additional scale and capability through acquisitions to support the next phase in our growth. Our strength has always been our ability to rapidly adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace and our ability to evolve our proposition to deliver value to customers. I would say our biggest achievement is to have constantly evolved the business successfully over the last 16 years and to remain as valued to our customers now as we were 20 years ago.”
Active works with a number of tech partners including O2, Microsoft, Cisco Meraki, Sophos, Zen, Gamma, StorageCraft, HP, NEC, Openreach and Invosys. “Our ambition is to become the technology partner of choice, empowering business to achieve more, effortlessly,” stated Boyle. “We use our expertise to help ambitious businesses select, integrate and manage technology solutions, empowering people to work however, wherever, and whenever they want. Our customers work with us because we make their life easier, make business sense and, ultimately, we give them the confidence and knowledge to make the right decision for their business.”
Boyle has seen a growing desire for change among his customer base as people continue to realise the efficiency gains from working flexibility. “Our customers are more ready to embrace new technologies and ways of working,” he said. “For example, we’re helping customers to use Teams and Power apps to drive process change. We are also looking at how we unlock the power of data analytics for our customers and how we can create products and solutions that enable them to become more data rational.
“The trend that we’re seeing is a desire to drive business efficiency using technology. Customers don’t want to go back to how they have been working pre-Covid. They want to drive real change. Our priority is managing our resource and capability to ensure that we can sustain our customer experience with the current level of demand we are seeing.”
Just a minute with Mark Boyle
Gerry Robinson from the BBC series 'I’ll Show them who’s boss'. His clarity of message and calmness of approach always inspired me
What talent do you wish you had?
To be able to cook
What do you fear the most?
Having poor health
I would have invested more in gaining market share when we had exclusivity with a limited number of O2 partners at the launch of the iPhone in 2008.
Tell us something about yourself we don't know
I played mens lacrosse internationally for Scotland
Name three ideal dinner guests
As a Manchester City fan it would have to be our greatest managers – Joe Mercer, Kevin Keegan and Pep Guardiola
We all have strengths and weaknesses
I have an ability to think and deliver on a long-term basis. But I could apparently improve my delegating
How would you like to be remembered?
He did it the right way with a smile
Your biggest opportunity
To exploit the desire for change among customers post-Covid
The deliberately slow roll out of high-speed broadband has held the industry back over the last decade.
Name one thing you couldn't do without in your job
A blank sheet of paper to plan my day
When did you get into comms
In 1997 in a graduate sales role selling mobile radio
Best piece of advice you have been given?
Long-term focus is a true superpower
What possession could you not live without?
The coaster I got for completing the Coniston 14 half-marathon
Give one example of something you've overcome
Dyslexia, although I wouldn’t change anything
If you weren't in IT what would you be doing?
Something in sales
Who do you admire most in the channel?
David Plumb (formerly of O2): He’s a class act
How do you relax when not working?
Getting outside and either running or cycling
Top tip for resellers
Our strength is the difference that we offer to customers