Good, old-fashioned customer service and pioneering spirit: Plusnet’s Andy Baker gives Business Up North an insight into running a big business with a family feel.
At Business Up North it’s our aim to give you the latest news and views from the people behind the North’s flourishing business community. We were excited to be given the opportunity to talk to Andy Baker, CEO of Yorkshire-based Plusnet, one of the UK’s most successful phone, broadband and TV provider. Here are Andy’s insights into what makes him, and his business, tick…
Plusnet had a simple goal – to think and act differently from other providers, saving customers money and 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 1,200 people in Leeds and Sheffield.
As the CEO of Plusnet, it’s my role to manage the overall operations of the company and make major corporate decisions. But above all, I’m committed to helping and investing in my team to help them succeed in their roles. I welcome any ideas and questions from our people with an open-door policy. Ultimately, I believe an open workplace has a direct result on business performance.
How long have you been running your business and what does your business do?
Established in 1997, Plusnet is now a quad-play service provider, offering broadband, telephone, mobile and TV deals for customers and businesses across the UK.
I took over the role of CEO in 2013 with the ambition of driving the business forward as a quad play provider.
What or who was the inspiration for the current path you are on?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked for a number of established companies and start-ups, which eventually led me to my role at Plusnet.
I’ve always been inspired by talented colleagues in each role, whether it’s team members in the senior team or those just starting their career. It’s hugely valuable to learn from others, whether it’s experience and skills or a great work ethic.
One bit of advice you wish you’d been given before you started in your role as CEO?
While I’ve been offered a wealth of guidance throughout my career, I wasn’t always open to taking it. There is a variety of great 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 learn from their experiences. Most are willing to share their personal tips and experience to help others.
When starting out, it’s important to remember that learning from your own mistakes can help to shape you as a person later down the line. It’s easy to beat yourself up after misjudging a situation, but I’ve learnt it’s how you deal with it that really counts.
The one most important thing you’ve learned during the experience of running Plusnet?
There’s no better foundation for a business than a positive, friendly culture. At Plusnet, our brand value is ‘we’ll do you proud’ and this rings true to our customers and people. We’re about being straight talking, open and honest and I endeavour to lead by example. We’ve developed a unique family feel in the business, which is why the team works cohesively towards a common goal.
What do you see as your future business challenges?
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 will always remain in the region – 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.
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.
What would you like to leave as your business legacy?
It’s my responsibility to ensure that Plusnet improves and develops during my time here. I believe if every person in the business shared the same ambitions to be better, we have the potential to really drive the business to a new level.
Your biggest personal business achievement so far?
Helping Plusnet celebrate its 20th birthday a few months ago was truly special for me. It was an honour to be there with a few of the team who joined in the very early days.
Another achievement was participating in the Plusnet Pioneers programme – a series of events, content and mentoring aimed at helping start-ups and small business owners realise their ambitions.
As a Pioneer, I sat on the panel at an event in Manchester where I offered tips to start-ups on attracting and retaining talent. It was hugely rewarding to be able to inspire people with my own experience, providing them with the confidence and tools to keep their teams motivated.
When you are working, what do you do to relax?
As a CEO, it often feels like a 24/7 role and it’s difficult to switch off. 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 picturesque places like the Peak District. I’m also a proud parent and enjoy nothing more than watching my children play sports.
Your biggest achievement outside of business?
Every day I realise how grateful I am to have an incredible family. There’s no better feeling than teaching my children new sports such as skiing and table tennis. Watching them learn is so rewarding, until they start beating me!
For further information on Plusnet Pioneers, please visit www.plus.net/business/plusnet-pioneers.