Michael had a great chin wag with Darren Gamblen on Express FM on Wednesday 28th November. They talked about how his career started, working in telecoms for the past 20 years, taking the leap of faith and starting his own business, doing business in Portsmouth, what KSM can offer businesses for their telecoms and connectivity needs and family time at Christmas.
D: Let’s talk about you the man, the legend, because I dare say that someone has called you that before. Don’t know where, don’t know when. But anyway…
M: Police are still looking for them Darren.
D: When did it all start for you then Michael, what did you do when you left school? What were your dreams and ambitions?
M: I actually, funnily enough became a qualified brick layer and I think I only lasted 10 months at that and it was actually through the winter months and I soon discovered I liked the inside more than the outside so I gave that up.
D: So you were more of a temperate builder then were you?
M: Yeh, very temperate, if it was inside building then it was good!
D: So what about after that, you were a builder and then what?
M: My career 7 years after that, from the age of 18, was selling the Encyclopaedia Britannia door to door funnily enough. So commission only, school of life, school of sales experience.
D: Real hard knock that is isn’t it?
M: Very, very.
D: So what did you learn from that?
M: Determination, you had to sell it, if you know what I mean. You had to really tell them what it was all about to get them interested to spend that sort of money. It taught me over all the years that if you hit the customers sweet spot, what they want to know, the services they want and explain it properly then the rest is just a matter of process hopefully.
D: And that is really, really hard, door to door selling, because you never really know what’s going to happen when they open the door!
M: When you’ve got a 2 year old daughter and every sale is commission only and you need to pay the bills it’s a tough, tough game but you’ve got to enjoy it.
D: Yeh definitely, so where were you doing that?
M: Up in Surrey.
D: So after that then?
M: I’ve literally have spent 20 odd years in telecoms. I was channel sales director for Orange for 4 or 5 years for mid to late 90’s, early 2000s’ working for a Canadian company selling wireless modems into the market, very early on dongles. Then from 2005 until about 4 years ago for the two main telecoms companies in London and the South West before starting my own company.
D: What was the kick to start your own company?
M: I think I’ve done this for such a long time for other companies that I decided that I could probably do it myself. Sometimes it’s that leap of faith that you’ve got to take isn’t it? Where you have to decide if you can do this? It is a leap of faith but I’m pleased to say it’s paid off really well, 4 years established, we’re growing all the time, we’re a locally based business here in Hayling Island, Hampshire. I spend a lot of time with businesses in Portsmouth but we have a lot of customers in London and serve all over the UK.
D: So going back to your leap of faith, your family must have been very supportive in this as well, what was it that said right “we’re doing this now?”
M: I actually retired 5 years ago and after a few months of painting and decorating and mowing the lawn I decided that actually I wanted to start my own business. So one Sunday morning I said to my wife, “I’m going to start my own telecoms business” and she rolled her eyes and went back to sleep which said it all – she’s got a great sense of humour! We talked about it in great length and I talked about my aspirations for KSM and it went from there and we haven’t looked back.
D: KSM actually stands for something doesn’t it?
M: It does yeh. So it’s a family business, that’s intrenched in our ethos and what we want to provide. So, the ‘K’ is for my daughter Karleigh, ‘S’ for my wife Suzanne and ‘M’ is for me Michael. So, I just thought it’d be something different.
D: Right Michael, what do KSM provide?
M: Our core product offering is 3 things really we provide BT’s carrier grade Broadsoft hosted voice platform with broadband and connectivity from all sorts of flavours from very basic broadband through to very industrious stuff such as gigabit fibre networks which is now available in Portsmouth. It’s a game changer.
D: How fast are they?
M: People are used to the old 80/20 superfast broadband – 80 meg – it starts to get technical – we’re talking about 100 meg up to 1000 meg and these services are now available for Portsmouth businesses along with our hosted telephony at prices that have never been seen before.
D: Is this just for business or is it something you can have at home?
M: We’re a business to business company so really it is a business grade product.
D: That’s the gigabit so essentially things are going to get a lot faster at unbelievable speeds. So your other products then, let’s talk about communications and what you offer there.
M: We use BT’s carrier grade Broadsoft hosted voice platform
D: You lost me there. What does that mean?
M: There are various different flavours of hosted voice. Some people call it VOIP (voice over internet protocol) or IP telephony, it’s got various different names but it actually is the same thing. We just tent to use the one product, the Broadsoft platform, which is carrier grade, very stable and very feature rich.
D: So say I’ve got a small business with a small office, what difference is that going to make to me.
M: It’s the flexibility really. You have total control over the platform as a customer so you’re able to log into your own portal and do many things like what businesses would understand as hunt groups, auto attendants, voicemail to email and an abundance of features that businesses would need. It also ties with a mobile app so if your desk phone rings and you’re out of the office the call with go through to your mobile. You can transfer calls from your mobile to other numbers if you need to. So it makes a business far more flexible in how they operate and if you couple that with the internet speeds that we’re providing it’s a complete game changer for Portsmouth business.
You know Steph? From Shaping Portsmouth, well, KSM Telecom are really proud and excited to be Portsmouth Ambassadors and part of the shaping Portsmouth for the future campaign too. I believe it’s a game changer for Portsmouth.
D: How important is it to you to be locally based and customer service focussed?
M: We provide telecoms and data connectivity services all over the UK but we’re a Hampshire based business, on Hayling Island, we have a 24/7 technical support team which is available to our customers like it says 24/7. That gets you access to a locally based support centre where we monitor our networks, where we can fix things for you remotely. In fact we have products that monitor your network all the time, we’ve probably fixed something before you even know it’s gone wrong.
D: What kind of businesses do you deal with?
M: We have customers with between 5 and 10 extensions, up to 30/40/50 extensions and some with over 100 extensions so it’s very varied. The flavour of customer is irrelevant, it’s more how we can improve their productivity and performance for their business. It doesn’t matter if you are small or a medium/large – we are going to be able to help.
D: If there are business out there thinking this sounds really good, sounds like a strong company I’d like to deal with, do you offer training and if so what sort of training once you’ve installed your systems?
M: Yes, so once installation is complete, we then do desk to desk training individually, so they grasp the product and how to use it. We also do class room training so if a company is larger and they want us to get a bigger group of people together to train. Ultimately for us when you are selling a technology you need to make sure it’s understandable and people know how to use it.
D: Is it ongoing training?
M: Yes so the 24/7 technical support team are there not just for when things go wrong but if you ever have a question or need something doing you can call on them whenever and they are there to help and provide that support. Some companies only support BAU (9-5) but we understand that some businesses need the support beyond this because they work outside of these hours through the night and at weekends
D: How flexible and adaptable are you in the modern market?
M: That’s a good question actually, recently I have come across some businesses that are still selling 5- and 7-year leases to people and they can be punitive – huge interest rates, capital costs for equipment, tying customers in for a long time and that era has gone for me. One of the core concepts I wanted to have for KSM Telecom moving forward is that we provide our services (we’re also a Microsoft Office 365 solutions partner, we do SIM only contracts, we work with one of the biggest wholesale partners in the UK, Daisy Wholesale – they provide a raft of services that help us serve our customer base).
The thing is that I decided a long time ago when I launched my business that I wanted to be entirely different to the conventional model of telecoms – leases, high interest rates – we provide all of our handsets and equipment free of charge, it’s flexible and accessible to all of our customers – you can have it over 1, 2 or 3 year contracts so you’re not tied into the longer period of time. And I wanted our customers to have the support they need 24/7. These 3 key areas are a game changer for telecoms and data connectivity – that’s what we want to drive at KSM Telecom.
D: Do you think that from your experience of working with other telecommunications companies that you thought how can I make this more customer friendly?
M: Yeh, 20 years in telecoms has got to give me some experience – I like to think!
I’ve seen the good and bad of telecoms over the years. Fortunately, we’re in the internet age where access products are so much better. You wouldn’t have bought hosted telephony 3 or 4 years ago because internet speeds and accessibility were very, very poor. These days the two are intrinsically linked and we can do all of that now.
D: Michael, if people want to get hold of you how can they?
M: So we’re on:
On the website at www.ksmtelecom.co.uk
Or you can call us on 02392 290 500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I just also add one more thing. We are registered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for the gigabit voucher scheme. Companies in Portsmouth, if you want access to these 100+ gig services contact us to see if you are eligible for this scheme, where you could get up to £3000 towards the installation costs of gigabit broadband, do get in touch with us.