Paul Norris, group managing director, Ethos
Ethos Communications is one of the largest independent providers of managed print services, office and mobile communications, business broadband, managed network services and franking solutions in the UK.
Ethos was established in 1992 and is now one of the largest independent communication solutions companies in the UK. It is a nationwide group managing the integrated communication resources for thousands of corporate, commercial and public sector clients across Great Britain and Europe. Totally independent, it partners leading document and telephone system manufacturers and all network providers, making it one of the few organisations capable of providing unbiased advice across the entire spectrum of document, voice and data communications.
Many clients trust the company to support all of these channels on their behalf and Ethos manages their document resources alongside converged; fixed and mobile voice and data solutions – often on single managed service agreements.
1. How would you assess the importance of being independent and is that likely to remain the strategy going forward?
Our independence is one of the things that sets us apart from the competition. We’ve been in business for over 20 years now and we’ve stayed independent quite simply because it’s what our customers most value – independent advice across all the major manufacturers, platforms and providers. We’ve made acquisitions along the way and I expect to make more in the future but our independence, that’s likely to remain the mainstay of our strategy moving forward.
2. Can you give a snapshot of the type of industries you serve and the diverse mix of applications that this covers?
Think of a business today that doesn’t rely on voice, data and document solutions. It’s almost impossible. Communications infrastructure is right at the heart of every organisation, whatever the industry or the size. That’s why we have such a diverse customer-base – from start-ups to public sector organisations and multinational corporations.
3. How much of your market is UK based and how much international?
Of our 3,000 customers, the majority are headquartered in the UK. An increasing number of them have locations around the world and how they communicate with those locations is of critical importance. Our telephony, mobile and document solutions help businesses communicate internally and externally and have a dramatic impact on productivity.
4. What’s your take on Cambridge Cluster and it’s communication needs?
The Cambridge scene is so dynamic and there’s obviously an incredible wealth of technical knowledge here. One of the interesting profiles we do see in Cambridge is in tech companies that have experienced very rapid growth and where the communication infrastructure is still being looked after internally and distracts from the company’s core activities! Clearly, that’s not the best use of their time or expertise and that’s where we come in. We work as part of our customers’ extended team so they only ever have to deal with one company and not a complex network of providers. It’s a simple solution and one that tends to pay for itself immediately.
5. Do your clients typically take one service or do you find they trust to you across a range of products and services for an integrated approach?
Some of our customers come to us for a tactical point solution such as mobile solutions or hosted telephony but pretty quickly as we work together, they’ll begin to use us for other aspects of their communications infrastructure. Certainly, the more unified the solution we put in place, the greater the efficiency savings and the greater the value we can deliver to a company.
6. Did your support for the Business Weekly Awards in March open your eyes to the potential of the business scene in Cambridge?
We work with a number of high profile Cambridge companies and read Business Weekly so we were already switched onto the Cambridge Phenomenon. What the Business Weekly Awards really did was open our eyes to the potential for partnership with other businesses in the area and also to the tremendous ambition that Cambridge companies have. It’s unmatched anywhere in the country or indeed in Europe.
7. Looking long term where do you see as areas of growth?
Telephony has to be pretty near the top of the list. It’s increasingly important to businesses’ internal communications – especially with remote working and international travel. Let’s look at mobile as an example. According to research house Gartner, 80 per cent of companies are spending more than they need to on mobile. No wonder because the mix of devices, operators and complex, inflexible billing arrangements combine to make it nigh on impossible for individual companies to get a good deal. Because of our independence and scale, we’re able to structure mobile contracts so they meet the individual requirements of our customers. Nothing gives us greater satisfaction that being able to deliver a 35 per cent saving on a customer’s mobile costs – and that’s the average saving we’re able to deliver.
8. How has the company grown in terms of operations, headcount or service offering in recent times?
We’re undergone a period of rapid growth over the last couple of years. Our headcount now stands at around 150 and we’re actively recruiting across a broad range of roles – from technical engineers to project managers and operation specialists. In terms of our service offering, we’re the only Unified Communications company that includes print as part of the Communications mix. While print remains an important part of our offering and of our customers’ businesses, we’ve really high growth in our Voice and Data solutions.
9. How receptive do you find businesses in general to the communication proposition you are selling?
The country is thankfully now out of the recession. While Cambridge has been somewhat protected from the worst of the financial malaise, it hasn’t been completely immune either. Businesses are, in the main, beginning to stop thinking about merely surviving and they’re starting to invest in growth again. Suddenly, having the right communications infrastructure in place is mission critical and that means companies are very receptive to our solutions and way of working.
10. If you could share one piece of advice with Business Weekly readers, what would it be?
That how you communicate is as important as what you communicate. With so many diverse channels of communication open today, it’s never been more important for businesses to adopt a unified communications approach and ensure their voice, documents and data solutions are joined up and helping them grow.