One month in already! Time for a quick Astro 2015 review
Astro 2015 review – a great start for the new Astro
I can’t believe we are already one month into the New Year. 2015 was a very tough year for me personally. On 8 December 2014 Astro celebrated 30 years in business. It was an incredible achievement and one that Rob or I would never have dreamed of when we started the business in December 1984. We had a small celebration in the office for all of the staff and recapped on our 30 years, I could remember many of the events we talked about as if they were yesterday. When I left the office I didn’t know that the events of that evening would change my life. My daughter was rushed into hospital by ambulance and after several agonising weeks on 2 January 2015 I was given the news that she had suffered a serious and irreversible brain injury.
“…my colleagues were supportive but carried on as usual which meant I was the brunt of p… ahem, satirical high jinks.”
With the help of a few others giving me some sleep breaks I was by my daughter’s side 24 hours a day. My daughter is Autistic and as wonderful as the nursing staff were, there was no special needs support and my daughter needed more support than a neuro-typical patient in a similar situation. I went from working full time and more at Astro to full time in hospital until my daughter was moved to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability for rehabilitation. Although I was no longer staying with my daughter 24/7 I was out of circulation six to seven days a week, for six to ten hours a day including travelling in hospital.
The response of the Astro team was amazing. When I called into the office on the rare occasion my colleagues were supportive but carried on as usual which meant I was the brunt of satirical high jinx (keeping it clean). They also absorbed anything I was involved with minimal fuss and without calling me for updates or clarification. So despite being a very tough year resulting in me having only a small involvement in what has been my baby for 30 years, our achievements throughout the year were very important to me. Knowing everything was ‘business as usual’ and Astro was in safe hands was very important to me. I could not have got through the past year had it not been the case.
“Although we didn’t make the row off we did win first prize for raising the most money,”
My daughter was in very good hands in the RHN so it seemed logical that the RHN should be one of our chosen charities for 2015 and beyond. While at the hospital I was invited to attend the hospital’s Gala Dinner at the magnificent Drapers Hall. As a Freeman of a Livery company myself I invited one of my Livery company colleagues to join me. We had a fantastic night as guests of the President – Leonora, Countess of Lichfield. This was my first night out of the year having spent the past six months in hospital. The event raised a lot of money to help people like my daughter, regain some quality of life after suffering a life changing event.
Staying on the same theme, a month later the president of the newly founded Astro Nautical Society announced our dream rowing team for the RHN Row Hard fund raising event at London’s City Hall. The time had come for our four man team – Steve (Popeye) Hodges, Andrew (Bluebeard) Tomkinson, James (Pugwash) Tuck and Joe (Birdseye) Wing to take centre stage. As they approached their rowing machine they looked ready to take the first prize, but after the first round they were praying they hadn’t got through because they couldn’t face a row off. Although we didn’t make the row off we did win first prize for raising the most money, and after all, that was whole point of the event. The team won a very enjoyable meal at the Dickens Inn in St Catherine’s Dock.
“It was another great event for us with virtually no sleep between Wednesday and Saturday.”
Moving on to our long standing favourite charities, Camp Cando and The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund. Due to family commitments Mr Hodges and I were unable to spend any time at Camp Cando last year but our two apprentices James and Joe volunteered and stood in for us. In October last year we had 20 seats at our annual boxing night in aid of The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund where Bobby Davro made an unannounced appearance and provided a very funny impromptu voice over to some of the proceedings.
Shortly after the RHN Gala Dinner I managed to get a few days out to attend the IT Directors Forum. It was touch and go as to whether I would make it but I managed to get on board for my 13th IT Directors Forum. It was another great event for us with virtually no sleep between Wednesday and Saturday. The three nights on board Arcadia were a welcome break for me, and it was as close as I was going to get to a holiday until the next ITDF. We are already looking forward to catching up with our friends at ITDF 2016, it is only four months away.
“…little did I know then but the first of many proud moments for me in the latter half of 2015.”
May was certainly an eventful month for Astro. On 20th May our position in the industry was further strengthened when we were accepted as a member of the Internet Service Providers Association. This was a momentous time for us as we only took the decision to become a B2B ISP became a niche in 2014 – our 30th year in business.
In September we attended the TGI Friday’s Business Partner Conference at The Rum Warehouse & Titanic Hotel in Liverpool. As we walked into the venue I felt a de ja vu moment as it was only a year ago when our Operations Manager, Adam Crocker-White was recognised for his excellent customer service at the prestigious event. This year it was the turn or our Head of Network Services, Dean Bruce. Dean won the TGI Friday’s Business Partner of the Year Award for his excellent customer service. A fantastic achievement and little did I know then but the first of many proud moments for me in the latter half of 2015.
“…our nearly new apprentices have had an amazing year.”
We had a number of new staff join the team last year. These were across the board in engineering, sales and admin. It is great to see the new members of the team embracing the old Astro values that were embedded back in 1984 but with fresh ideas and energy forming a fantastic foundation for the next five years and beyond.
While on the subject of new staff, our apprentices have had an amazing year. They both successfully completed their apprenticeship course and picked up their certificates at a graduation ceremony in December followed by a tour of the International Media Centre in the BT Tower. But, the icing on the cake was when our engineering apprentice James won the ITP Apprentice of the Year Award in the SME category with Joe our sales apprentice being a highly commended finalist very close behind.
“November saw another milestone in Astro’s history when we opened our Midlands office in Newark-on-Trent.”
While at the apprentices graduation ceremony we received news that Joe was through to the finals of the Coventry Freemen’s Award. James and Joe both worked very hard completing their assignments and course work while carrying out their day job duties. What is even more impressive, is how supportive James and Joe are of each other. They are both amazing ambassadors for Astro, our industry and young people in general.
November saw another milestone in Astro’s history when we opened our Midlands office in Newark-on-Trent. This was as a direct result of winning a number of new contracts as well as the further development of established customer relationships. Our new office is providing an ideal base for our staff, old and new. Fortunately, our Newark office is above a pub so we have no shortage of volunteers wanting to work from there.
That just about wraps up my review for last year. My daughter has made amazing progress over the past year. We were told to expect about 40 – 50% recovery of her abilities across the board. I have met some amazing people over the past year, patients and hospital staff. Some of the most inspirational people I have ever met and I will never forget them. My daughter is now an out-patient at the Queen Elizabeth Foundation at Banstead and is continuing to make very good progress. That is all I can ask for and I am extremely grateful.
At Astro we have an exciting year ahead of us on many fronts. I am very excited as we have the best team ever and I am really looking forward to supporting them in any way I can. In the meantime, I am in the process of refreshing our web site, I have a full blog schedule planned and a number of practical guides in development. Please stay tuned!