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POD Point: “Growth forecasts vary according to geography”

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Name:

Erik Fairbairn

Role and company:

CEO of POD Point Ltd

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

£4m turnover and profitable

Employee numbers: 

POD Point employs 25 people and is directly responsible for creating work for 50 suppliers, manufacturers and service staff.

Growth forecast for the next three years:

We are operating in a market that is growing at a phenomenal rate. Last year we grew at over 100 per cent, and that yearly doubling of size is continuing this year. Growth forecasts vary according to geography – for instance in Norway, electric cars account for five per cent of new car sales, whereas in the UK the percentage is lower, but growing at more than 40 per cent year on year. In addition to our successful hardware division, the growth trajectory of our custom software division is exceptional: overall we expect POD Point to be a turning over £16m within three years.

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

The single most distinctive feature in our product range is that all our electric vehicle charging equipment has the capability to be networked. This allows the electricity used to be monitored and controlled remotely – making it fully compatible with technologies that are emerging in the smart grid.

What’s the big vision for your business?

We are wiring up and connecting locations in Europe for the electric vehicle revolution.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

About a third of our business is conducted in Europe. We are intent on expanding our presence across the European markets and entrenching our relationships with renewable energy suppliers in that region.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

I developed repetitive strain injury (RSI) in 2002. Before the onset of RSI, I was spending ten hours a day at my computer; afterwards I was unable to spend more than 20 minutes typing without taking a break. The result of this was that I learned to think very clearly about the amount of energy it took to generate a particular result. I try to instil this results-orientated attitude in my staff.

What makes you mad in business today?

The response of large corporates and the banking community to the economic downturn: this is particularly noticeable in the attitude towards carrying risk, which has see-sawed from the irresponsible to the positively risk-avoidant. We need a period of economic stability to allow industry to recover!

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

The biggest changes will result from the mainstream acceptability of electric vehicles, which will stimulate greater interest in charging equipment and public charging infrastructure. Currently, there are islands of charging infrastructure, and the major issues are of availability and of charging solutions for electric motorists. As these islands join up, the key issue will be compatibility and networking of charging equipment.

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

Yes, finance is available, but you have to have everything spot on to access it.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I polled the office and words such as bold, visionary and inspirational were mentioned, but you’d have to ask other people when I’m not there!

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Gadgets. I love having the latest electronic toys. Everything has to communicate perfectly. I guess that is one reason why POD Point’s strategy is based around all our charge points communicating with each other.

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

I’d explain to him that all his activity with the banking sector has zero effect on entrepreneurial business. Banks don’t enable small business. The government needs to encourage the flow of money to support the higher risk-reward profile of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the engine of the country and they need to be nurtured and supported. We used to be a nation of shop keepers – we now need to be a nation of entrepreneurs.

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