At a time when pay-as-you-go and disposable phones were all the rage, Jo Wimble-Groves realised that a one-size-fits-all approach would undercut a huge chunk of business technology users. In 1996, she set up Active Digital to provide businesses with the mobile technology they actually need, and since then, has worked with clients as varied as GB Taekwondo and Iron Maiden
Jo Wimble-Groves has built a business that has stood the test of time. Active Digital, now in its 20th year, equips growing businesses with smartphones, tablets, and other modern-day work essentials based on their needs.
She speaks to GrowthBusiness on her business journey as she branches out as an author and motivational speaker encouraging and inspiring women in business.
Name: Jo Wimble-Groves
Location: Lamberhurst, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent
Date launched: November 1996
Number of employees: 25
What does your business do?
Active Digital specialises in delivering smartphones, tablets, fixed line solutions and apps to business customers across the UK and Ireland; many of whom are VIPs in the world of music and sport. Our clients include GB Taekwondo, The British Cycling Federation, Birdseye and Iron Maiden. Operating from three offices in Kent, London and Dublin, our award winning customer support centre is in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
In 2015 we were warmly welcomed into the arms of O2 as part of their O2 Direct Partner Network. A partner for over a decade, this five-year commitment means we could focus on our future goals and strategies, making key investments in technology. Our outstanding performance as a partner was rewarded by winning both O2 Direct Partner Awards in 2015 and 2016.
We are passionate about technology, helping customers streamline mobile costs, introduce a digital strategy and in turn, deliver a high level customer experience. It’s a simple combination customers love.
I have also recently branched out into motivational speaking, specifically in terms of helping women in business become more confident and ‘put their hands up’ to embrace opportunities. It is hugely rewarding to share my 20 years’ business experience in this way.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My brother, Richard, noticed a gap in the marketplace back in the mid nineties for a company which was particularly focused on providing mobile phones for SME customers. The industry was booming from the consumer perspective and pay as you go phones were at their peak. Supermarkets were selling thousands of pay of you go mobiles ‘in a box’ and that wasn’t how we saw our business going forward. We made a decision at that time to only focus on the needs of business customers.
How did you know there was a market for it?
In the late nineties, the mobile industry was booming. We’ve seen so many independent mobile phone shops come and go over the years. Focusing on the needs of business customers was the right decision for us. They were the ones that were getting used to having mobile phones integrated into their workforce and we sensed a real value for a ‘personal approach’ to customer service. Choosing a consumer sector route could have restricted our longevity in this industry.
Many mobile providers service business clients, but we continue to regularly benchmark ourselves at industry levels to ensure we are hitting the right touch points with our customers. So much so that we have won an award for customer experience every year for the last decade. A statement we are incredibly proud of. This proves you are not just saying you are doing a good job, an independent panel of judges back up and endorse your company credibility. Communication remains the lifeblood of any business, which is why it’s so important to get it right.
Describe your business model in brief.
One may find that there are a handful of provider who offer ‘concierge style’ services such as our, however our unique approach is making our customers feel special. We offer the same level of excellent service, no matter what a client’s net-worth, and we do it at all times.
Working in partnership with O2, we service manage the contract for our customers and provide all the hardware, so the customer can receive a richer mobile experience. Our innovative approach has helped us retain a real edge in this industry. Active Digital won “Best Unified Comms Dealer” at the Mobile Industry Awards 2015 for some particular work we did for Saracens rugby team and we are helping other organisations achieve similar high performance results.
What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?
When our company turned over its first million. That feels pretty great, although in true business sense, some say turnover is vanity and profit is sanity, so keeping a firm grip on retaining good profit margins is what’s really helped our business to thrive over the years.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
In business we often tend to be looking ahead which is really important, but also it’s crucial to focus on the core company goals. Setting a few key goals for the year ahead really helps the leadership team and all employees to understand the company strategy, objectives, aims and how you are working together to achieve it. A motivated and valued workforce is a key component to driving profitability in your business. Hiring and retaining good talent is crucially important. Company success highly depends on your employees’ performance, so it pays to have a well-rounded and motivational approach to your management and coaching style. If you’re not sure how to do that, there are plenty of coaches who can help you become a better leader. Never stop learning and embracing new opportunities.
This is something I feel particularly passionate about and has directly influenced my decision to share my knowledge and experience through giving motivational speeches and running workshops to help women in business become more confident.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
As the mobile market gets tough, we see it as our opportunity to really help businesses plan and create a mobile strategy that really works for their employees. It’s such an exciting time in digital technology, we are excited that we can truly help organisations to transform the way they work through mobile and beyond. The next five years for us is all about developing customer experience connectivity through apps and becoming the number one partner for O2. To achieve this, we need to focusing on retaining our team, nurturing customer relationships and growing new ones.
On a personal level, there’s a huge emphasis on women in tech and I am a real endorser of women ‘putting their hand up’ to try something new or have the confidence to take an opportunity. I know how fortunate I am to be doing what I do, but I’m conscious that it might have came from an initial instinct to give something a try.
Over the next five years, I see growth in my motivational talks for women in business and also to teenage school girls about the confidence gap. I am now sharing my twenty years’ business experience to give back and help others, which is thoroughly rewarding. I am also a writing two books, which I hope will be published in late 2017.