In their 31st year, CCS are continuing to focus on ethical business in the telecoms industry. Managing director Chris Lee explains more.
Tell us a little about the business?
CCS is a B2B IT and telecoms specialist, we provide both strategic and supplier partnerships to senior buyers in medium and large-sized enterprises. CCS discovers, prioritises and improves on existing telecom, IT and IoT solutions, helping businesses acquire more value from their procurement, achieve substantial cost savings and deploy smarter ways of working.
What’s the biggest difference between you and your competitors?
Having been around since 1986 we have a vast amount of experience in the sector but we continue to innovate and develop to stay at the cutting edge of the industry. Rather than one-off solutions that paper over the cracks we believe in developing long-term strategies that are in line with the goals of our clients.
As a business we value trust highly and trade ethically. Our relationship with leading industry partners allows us to resolve issues for clients quickly and efficiently. Our average client tenure is approaching 14 years and we pride ourselves on our customer service and the added value that we provide.
Why did you choose to focus on ‘ethics’?
Trading ethically has always been a part of the business. Many businesses assume that the finer details, such as length of contract, level of service etc, are the same in all Telecoms and IT contracts.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen many businesses caught out by common catches within these contracts and many finding themselves out of pocket as a result.
The Telecoms and IT sector generally has a bad reputation when it comes to such mis-selling, so we’re making it our aim to give our industry a much needed boost in terms of image. We have been a pioneer of ethical selling ever since we started out and have even produced a whitepaper highlighting the cost of hidden contract clauses to business - which is estimated to reach over £5m in the North East.
And tell us about you - how did you get to where you are now?
I left school at 16 and started out as an apprentice welder in Sunderland’s shipbuilding yards. I enjoyed the hands-on nature of shipbuilding and have always had an interest in engineering but the industry was in decline so I decided to start my own business.
I set up my first business - restoring metal such as alloy wheel and engine pistons – with my redundancy package from the shipbuilders. At first CCS (which back then stood for Complete Car Security) was a specialist provider and installer of vehicle security systems. Unfortunately at the time Sunderland had a very high rate of car crime and I saw a gap in the market as most of the products available weren’t good enough.
In 1989 we fitted what is thought to be the first mobile phone in a car in the region for a local businessman. At the time there was no internet and very few mobiles so it was a big project but we understood that this could be the future. This was the start of our transformation to an IT and Telecoms business and the services that the company provides these days.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Genuinely, nothing comes to mind that would have made a significant impact on my business had I had prior knowledge.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Finding the right team players who see our vision and want to be part of it.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I play a round of golf and, more often than not, get even more stressed!
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Assume everything you do will be presented in front of a Judge in the next six months, this will ensure you do everything honourably and in the best interest of the client.
How is your industry changing?
Our industry is ever-changing, there are new technologies that impact our clients being introduced all the time. For example, earlier this year the Government unveiled plans to invest £4.7bn into the research and development of smart energy technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology as part of its industrial strategy.
5G is the next stage in mobile connectivity offering faster download speeds and the ability to run mobile internet apps with greater complexity. It will offer much more data volume and greater reliability than users currently receive from 3G or 4G. Obvious benefits to this are enhanced download capacity and speeds, wider availability and increased service reliability.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is another development that is going to be huge within the industry and we are increasingly asked about it. The size of SIM cards and entry level costs mean IoT solutions are far more accessible now than ever before and will only get more popular. Here in the North East we have a few early adopters – such as a client that we have worked with to fit trackers in their vehicles which feedback data.
IoT has the potential to be huge, especially for business – the ability to capture data is there already, it’s now up to businesses to work out how that data can be used.
What’s next for you and for the business?
Further expansion. Within the last year we have taken on eight new staff and have plans for a major expansion of our headquarters on Sunderland’s Hylton Road. Our plan is to keep the original office shell but double the floor capacity, giving us the additional space we need for growth, whilst creating a great work environment for our team.
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