Callagenix: Tony Jenkins

Tony Jenkins explains how his business made the right connections

With 14 years’ experience in the IT industry Tony Jenkins had the right grounding to join up with a new telephone company, Callagenix. His decision looks to have paid off. He tells Startups.co.uk why self-belief and determination are vital when going it alone.

Name: Tony Jenkins Age: 43 Business type: Online telephone services. Business name: Callagenix Ltd

What made you take the plunge and startup your own business? Basically I wanted a bigger challenge,

Where did you get the funding to start your business? Three founding directors provided the funding. I was a senior executive for 14 years at Computacenter Ltd with equity which provided part of the funding. The other two directors used some of the profits from the sale of a previous successful business to a PLC.

How much did it cost to startup your business? If I Include the cash and free time given by the three directors in excess of £1 million

Where did the idea for your business come from? We talked to a large number of small and medium companies, many were mobile and home based who wanted a single flexible telephone system but did not have an office, or could justify the large sums of money needed to buy a PBX system. In short they wanted to have the same telephony capabilities as large companies but without the cost.

How long did it take from your startup idea to your first day trading?A little over two years

Did you have help from friends and family?Not really, apart from allowing us to work six to seven days per week. We had old manufacturer contacts which helped us to buy the computer equipment.

What academic qualifications did you get?Experience from managing other businesses was all I needed.

What jobs did you do before you started your own business? Sales Manager for Computacenter Ltd

Did they help you?Yes, from a sales management, customer service, and quality and finance perspective. Those disciplines are the same in any organization, although the size and profile of our customer base is entirely different from what we were used too.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? You need to be self-motivated, a risk taker, have tenacity/determination, and self belief in what you are doing as well as yourself. Recognize your limitations by bringing in outside expert assistance where necessary. Focus and hard work, but luck also helps!

Tell us about your website. The Callagenix website – www.callagenix.com – is paramount to our business. Customers can create and trial telephone services before making any commitment. When they are ready to go live they pay through the website and continue to manage their telephone services themselves 24/7 all via the web. As most of our people are technical and not web designers, we contracted an outside company to design the front-page style, layout, fonts and colour scheme etc. We then used this as a template. They also did our stationary at the same time.

We made an early decision not to have any third party advertising, pop-ups, banners etc, as revenues would come from the services and not advertising. We also knew we had a potential customers attention for about 30 seconds max and in that time we had to clearly explain what we do and don’t do. We continually make small changes to the site and measure the responses we get. If we get better a better response we keep it, if we get a worse response we go back to the old one and so on.

What’s the single most important thing that helped your business succeed?Technical talent

How many hours a week do you work now compared to when you started? About 60-80 and this has stayed about the same throughout

What has been your main business problem? These tend to change over time. In the early stages, our main issues were technical. Now it is probably finding effective marketing mediums at the right cost.

Was there ever a time when you thought you were close to failing – and what did you do to overcome that? Not failing as such but we had some concerns in the early days that we were not attracting enough customers quickly enough. It takes time to get your web site ranked and tuned properly with the search engines and directory sites.

What is your top tip to anyone wanting to startup his or her own business? Do you have to or do you want to? Put yourselves in the position of the customer – would you buy what you are selling?

Is there anything you would do differently today? Start the marketing earlier.

Where do you see your business in a year’s time? Substantially larger, doing more business in Europe perhaps with a multi language web site.

Are your main ambitions financial (to make a lot of money) or lifestyle based (to enjoy what you do)? Not to fail and Lifestyle, but it does helps if you have money. A friend of mine once said “People who say money can’t buy you happiness are shopping in the wrong shops”.

Would you start another business?If I make a lot of money, I have always said I would retire and sit on a beach all day, or go sailing. In reality I would get bored and probably start another business, or become a non-exec and help other young companies.

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