VosTel: Andy Collins and Brad Monks
Tell us what your business does:
VosTel is a VoIP (voice over IP) internet telephony provider. We tailor bespoke packages to enable our clients to utilise feature-rich and cost-efficient business telephony. VosTel offers a complete solution from hardware through to billing and support. We are a Zen Internet Platinum Partner so are also able to supply Zen internet packages.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea was evolved from a need for businesses to find alternative telephony (other than proprietary service providers) that could offer not only a cost saving, but also utilise emerging technologies, such as soft-phones, call recording and interactive voice response (IVR).
How did you know there was a market for it?
VosTel was developed and trialled over a four-year period, while trading under the Vostech banner (Andy’s original company). This proved a marketplace was available.
What were you doing before starting up?
Andy’s background was within the automotive aftermarket sector, before setting up Vostech as an IT support business nine years ago. Brad spent 26 years in management, sales and marketing within the automotive aftermarket. Redundancy in 2010 led to him setting up Shlinky.com, which in turn led to his involvement with VosTel.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
We are both very motivated. Although we arrived at VosTel via differing paths, the ‘own boss’ mentality has always been an attractive option. The appeal of business ownership is the ability to control our own destiny and see the benefits of our input and efforts for our own families.
What planning did you do before you started up?
We undertook a huge amount of research, testing, trialling, meeting potential clients, development and preparation. Business plans were compiled and advice sought from many different sources.
How did you raise the money?
Andy’s input has been predominantly through the development and capital generation of Vostech. Brad raised capital for the venture by re-mortgaging a property and with assistance from a family member. It has taken a long time and was not an easy task for either party.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Marketing is currently our biggest challenge. We feel we have an outstanding offering that needs exposure to businesses. The other challenge is staying aware of advancing technologies and ensuring that the VosTel platform is taking advantage of these.
A challenge last week was to raise the finances to send Andy on a three-day training course in Idaho, USA. We overcame the challenge!
Where is your business based?
We operate from offices in Hailsham but we also work from home on occasion.
How have you promoted your business?
We have used direct marketing to promote the business, concentrating on the vertical markets we have operated in during our past careers. We currently take every opportunity we can. Any action that promotes VosTel is a success in our view.
What about staff – how many do you have?
We currently do not employ staff, although we utilise the services of three IT-orientated associates. They have given their time freely to us, which we are very grateful for.
What has your growth been like?
Our growth is steady, if slightly lower than we anticipated. But we are now marketing the business more than previously – as we have now built the solid foundations required in the first stages of setting up. We are profitable but not to the level we are comfortable with at this stage.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
Both our families spend time together and are accepting of the effort required to launch VosTel. It has been very stressful for all involved, but our wives and children are very understanding.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Our greatest difficulty has been the time involved in mundane tasks (bank accounts, accountants, etc) and the wasted time in waiting for other actions to be completed, before the next stage can begin. There is no one difficulty that is apparent. Each hurdle is as big or as small as you make it.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our first breakthrough was an established motor factory in Essex trialling and then committing to VosTel.
What would you do differently?
We would not be so accepting of the excuses of some, and would be more tolerant of others.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We have a three-year business plan that will change as VoIP technology changes. It is a fast-moving marketplace and we do not have an exit plan, as too much will change in the next few years. Opportunities will determine our exit plan if we should require one.