Business Technology

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“Britain’s small businesses lack meaningful support”

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Name: 

Christian Nellemann

Role and company: 

Founder and CEO, XLN Telecom

Company turnover (and most recent EBITDA/most relevant profitability metric): 

£67m and £14.9m EBITDA

Employee numbers: 

356

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

30 per cent plus uplift in sales revenues and EBITDA

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace: 

Despite being the cornerstone of the economy and the catalyst for economic recovery, Britain’s small businesses lack meaningful support from big institutions or government. We want to change that, starting with dismantling BT’s legacy monopoly over the nation’s phone lines and to date we’ve saved small businesses £24m.

What’s the big vision for your business? 

I would love XLN Telecom to be considered a champion of small businesses and to that end I want our company to provide a range of solutions that better service their communications requirements at far lower prices than those offered by the established big corporate. It’s not just broadband or telephones. Energy, card payment processing, insurance, mobile phones – in all of these markets, improved competition would have a hugely positive impact on the performance of small businesses in Britain.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

We are and will remain 100 per cent focused on Britain’s small businesses. We have no international intentions – there is still plenty of work to be done and opportunities to explore in the UK!

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

I feel like I learn more about business every day and of course I’ve suffered setbacks, but nothing terminal. If you are going to fail, recognise it and fail early! Take hard decisions, focus, work hard, and be productive. These beliefs, for me, are the foundations of success.

What makes you mad in business today? 

Bad service, bad excuses and a lack of honesty and integrity make me seriously mad.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years? 

Voice calls are really just another data packet these days, like email. Because data is now the communication driver, I expect legacy phone networks and their providers to change dramatically. They will have to if they are to remain competitive and relevant.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things? 

Yes I think they can. Of course, it’s now a lot harder to get easy money, but that easy money was long-term expensive. In my experience of our sector, good, solid businesses with a sound performance history have no issues in securing appropriate investment.

How would others describe your leadership style? 

I’m hands on, really into the details, passionate and committed to the business and its people. I’m also not afraid to back people and to take measured risks.

Your biggest personal extravagance? 

My family and playing golf – and a passion for cars.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper: 

It’s very simple, and probably wouldn’t take two minutes. I’d tell him to cut the red tape, ensure great well-thought through small businesses are given a chance by having access to the proper funding on reasonable terms. I would also tell him to match his pro-small business words with actions by discriminating for small businesses and, by default, against big corporates. I’d finish by reminding him that small businesses drive growth, employ more people and pay their taxes, unlike some big corporations that have been in the news recently!

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