Andy Baker, CEO of Plusnet
Plusnet CEO Andy Baker tells BQ why the company is proud of its Yorkshire roots, what he believes makes a great business leader and why the company is committed to supporting the nations start-ups...
What is it the company does?
Established in 1997, Plusnet had a simple goal – to think and act differently from other communications providers, saving customers money while providing unrivalled customer service. That's not changed since the day we launched; 20 years later we’re still providing great value phone and broadband, TV and mobile services from our headquarters in Yorkshire. We now employ more than 1,400 people in Leeds and Sheffield.
What does your role involve?
As the CEO of Plusnet, it’s my role to manage the overall operations of the company and make major corporate decisions. Beyond that, I’m committed to investing in our people to help them develop and succeed within the company and their own careers. I welcome any ideas or questions from employees with an open-door policy and try to spend as much time as I can with the teams. Ultimately, I believe a relaxed workplace has a direct result on business performance.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
In 2013, I moved to Plusnet from our parent company, BT, where I held the position of CEO for Wi-Fi, managing over five million hotspots in the UK for over two years. Prior to this, I was the commercial director of BT TV and gaming.
Before my time at BT, I worked across various businesses such as a Virgin start-up company, Dixons Stores Group, The Post Office and housebuilder, George Wimpey.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Being a great leader requires the confidence to make decisions that will ultimately benefit the whole company and team.
At Plusnet, we’re straight talking, open and honest and I endeavour to practice this and lead by example. Most importantly, it’s my role to prove the benefits of working as a team towards a common goal and preserve our family-orientated culture while driving the business forward.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
As our product isn’t tangible, customers tend to judge us on price, marketing and customer service. That’s why it’s our priority to offer the lowest prices and best possible customer service in the market. We’re proud of our Yorkshire roots and our customer service model – that’s what sets us apart from competitors.
The customer turnover in the market is around 10 to 20% and the biggest challenge for us is keeping on the ball with our marketing strategy, while demonstrating our friendly and helpful personality at all times. We were recently awarded ‘Best Broadband Provider & Best Value Provider’ at the Broadband Genie Awards and ‘Broadband Provider of the Year’ at the uSwitch Broadband Awards 2017. In fact, we won 21 awards in the last financial year of which we are very proud.
Sustaining momentum as one of the leading quad-play service providers is and always will be difficult. But I’m confident with our unrivalled service and helpful attitude, we’ll continue to do our customers proud and grow our business.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
As a CEO, it often feels like a 24/7 role and it’s difficult to switch off. However, it’s really important to find ways to relax and de-stress to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
I enjoy taking my mind off my day-to-day role by watching live sport, exercising and going out for long walks in places like the Peak District. I’m also a proud parent and enjoy nothing more than watching my children play sports.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always dreamed of being a professional rugby player, but I soon realised the chances of making a career out of it were extremely slim. I enjoyed art as a child, and I think my passion for creativity attracted me to a career path in marketing and subsequently the role I’m in today.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I’m always happy to help when people knock on my door for advice. But I appreciate it when colleagues take a solutions-driven approach to difficult situations beforehand. After all, empowerment is a two-way street.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
My ambition will always be to continue growing the Plusnet business whilst staying true to our roots. I hope to see the company double in size in five years’ time.
Above all, it’s essential for me to sustain our distinctive family culture and values as we continue to grow, welcoming team members and offering new products and services. It’s a difficult task, but we’re doing a great job having welcomed over 400 new staff members and launched a mobile phone offering since I joined Plusnet.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
As a business leader, you’re required to make important decisions in a matter of minutes that could have long-lasting effects. I’d advise aspiring business leaders to go with their gut feeling – it’s often better to take risks that have the potential to take you places than stagnate through indecision. Nine times out of 10, your gut feeling will lead you to the right decision.
Personally, there’s no better way of learning the skills to become a leader and sharpening your gut instinct than seeking guidance from those with experience. That’s why we recently launched the Plusnet Pioneers campaign – a programme of events, content and mentoring – which aims to help start-ups and small business owners with first-hand experience from successful business leaders.
We hosted a series of events in London, Birmingham and Manchester, where we addressed the key concerns facing start-ups and small business owners today – marketing, funding and attracting talent. Along with a team of panellists from the UK’s most loved brands, including ex-Dragons’ Den panellist Sarah Willingham and Giles Brook, CEO EMEA of Vita Coco, I was delighted to offer my top tips in Manchester on finding the right people for your business.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
While I’ve been offered a wealth of guidance throughout my career, I wasn’t always open to taking it. There are a great variety of resources out there to help as you start out, but people with real experience offer the most valuable support. I’d always advise listening to advice offered from peers who have been there and learnt from their experiences.