Meet the MD: David Tindall of Talk Straight

Meet the MD: David Tindall of Talk Straight

For the last seven years David Tindall has been the MD of Talk Straight. BQ caught up with him to find out about his career so far, his plans for the future of the company, and how he copes with the stress of running a business.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

I’m the managing director and the visionary of Talk Straight and Schools Broadband, it’s my job to propel the company forward and look at new markets, identify the needs of our customers and then deliver new products to enhance their use of communications and IT.

 

What is it the company does?

Talk Straight Group is made of a number of sub-companies. The first is Talk Straight itself, we’re a converged business-to-business telecoms provider, so we sell a whole portfolio of products that your average business would need in single packages designed for the customer.

There’s also Schools Broadband, which is really firing on all cylinders at the moment and we’re also an Internet Service Provider. With our national network, we can provide a school with a high-speed internet connection alongside web content filtering and security to protect the kids from looking at things they shouldn’t be looking at! Within the education sector, we’re probably the second or third biggest specialist ISP.

Finally, we operate Talk Straight wholesale, which sells mobile airtime via 02 and high speed internet via our networks to other telecoms companies so they can white-label it as their own.

 

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

I was never really an academic, always preferred ‘doing’ rather than being told what to do. Nevertheless, after my A-Levels, I got a HND in computing from Teesside University.

Following that, my first job was with a company called Legend Internet where I worked as a network engineer. It was my dream job, working with an ISP and getting to play with all the latest technology, so that was a really big step in my career.

After that I became a Solutions Architect, which meant I designed bespoke solutions for customers. Something that Talk Straight prides itself on today. I met my current business partner, Tim Sedgwick and we decided we would start our own telecoms company selling VOIP systems. Seven and a half years ago, we started Talk Straight.

We got our first office space after three years and then the entire schools broadband market changed and opened up under the new government. Using the trading name of Schools Broadband and our experience, we put together a bespoke schools-focused product portfolio and targeted that market and we’ve been very successful doing that.

 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Somebody that can inspire people to do better. That is the bottom line. A good leader can’t do everything themselves, they need good people around them. I would not have got to where I am today without having good people around me.

 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Scale - Scaling and automation within the company. We’ve gone from a small company without any real formal processes to all of a sudden bringing in a lot of business, so it’s how to scale that and tip in lots of customers and make sure everything runs smoothly and effectively. We also had to build our own network as well. Going from white-labelling other products, to creating our own was a challenge and required massive investment.

Now the biggest challenge is automation, keeping things running smoothly internally. I don’t particularly want to employ lots more people, but I’d like the systems in place where we don’t have to push paper around. Everything should be in the cloud via our customer relationship management platform.

 

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

It is a stressful job and I don’t think I’ve 100% got the balancing act right yet. I play hockey, I do a bit of running. But mainly, my 2 year old daughter, while it can be hard work, I find spending time with her very relaxing and she helps me forget about work.

 

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

When I was very small, I quite fancied being a racing car driver - that would have been pretty cool. Once I grew out of that, I actually always wanted to own my own business, I was tempted by the challenge.

 

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

Wastage. Seeing money being spent that doesn’t need to be spent is my biggest frustration. Every company is guilty of wastage, but that money that we waste, I’d much rather reward staff with bonuses or salary increases. It’s a difficult thing to keep at the front of everybody’s mind.

 

Where do you see the company in five years time?

I see us being bigger, I would be very surprised if we’re not at least double the size we are now. I see our wholesale division and Schools Broadband developing and growing. I think we’ll offer a lot more cloud-based services and we’ll really start to sell those on a recurring basis. We’ll see a lot more products based in the cloud that will rely on our connectivity.

We’ll continue to grow the business-to-business arm as well, and with Schools Broadband, there are still so many schools operating out-dated systems that we’ve yet to target.

There’s potential to go international as well, we’re investigating the options available to us.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Listen to other people but make your own decisions and don’t let others dictate what you can and can’t do. If you hear people say you can’t do that, there is normally an element of self-interest behind it.