Andy Pearce: “Who needs a degree?”

Andy Pearce dropped out of university in Derby after just six months to set up his own business, Bin Clean. Pressured by his parents to earn a decent salary, he also took on a job at a bank’s call centre. That sparked the idea for his next startup, Inkfish Call Centre, which he grew to a £26.4m turnover in seven years and later sold to Domestic and General. Now he runs Richmond-based video conferencing firm Powwownow and employs 30 people.

“I’ve never actively recruited candidates with degrees, even though my competitors do,” he remarks. “It’s the person I’m employing, not their qualifications.

“If someone is hungry to earn and learn, we’ll take them on and provide them with mentoring and training for two to three years. They are the future managers of Powwownow. Take Paula, for example. She joined our telesales team four years ago. She has no degree – and yet today she runs the account management for all our major clients.”

Pearce says he’s more than doubled advertising spend in the past year, despite the downturn. “Small businesses want to save money but they don’t know how,” he explains. “We have saved 101,597 customers £21m on conference calls with our conference call facility. I set up this business knowing it would thrive in a recession. Now’s the perfect time for us to be educating SMEs about how they can cut travel and meeting costs.”

He admits that video conferencing sounds like “the most boring business in the world” but he’s looking for ways to promote the brand in a novel way. When British Airways announced it had scrapped the long-haul sandwich in a bid to save £22m a year, Pearce wanted to board a BA plane and hand out free Powwownow-branded sandwiches to passengers. “I would have taken a camcorder with me. It would have been a great viral campaign. But my marketing team vetoed it in the end!”

Should Pearce have done a "Stelios", boarded that plane and gone ahead with the marketing stunt? Let us know what you think.

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