20 years ago today...
It’s amazing to think that it’s now been over 20 years since I started Bamboo in 1998. At that time, the world of mobile, ICT and even the internet was a very different place.
In those days, Total Telecommunications Ltd (or TTL for short) as we were then known, was an independent broker covering all services from mobile, fixed line and telephone systems, all under one roof. Back then you were either a fixed line, mobile, telephone systems or IT supplier – so we were somewhat unique.
My journey through my career so far has been a bit unusual I suppose, in that I left school at 16 to start working for an insurance broker in the life claims department, while doing day release at college in business, finance and insurance. I did three years there and then moved into sales support with a new company, this included broker support and I think that’s where the original concept for TTL came from.
Outside of work, when I started the company, I’d just come back from a trip to Thailand. I’ve always been very into my food and cook for friends and family as a way to relax and get work and other pressures off my mind, I like cooking a wide variety of food from around the world but I think Thai food would have to be my favourite, although one of the more complicated to get right.
Back in those early days of business, a lot of people didn’t have a mobile; it must have been about 25-30% penetration at the time and often, people were only just getting their first mobile phone. This is despite the fact the first commercially available mobile was launched in 1984, weighing a whopping 2kg!
I remember my first phone was a Mitsubishi MT8, before phones started getting smaller and smaller – and subsequently bigger and bigger again. In 1998, the prominent mobiles included the Nokia 5110, 6110 and Motorola StarTAC, one of the first flip-phones – for those of you that remember them.
It wasn’t uncommon then to use the yellow pages to prospect business and get leads, as no-one had websites or LinkedIn profiles like they do now. People generally bought from people they knew, or from a physical shop.
It is very strange for me to think that, as my daughter was born in 2008, which really was the start of the touch-screen and smartphone age, she’ll grow up with this technology having never known anything else, with all that went before now belonging in a museum.
There’ve been so many enhancements, improvements and accomplishments for the business, but I think one of the proudest moments for me over the past 20 years, after the birth of my daughter, was when TTL won Gloucestershire Small Business of the Year at the town hall in Cheltenham in 2002.
It was the days of VHS as I still have a tape of the presentation in the bottom draw of my desk. We had just reached £1 million turnover and it was our first real public recognition so it was a big moment for me, the company and all of the team.
From there, we went on to gain the first of our Mobile Network Service Provision licences with O2 which enabled us to offer a better and more bespoke service to our customers.
Looking forward, for Bamboo, it’s about improving and broadening our skill set as we grow. My short-term to mid-term objectives are to focus on growth via acquisition and investment.
In terms of the next 20 years for me personally, I’ve got a few ‘bucket list’ aspirations that I’d like to tick off. I’m doing a skydive this year as it’s something I always wanted to do, although the nerves are already kicking in.
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie - I’ve done things like track days, flying a helicopter and even flying a dual control Extra 300 aerobatic plane. For this, you have an hour’s lesson beforehand where they teach you all the aerobatic moves and how to fly and then it’s up to perform aerobatic manoeuvres - with the reassurance that an ex-RAF pilot is sat behind you ready to get you out of trouble. I haven’t found anything yet that tops that experience, maybe the skydive will change my mind in the spring.
Football is my other passion and I’m an ardent Liverpool fan. I regularly go to games with my daughter, brother or a friend and closely follow the development of the team under the amazing Jurgen Klopp. We can all learn a bit from seeing how he manages his team and gets the players motivated to achieve results.
Obviously, I don’t know what the next 20 years will hold in terms of tech but I’m sure everything we are using in our day-to-day lives will look as primitive as my first Mitsubishi phone does now. Just looking at the innovations coming out at the CES Show in Las Vegas and the forthcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona gives us a small taste of what’s to come. How will 5G and gigabit internet drive our connected world and what impact will it have on our economy and business landscape?
I look forward to finding out in the coming years.