May 5, 2023
3 min read
Following an initial review of the business, and programme of value-adding strategic advisory, over a 10-year period, Evolution Capital were delighted to sit down with Miami/London based Charmaine De Souza, Founder and Managing Director of BusinessMobiles.com, to discuss her journey to maximising business value and the absolute necessity of engaging with the right advisor.
When and why was BusinessMobiles.com established?
The business has been running for 23 years, serving the whole of the UK, serving small businesses, SMEs but also a large customer base of corporates.
The company provide, supply and service B2B mobile phone contracts, operating for all the networks. We make sure that those businesses have the help along the way, rather than having to call into the networks directly, they call into us.
At the moment we have 23,000 active lines and around 5,000 customers across the UK. The company doesn’t make anything any products, the real way they we differentiate is through service.
How would you best describe BusinessMobiles.Com in three words?
The company really focuses on 3 key words; the first is ‘culture’. So, anyone coming into the company is heavily tested in profile testing, to ensure they will service their customers the way we wish them to.
‘Acknowledgement’ is another big word for us. We work in a communications business, and we recognise that probably the biggest part of communication is acknowledgement. We always want our customers to feel acknowledged, every step of the way. From the moment their buying, all the way through the contract, when they have a problem, that we acknowledge and understand their issues and that we acknowledge and understand what their doing in their business.
The third big thing for us is ‘simplicity’. Even though everyone loves their mobile phone, it’s still tech. We are still dealing with people who don’t always have the time to fully understand what their mobile phone can do for them, to keep up with all the changes in the mobile phone technology. Everybody loves it, but does everyone understand it really? So, it’s all about making the buying process simple, making the phones simple for the user and easy for them to understand how to use in their business, and how to get the best out of their mobiles for their business, and keeping up with all the changes that are going on in the mobile phone world that are aimed at businesses and making business more effective. They don’t really understand it, so we must make it simple for them.
What changes have you noticed since you started BusinessMobiles.Com
22 years ago, mobile phones were something that just ‘yuppies’ had. Most people didn’t even like the idea of having a mobile phone. I remember people saying things like: “I want to be in a situation where people can call me when I’m at home when I want them to, I don’t want people being able to contact me when I’m out on the street, that’s so invasive” and then suddenly everybody wants a mobile phone. No one wants to leave their house without their phone, and then it turned to ‘Keys, Wallet, Phone’, and you could not leave the house without one of those things, if you did, you would have to go home. Nowadays, you can have all those things on your phone. And everybody has one, so I love the fact that it has transitioned to such an important product. I love the fact that in 2003 the Blackberry came out, and everybody started working from their phone. You were told that businesses could save 55 minutes a day, just by working from your phone – that was a great milestone. Then we had the event of 4G, then 5G. With 5G there’s going to be so much more coming into our lives, so we aren’t even seeing the tip of the iceberg at this point.
I just love working in this industry because this product is so important to everybody. In everything that we do, from the start of the day to the end of the day, its involved in every aspect of our lives. For that reason, it’s such an exciting product.
How did you come across Evolution Capital?
At the time that we met Evolution Capital, it was around 2013/2014, and at that time, I had already worked with a couple of corporate finance companies, and we had already been through two big due diligence exercises. We thought about selling; we had an offer which we weren’t looking for, but they came to us and made an offer. So, we went through the whole process. It happened to be the same company both times providing the due diligence, loved the company. I thought they would be the company that eventually sell us, when we decided to sell.
One day, I received a phone call from a gentleman named Peter. It was at a time where I was thinking about selling, so he pitched that we should listen to what Evolution Capital are all about. Nigel came in, and instantly Nigel coming in and meeting us, going through our business with us, it was just so different to our previous experience. It wasn’t so mechanical, it wasn’t just ‘it’s an investment’, ‘it’s a bunch of numbers’, ‘we’re going to sell your business for you’, it felt like there was a little bit more meat on the bone. He seemed to be very experienced, very knowledgeable, he really took time to explain things to us. He really took time to give us the vision. More than anything he really acknowledged us, he acknowledged this is a baby for us. I think, when you’re an entrepreneur, and you build a business from scratch, no one really understands what you’ve been through to get the business there, no one really understand the stress and turmoil, and no one can. But when you’re selling a business, for whatever reason you’re selling it, you’re not just selling a box, it has a lot of emotion tied into it and you really require somebody to handle that gently and really acknowledge how important this thing is for you. Nigel does this very naturally.
I think that’s what’s so beautiful about going through a process with Nigel and Evolution Capital, as opposed to any other corporate finance business in this industry.
How did the Evolution Capital services compare to those of other corporate finance firms?
When we did the due diligence with Evolution Capital, that was a whole different experience too. Normally, a corporate finance company that we’ve worked with before would send us a list of things they wanted, and there would be very little contact aside from the initial briefing.
Evolution Capital talked us through everything, made sure that we had the numbers, made sure that if we didn’t have the numbers - we could find some other numbers.
When we got everything together, Evolution Capital came and delivered a huge presentation to us to show us exactly how everything fitted in. They gave us the metrics; they gave us a dashboard. They showed us what our business actually looked like; in a way we had never seen it before which was inspiring.
The first corporate finance company asked for many reports, and that was great. But I never saw anything back from those reports. They took the numbers, put them, together and came up with some figure at the end as in ‘this is what you should sell your business for’. That was it that’s all I got .I didn’t get anyone come to me, or give me the feedback on what I could do to make a better situation for my company.
With Nigel and Evolution Capital, the reports that they drew up, they were phenomenal, very detailed and I’ve had three so far. They’re incredibly detailed. I can show them to other companies, I can show them to the bank, they hold a lot of weight and credibility as well. The review allowed me to see so much more.
The other corporate finance companies by comparison, would come and it was almost like they were imparting bad news… there was no explanations. With Nigel, there is never a problem. It’s always, “this is how we are going to seize the opportunity in the company and make sure you grow it in the right direction, how we are going to achieve maximum value”. Everything is presented in solvable terms, I never feel like I’m receiving bad news, whereas, honestly, it was one thing which really struck me with the other corporate finance companies, where it feels like they’re just delivering bad news, or preparing you for the worst-case scenario. And I have never felt that way with Evolution Capital. It’s always opportunity. Here are the numbers, here are the opportunities, what can we do.
What was a key piece of advice you received during the review from Evolution Capital?
The second business review Evolution Capital did with us, they said: “this [the dashboard] is something you need to do if you want to sell this business, and you want to get the maximum value out of it – you really need to prepare.” So, we kept the dashboard going to ensure the numbers were there, so the next time we came around we could see the growth and we could see what work has been done, and it’ll be much more apparent, and they helped set all of this up.
I love numbers. I have this structure with my team where we have our monthly reports, but Evolution Capital definitely raised the standards of those reports. When a business comes and presents your business to you with those numbers, it does inspire you to keep that going. We had a lot of hand holding in terms of those numbers. We set up our dashboard so that every month we run our numbers in the dashboard that we created with Evolution Capital. We’ve kept that going, and it’s so different now. When we have a meeting about anything, the numbers are already there, we are already prepared. It has absolutely made us a more conscious company, in terms of our numbers and where we are going, where we are headed, and we can make decisions much more quickly. We are a lot more conscious of what is important to us.
Working closely with Evolution Capital to drive maximum value
Whenever I meet with Nigel, he is always focusing me very much on where the value is being driven from. There’s no question about that. I love that. It’s like being back at school again, and you have that one teacher that you just trust everything that they say. They have your back, they know where you are, they know the process in front of you, they know the route you are going to take, so you feel safe that anything they say to you is from a place of knowledge and wisdom. So, Nigel spends a lot of time focusing me on exactly what I need to be looking for, where the value will be driven, and ensuring I have everything in my dashboard to show me that.
What is next for Business Mobiles.com?
In terms of our company right now, we are very much focusing on improving our acquisition of new business, growing our turnover, and what I’ve been focusing on for the last few years thanks to Evolution Capital, is my EBITDA. I am very much conscious of that, and maximising it, and now time to focus on turnover annually, focus on growing, bringing in new cloud and VoIP products and services.
I wouldn’t just refer Evolution Capital; I would actively talk someone down from any other decision. It’s night and day. There is absolutely no comparison between the service that EC offer and anyone else. There’s just so much more passion, when Evolution Capital come and talk to you about your business, their genuinely interested in your business, it’s not just number pushing. It really is a genuine desire to give the level of service that will get you the best result.
I guess, as somebody who is very focused on service myself, I love to see that in other companies. I am always going to choose a company that I see genuinely cares. Its so authentic, it’s not about how much money they can make or how quickly they can put the deal away. There’s a genuine interest, and I know with Evolution Capital too, I haven’t sold a business yet, but I have been through three rounds of due diligence, but I haven’t sold yet, and I don’t intend to sell for a little while. But they still work with me, and they’re patient, they aren’t pushing me to sell tomorrow just because it’s convenient for them. They are being patient and, when I’m ready, they’re ready; I know they have my back when the time comes. In the interim, they are keeping me content, they’re making sure I’m prepared, making sure I’m building in the right direction.
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