This week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the BT Partner event at the top of the BT Tower in London. Aside from the incredible venue, and superb speaker in Lawrence Dallaglio, I was completely stunned by the company in which I found myself.
Guests in attendance ranged from the global connectivity aggregator, GTT through to major UK industry heavyweights such as Daisy and Exponential-e, and yet sat next to the Group Finance Director for BT Wholesale and the Managing Director for BT Wholesale was little old Astro, holding our own in topics of conversation ranging from the impact of Brexit on the telecommunications industry and complexity surrounding high speed access and rural broadband.
As I looked through the table list and saw competitors and suppliers who were, literally, hundreds of thousands of times bigger than us in terms of turnover, reach and members of staff, I was a little bit humbled that we were even there at all. But actually, in terms of holding our own, we were no different from some of these giants of the industry, other than maybe a little more customer-focussed and a little more agile. Lawrence delivered an amazing speech about collaboration, working in teams and being part of a “gang”, and being a huge rugby fan there wasn’t much I didn’t agree with. He talked about his debut as a 19 year old England back row forward playing against South Africa and how, after the game, his mother at 5 foot ‘next-to-nothing’ approached the England Rugby Coach to deliver her feedback about where he went wrong, including not bringing her son on 25 minutes earlier! From everything I heard yesterday, that was the bit that made me laugh the most.
Little old Astro, with our 30 staff and a couple of UK-based offices, sat in amongst Goliaths of our industry, expressing our opinions, putting our stake in the ground, and delivering our feedback as to how the industry should run. We were amongst organisations who could buy us with the roundings of their P&L.
Earlier in the day, I’d had lunch with three very good friends of mine, all business leaders in their own right, and we were talking about growth strategies, go-to-market plans and achieving our ambitions. All of us business leaders of Kent-based SMEs and none of us scared of the giants in our own industries. We are not put off by the resources that these other organisations have at their disposal, but merely focus on all of the positives of being a business of our size and what that brings to the party when going toe to toe with the established commercial giants.
It rang home, yet again, as I entered the office the next day to start making plans to expand our business into another part of our building in our estate, and as we continue to recruit to meet our growth ambitions for the next 3-5 years, that even with such pending subjects as Brexit, a challenged economy and competitive marketplace, a tough place to recruit and retain staff and an every-changing landscape for technology obsolesce and development, we in no way lack any ambition. We are not in the slightest bit frightened to compete against those organisations that hold the top spots in our chosen market and moreover, we are completely, as an organisation, up for the fight!
I wonder, having spent some time listening to me jibber-jabber on about how exciting it is to work at Astro, how much fun it is, and what success looks like to us, how we embrace change and accept challenge in the most positive of ways, how many of those people, sat around the table as Vice President of this, and Global Director of that, actually looked upon us with a little bit of envy wishing they could effect a positive change within their organisation and challenge the thought-processes of the market and actually, while we might sit there and look at these businesses wishing we could be a little bit more like them from time to time, in reality the envy probably sits with them.
The reality is, it is not the size of the dog in the fight but absolutely the amount of fight in the dog and when it comes to working at Astro that heart and that ambition is absolutely MASSIVE.
As we end 2018 and commence our plans for 2019, continuing on our growth trajectory but doing it without dropping our service standards and retaining and growing our staff, I am heartened by the feedback we get internally and externally about our business. But that night at the BT Tower, in an excellent environment with some very lovely people listening to the very good presentations made me feel really proud of our business and very grateful to BT for including us in their community of interest.