Challenger measures up

It is a measure of Challenger Mobile Communications’ great agility that it could evolve from pagers to full-blown ICT solution delivery. Therein lies its strength and potential, believes Managing Director Jeff Eamens.

Any business in a fast moving marketplace can swiftly become out of date if it does not keep pace and target growth, not simply through sales of the current product portfolio, but also by introducing additional products to complement the offering. For example, in November Challenger added Trakm8’s telematics and vehicle camera portfolio to its fleet management solutions ahead of the introduction of London’s Direct Vision Standard (DVS). The new standard will require the majority of HGVs driving through central London to add additional sources of indirect vision to avoid fines.

“Similar regulations are expected to come into force in other cities and regions in the future, increasing the importance of fleets having a robust set of telematics solutions,” said Eamens. “Challenger has offered tracking services for many years but this has always been one of the smaller parts of our business. Now we see great potential for growth in this sector, given the efficiency, safety and reliability gains such systems can offer. I always keep my eye on the latest tech and ideas in the industry. The trick is finding the add that the customer wants.”

Eamens was a mechanical engineer for 11 years before grasping an opportunity to sell radio pagers and then setting up Challenger, along with Wayne Skellon, in 1991 in response to the explosion in demand for high quality business communications. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength and is now one of the largest independent B2B telecoms specialists in the UK and one of O2’s top five partners nationally. In 1991 it was clear that mobiles would be the logical evolution and next big thing, so Eamens co-founded Challenger to supply the market with what it demanded. In April 2019 he led a management buyout and Challenger became a truly independent business with a refreshed set of goals. “The MBO enabled us to move in the right direction with nothing to hold us back,” he stated.

But the biggest change for Challenger came in 2009 when it went into revenue share with O2. “This was a game changer for the industry and we have never looked back,” explained Eamens. “More recently we have taken part in some exciting projects including our involvement with ITS and its Faster Britain fibre roll out. We are able to offer our neighbours on the Deeside Industrial Park a fast and reliable full fibre broadband product, where before the options were scarce and expensive.

“Furthermore, to see so many businesses embrace flexible working successfully in March has been the silver lining to a difficult 2020. We must embrace technology, and the Covid-19 lockdown has forced many companies into this sooner than they would have done otherwise. Finding efficiencies using social media and AI are a must if we are to compete, but never underestimate the value of conversation.”

Challenger offers a range of telecoms solutions. As mentioned it is a key O2 partner and works closely with EE and Vodafone. The company also provides VoIP systems, tracking solutions, landlines and broadband along with digital products such as Office 365 and MaaS360. Its customers range from sole trader individual accounts to multi-national companies.

“Starting Challenger is by far my greatest achievement to date because I was always a bit of a rebel, and found it awkward working for other people in sales who put making money above everything else,” added Eamens. “Being in business is about getting the best from people and bringing out the best in them, we are all capable of greatness in some field, we just need to find which one it is.”

Just a minute with Jeff Eamens..

Role models:
Richard Branson, who started from nothing, was dyslexic and had no real qualifications, yet managed to build one of the most vibrant and exciting British businesses.

What do you fear most?
Nothing at all. I live for each day and have never worried about anything.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know:
I am reclusive when not in work and socially awkward, which is strange as I chose a career that involves meeting lots of people.

Your main strength and what could you work on?
Getting the best out of people is a strong point. But I can be a little soft and sometimes people take advantage.

If you weren’t in the ICT industry what would you be doing?
I would be working with my hands as I am very practical and can turn my hand to most tasks.

Name three ideal dinner guests:
The economist Steve Keen: I admire his work on how the economy functions; Elon Musk: Tesla is the best company in the world; and Albert Einstein: Probably the greatest mind that ever lived.

Best piece of advice you have been given?
 My dad taught me to lead by example. Often this means being first in, last out and being engaged in whatever task you’re undertaking. Get up early, clean your overalls, polish your shoes, do each task quickly and, when done, ask for more.

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