Thursday, 07 July 2022

Let's Get Down to Business: Phil Gibbs, founder and director 1AffordableCall

Let's Get Down to Business: Phil Gibbs, founder and director 1AffordableCall

PHIL GIBBS is the founder and a director of 1AffordableCall, a telecoms and IT consultancy. He was born and raised in Ruislip and went to St Paul’s School in Hammersmith and then Southampton University, achieving a PhD in biochemistry. He and his partner Rachel, who is an ecologist working for the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, have been together for nine years, having first met through dancing. They lived in Henley but recently moved to Woodcote. They enjoy the outdoors and walking. A keen sportsman, Phil has played football for many years and only gave up playing 11-a-side at age 57. He is a member of the South Chilterns Pathway Maintenance Volunteers.

Describe your business

We are an independent telecoms and IT consultancy providing tailored services and solutions from the best providers at an affordable price for businesses, helping them communicate more effectively, both internally and with their clients.

How many people does it employ?

Me, my business partner and two support staff.

What did you do before you started this business?

My first job was in medical diagnostics, developing and producing glucose monitoring tests for diabetics using new technology. After seven years, I got an opportunity to work and live in Wiesbaden in Germany for Abbot Laboratories, an American company, helping to develop blood screening products for HIV and hepatitis. It gave me the opportunity to learn another language. After seven years there, I realised that I was not getting the right work/life balance so I returned to the UK. Having a technical background, I became interested in telecoms, which was then rapidly developing new technology. That’s when I set up my own business. I came up with the name because in those days companies were listed in alphabetical order in telephone directories and I wanted to appear at the top of the list.

When did you start your business?

In August 2000.

What was your objective?

I got involved with telephone cards for a short time when the whole market was opening up but soon realised that I could provide a better service myself.

Who or what influenced you?

My father, who trained as a doctor and set up his own GP practice, and my brother Martin, who set up a veterinary practice.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

I’ve always admired Dr Christiaan Barnard, who carried out the first human-to-human heart transplant, and Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon.

What would you do differently if you could start again?

I’ve learnt a lot from every job I’ve had. Everyone makes mistakes but the vital thing is to learn from them. Some of the mistakes I made actually resulted in driving the business in positive new directions.

What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on your business?

Covid-19 is making everyone think carefully about their business and the importance of being agile. Our systems enable them to communicate effectively and never miss a client or opportunity. It looks as though the future for work is blending some days in the office with working from home and that’s generating new business and a substantial number of new clients..

How is your business doing?

It has grown by about 30 per cent on last year.

How do you market your business?

The majority of our business comes through word of mouth and recommendations. Networking is important and I am a member of the Henley Business Partnership.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Independence and being able to express myself. I’m able to get a better work/life balance. I can switch off at the end of the day.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Resolving faults and being dependent on other parties to sort things out.

Where is your business headed?

Continuing to grow. We’re growing at about 30 per cent a year at the moment.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Go for it. Be willing to try different things but monitor everything and keep testing. Invest and test.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Being a good listener, having the ability to understand your client’s issues and knowing how to resolve problems.

What’s the secret of your success?

Passion, customer service and good communication. And looking after my health.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Not initially getting my work/life balance right. I’ve seen what too much stress can do to people.

How organised are you?

I’m pretty disciplined. It is important as it’s very easy to get distracted otherwise.

How do you dress for work each day?

Smart casual.

What can’t you be without every day?

My first cup of coffee.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

I always stop working and eat in another room.

Do you continue to study?

Yes — it’s vital to keep up to date with technology and new products.

What do you read?

Lots of emails. Apart from studying, I’m not a great reader. I prefer long walks, invariably involving a pub.

How are you planning for retirement?

I have no firm plans. I will do more volunteering and more walking.

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