Learn about the of Birmingham Telecom
My name is Brian Cormell and I am the owner of Birmingham Telecom.
Before I even became interested in telecoms, I always knew that I wanted to be a successful businessman. My family had no real interest in business but going back as far as I can remember during my time at primary school I was selling chocolate bars to my classmates and using this money to buy more from the local shop to make more profit. For years this went on and I like to think that I took these skills into my teenage years. I had always thought of myself as a small time entrepreneur with a lot of ambition to one day have a successful business. I was always doing something, trying my hand at anything and everything to make a quick profit. Ask anyone that knows me well and they will tell you that I was always the kid who would say “this time next year” but no one ever really believed it.
From the day of leaving secondary school I was offered a job in Marketing and IT support for a local firm which I took and held down for almost 5 years, generally moving around the company and helping in as many areas as I could to help develop myself. To this date this was the period of time I learn the most about business and more importantly about myself and my potential as a businessman.
I quit my job at Professional Computer Solutions as I hit my early 20’s. I thought I had developed to the stage where there were no further opportunities for me and a few of my colleagues were always urging me to start up my own company. I couldn’t really decide what I wanted to do although I was trained in marketing, website design, sales and had taken qualifications in my spare time to become a qualified Mortgage Adviser which was something else I also loved to do.
Eventually I did take a leap faith and went self employed. On doing this, began to learn quite quickly that making money and running a solid business was easier said than done. It seemed so easy to imagine being successful when I worked for multi-million pound company but when I went self employed for the first time it was more difficult. Everyone else had the same ideas but were able to do things a little better than I could. They would either have more money, better business acumen or had more experience so was chance did I stand out on my own?
I worked for myself tirelessly for over 3 years, grew a business, made a lot of mistakes along the way and spent a hell of a lot of time learning about myself. Eventually when things became too difficult, I decided to scrap my business (mostly internet based back in the early ebay days) and look for a full time job for some security when my fiancee became pregnant with our daughter.
An opportunity to work for BT landed in my lap and it turns out, this would be the opportunity I needed to provide the vision and skills needed to start Birmingham Telecom many years later. After a number of successful years within BT working as a business account manager, I had developed my skills in the telecommunications sector and found myself looking after thousands of Local Businesses. I loved everything about Telecoms; the customers, the products, overcoming problems with orders and faults, I found literally everything challenging and fun and I still do to this very day.
I eventually left BT having already decided to start up a new business within the same industry and in 2006 Birmingham Telecommunications Limited was finally born with the vision of looking after small Local Businesses around Birmingham. Strangely, today I look after all of the communications for one of my former directors at BT who now has a successful cleaning company. This is always something I will be proud of.
Birmingham Telecom – The Early Days
I already knew that starting and keeping a business above water was difficult, however this time I was armed with a wealth of experience and I had finally found something I loved to do day in, day out. I also had good relationships with a number of my existing customers and a few suppliers I had met or dealt with along my previous journey so this time I was much more confident of success. I started off the business from my bedroom (excuse the image) with little more than a cheque for £140 (a tax rebate), a cheap phone from Argos and a Laptop borrowed off a friend. I had no staff, no help and pretty much, no money.
Times were tough. It took 9 months to get to the stage where I was able to cover my mortgage payments after being in arrears of almost £5,000 for month after month with the bank. Slowly but surely I began to win customers over by reducing their existing telephone costs. I also had a couple of sub contractors who were willing to install Telephone Systems I was able to sell to these customer. Now, the hard work and dedication I had put into Birmingham Telecom meant that I could at least cover my monthly outgoings (mortgage, bills etc.) and although there was a lot more work to be done, I could now see the bigger picture. I was desperate to grow the business more than anything else but anyone who has ever worked from home knows how difficult and distracting it can be. I wanted my own office, somewhere away from the TV and the kids but money was still an issue.
After a year or so, I went for a meeting with a local company who supported small start-up companies. After discussions for a couple of weeks, I was offered a small office at the council library, a beautiful modern building which would give me a great opportunity to become that bit more professional and get out of the house which is where I spent most of my time in the early days, along with all the distractions and inconveniences that came with it (note the sky remote on the desk). The office was offered to me with no rent to pay for 12 months and was a massive stroke of luck for the business and it turned out to me the trigger that we needed to begin the growth of the company. I truly believe that without this help, I would not have been able to take the business to where it is today.
The same company who had helped me with the office then offered me the opportunity to employ an apprentice who already helped with IT and website support within the library. He wanted a change of career and after an agreement was made he came on board with Birmingham Telecom and we worked together designing a number of websites for the business. We also began marketing our products and services to other businesses and very quickly the business started to generate revenue from customers all across the UK from our engineering services. No longer was Birmingham Telecom a Local telephone provider but I decided to keep the name nethertheless as it meant a lot to me.
Within 12 Months of moving in there were four of us and we were finally making a profit! Shortly after our growth spurt (around two years of working from the premises in the library) we were again looking for a bigger office to work from. The existing office in the library was too small for four members of staff and we had now started to physically hold stock of Telephone Systems, Phones and spares so now had the logistical issue of where to put everything we were buying.
We found the perfect location. An office within 1/2 mile of where we were currently located and whats more, it was inexpensive office space on a modern trading estate which gave us the perception of being a slightly bigger company that what we perhaps were. I can remember being unhappy about the terms of the lease on this office but we were desperate to move so took it on anyway, something I probably wouldn’t recommend looking back.
By the time we were settled into Castle Vale Enterprise Park, we were picking up new customers on a daily basis and buying in more and more stock so we still needed more space but still couldn’t afford to buy our own premises. We managed to do a deal with our existing landlord to lease the unit behind our existing one, essentially doubling the space we could use.
By 2009 we had seven employees and employed John Saxon, our current Sales Director who came on board from a competitor. John brought with him a wealth of experience which allowed the business to move into new sectors such as phone refurbishment and sales directly to other telecom businesses (what we call “the trade”). Things were now beginning to progress in a very positive way. The feedback we received from our customers relating to our service was excellent and we were still winning contracts on a daily basis, selling our excellent customer service as well as our services. By now we felt that we were different to any other Telephone Provider and that we had a number of significant selling points over our competitors. We now had an office with over 1,000 sq feet full of stock and by 2011, we were again at the point where we had no choice but to move premises for the second time!
I can remember like it was yesterday how difficult it was to find the right building. We struggled to find a premises that suited our business until we looked in Coleshill, the town that we still work from today. The unit that we leased in Coleshill was a major commitment for us as the rent and business rates were much more expensive that we had ever paid before but as a business, this is something we needed to take a risk on if we ever wanted to progress to the next level. The building really made us stand our from the competition in the area and was large enough for us employ more staff and buy in more stock. We were become a major supplier of refurbished Telephone Equipment, a recognised installer of Panasonic Phone Systems and a leader in our field for third party telephone engineers.
We were profitable, our customers were extremely happy and during our time at Telecom House, Gorsey Lane, Coleshill we thrived as a business and employed a total of 13 staff which is something I could never imagine us achieving.
My business has always been focused around excellent customer service and with this in mind, our staff were often hand picked carefully to allow the company to provide the best possible level of service to our customers. By this time, we had over 7,000 business customers which is a vast number of people to look after on a daily basis. We were also partnered with a number of high profile suppliers from within our sector. Companies such as Panasonic, Daisy, Gamma Telecom and BT Openreach wanted to work with us and to this day we still maintain excellent relationships with these businesses.
We have always placed an emphasis on building relationships with people to mutually benefit both parties and this has worked extremely well for our business. By 2014, our business model was extremely stable and we were able to finally afford to purchase our own building of over 7,500 sq feet in size and with the potential to allow our company to grow into a thriving communications business. Our new offices allows us to hold more that 4,000 Sq Ft of stock, employ in excess of 25 highly skilled members of staff and provide the kind of working environment that I have dreamed about offering since the day I thought of bringing Birmingham Telecom to life.
I have written this page not to brag about what I have gained personally, but to show other people that anything can be achieved when you work hard and put your mind into something you enjoy and love. If I am honest, my dedicated and hard working team have been the key to this business and without them we would be nothing. Most of the people I employ have worked with me for a number of years and they are both loyal and well respected.
With the exception of your employees, I personally believe that the way you communicate with your customers and suppliers on the telephone is one of the most important aspects of your business and this is why we are so important the the success of over 17,000 business customers across the country. When you thrive, we thrive which is the key reason we want to offer you the best advice and service available.
Our company now covers almost every city of the UK and we have helped more than 17,000 UK businesses to improve connectivity and telephony within their premises. I believe that Birmingham Telecom are a great company to work with and I would personally welcome a chat with you of you think our expertise could help your business.