Meet the MD: Charles Chance

Charles Chance is the founder and managing director of Nimvelo, a company specialising in providing phone services specifically tailored for start-up businesses. BQ caught up with him to find out how he keeps the business growing in the competitive communications market.

Briefly describe your role:

Being very hands on is something that I pride myself on; I love being on the front line, speaking to end users and building relationships with customers.  I also oversee the day to day operations of the business and have control over all financial decisions.

Developing and driving our business strategy is an important part of my role and I also place a very strong emphasis on maintaining a strong internal culture. It is so important to empower colleagues and apply them in the most effective way possible to meet the objectives of the business and to encourage their own development.

 

What is it the company does?

Nimvelo is an internet-based communications business that provides phone services specifically tailored for start-up businesses.

The business is continually inventing effective new ways of working and the launch of Nimvelo Phone – a cloud-based phone system that allows colleagues to talk to their customers as a team – has already proved a huge hit, enabling employees to work anywhere without hassle or limitation.

Around 2,500 customers are already using the phone system and in the past 12 months alone, seven millions calls have been made and one million text messages sent.

Nimvelo also operates in the reseller market, enabling other IT companies to offer the same service to their clients but under their own brand. This has allowed the business to maintain its underlying platform and infrastructure.

 

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I finished college in 1997 and having no idea what I wanted to do, decided that university was not for me. I spent the next five years in a series of fairly junior roles, gaining valuable experience in a working environment whilst developing all important people skills. It afforded me time to discover more about my own ambitions – always looking for ways to improve processes and challenge the status quo. I knew from a very early point in my career that I wanted to run my own company and that I would never be happy in a regular ‘job’.

In 2003 I was appointed as IT Manager for a Walsall-based not-for-profit organisation called Breathing Space. It was a charity that helped aspiring entrepreneurs set up in business. There were so many people following their dreams and launching their own firms – it was exactly what I wanted to do. This was the push that I needed and after three years in post I took the plunge.

My first business launched in 2006 – it was an online trading company. This was quickly followed by the launch of an IT consultancy firm, which eventually evolved into an IT and (traditional) telecoms business. I ran this for a couple of years alongside other, seemingly unrelated ventures including property refurbishment and lettings, car sales, plus a couple of pub leases to throw into the mix! I had definitely found a passion for business and people; but my primary area of expertise remained in IT and telecoms, so internet-based communications became the focus.

In 2009 I went into partnership with someone else to form a business VoIP company, Cloud Net (later to be Birchills Telecom). It was a fantastic opportunity and an invaluable learning experience, but deep down I knew that I wanted to go it completely alone and after 18 months broke away to pursue my own ideas.

Sipcentric was formed in late 2010 and for the past five years I have been developing the business and growing the team. We recently re-branded to Nimvelo as part of our longer term strategy to look at the ways in which small business teams communicate, both between themselves and with their customers – and we haven't looked back since.

 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

 A great leader is somebody who is reliable, approachable and leads by example. They have relentless drive and passion, inspiring a shared vision whilst enabling others to realise their individual goals and take responsibility for their own success.

 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Particularly in the early days, finances were the biggest challenge. I initially launched the business with no external investment; just a personal cash injection of £20,000, a lot of drive and ambition, and use of my spare bedroom where I began writing software. Managing cash flow was a big challenge.

As the business has grown, the challenges have changed and given the competitive market that we work in, the pressure is now on to be continually innovating and evolving, something that Nimvelo is very good at - we have to be!

 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I cycle around 10 miles to and from work each day; it gives me 40 minutes of physical exercise every morning and evening but also a valuable opportunity to clear my head. I try to switch off when I am away from the office but this is easier said than done. Spending quality time with my family is so important and I try to ensure that I take regular time away from the business in order to make this happen.

 

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My earliest memory is of wanting to be a forensic scientist; to this day I'm not entirely sure where that came from, but I quickly discovered my abilities and passion lay in IT and computer programming.

 

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

Excuses, finger pointing and people focusing on why things can’t be done are my biggest issues with workplaces in general. At Nimvelo we avoid this by encouraging individual ownership and accountability, regardless of the role. We work hard, taking care to ensure everyone has the right tools and skills to do their job; but most importantly, we have fun!

 

Where do you see the company in five years time?

Ambitions are big for Nimvelo. We want to double the number of staff from five to ten within the next 18 months and develop an apprenticeship programme offering work-based learning opportunities for local young people. Within the next three years we aim to take turnover to over £2million and move to larger offices in a more prominent location. We have come such a long way and the recent rebrand has provided a strong platform for further growth, including overseas expansion.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Fail quick and learn from your mistakes. Find good people who share your vision and values. Treat failures as stepping stones and never dwell on decisions – move on and move up!