Voiceflex CEO James Arnold-Roberts had been in his new role for only a few weeks when Technology Reseller met up with him at Technology Live to find out more about his plans for the provider of SIP, hosted, connectivity and UC&C services
James Arnold-Roberts has experience of growing businesses. He was a founder of G3 Comms/Genius Networks, which, from 2004 to 2019, he helped grow into a £25 million business specialising in unified communications, customer experience (CX) and network services.
In 2019, Arnold-Roberts, by then CEO, and private equity backer Apiary merged the company with Conn3ct Managed Services, creating a £60 million business.
Arnold-Roberts spent five months as Group Managing Director of Conn3ct, essentially integrating the two parts of the company, before, nine months later, joining network aggregator FluidOne in the newly created role of CRO.
“The CRO role was great but, having run my own business and built turnover up to £25 million, I had itchy feet to get back into being CEO,” he says.
Arnold-Roberts began looking for a business that had real growth potential and the firepower to grow and innovate, which was when Voiceflex caught his eye. He already knew the Top 5 SIP provider from his time at G3 and FluidOne and was impressed by the board’s vision for the business.
“For me, everything just came together – the timings; a business I know; and an owner who really wants to invest in and drive the business forward. That was one of the things that really excited me about the board’s vision,” he explains.
“Organic growth will only take you so far, so there is a war chest to go on an M&A trail. Initially, this will be privately funded, before stepping into a private equity play. I know from having been through private equity before that if you can prove that you have already done one or two acquisitions, provided synergies, delivered growth, the conversation with the PE house is a lot easier.”
Arnold-Roberts describes this a ‘really exciting time’ for the ICT sector, pointing out that insulation from the worst effects of Covid, the transition to being a software-driven and application-driven industry and broader recognition of its profit potential are attracting new entrants and driving a wave of consolidation, in which he aims to play a part.
In the meantime, Voiceflex is continuing to target organic growth, running at more than 10% in the first half of this year, by exploiting new opportunities and by improving the customer experience.
“Covid has changed the way people consume technology completely over the last 18 months, so we need to look at what we do very much from the building blocks of infrastructure,” Arnold-Roberts explains.
“SoGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access) is going to be a huge landgrab over the next 12 to 36 months. To date, people have probably sat back on their heels, saying ‘It’s happening, but it’s not massively important to us just yet – we’ve got to sort out our Covid infrastructure first’. Now that the dust is settling from the pandemic, SoGEA is going to become key again. It is going to become huge in the micro-SME and SME space, and how we deliver a solution to the reseller channel is massively important. Then, in the ISP market space, it is very much around SOGEA Voice – being that niche play where we can deliver that voice application to larger ISPs on a white-label basis. Those two areas – reseller channel and ISP are absolutely key.”
When it comes to the company’s core SIP offering – Voiceflex is one of the Top 5 providers of SIP in the UK, according to Cavell – Arnold-Roberts emphasises the need to evolve in line with changing market requirements, for example by making sure that Voiceflex becomes a trusted, authorised partner of fast- growing hosted telephony providers, such as Wildix.
“There is also a huge opportunity in international SIP. We have a strong relationship with multiple global carriers to ensure we can fulfil our resellers’ global numbering demands, and we need to look at how we leverage these relationships.”
Underlying all these activities, says Arnold- Roberts, is the need to make it as easy as possible for resellers and their customers to consume Voiceflex services.
“It is the Amazon effect. People want simple; they don’t want complex, so we need to make sure that over time we deliver a software application portal, where people can go in and consume services, whether from a PC or a mobile.
“There is a new version of our portal coming out in the not-too-distant future and we will also be launching a portal specifically around SoGEA Voice, because it is absolutely critical to provide that ease of consumption. People have got past the point of choosing something because it is 10p cheaper; it is now much more about customer excellence. The challenge for us is how do we deliver that customer experience, because that is usually the key differentiator between us and other providers.”
It is safe to say we will be hearing a lot more from Arnold-Roberts and Voiceflex in the future as they build on their existing solid foundations and pursue an ambitious growth strategy based on organic growth and acquisitions.