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Olive sees cloud surge while it expands into other countries

Paul Lipscombe
October 25, 2019

Martin Flick, the company’s CEO, says that the rise of cloud has offset a decline on the mobile side

When Martin Flick sold his first business Axxent to Azzurri Communications in 2004, he could have been forgiven for wanting to put his feet up and take an early retirement.

Yet this was never an option for the CEO of Olive Communications, the Vodafone Total Communications Partner, which passed 150,000 connections in January.

“When I sold Axxent, it never crossed my mind to retire, as I felt I still had a lot to give in the industry and I still do,” said Flick.

After the sale, Flick held a number of roles at Azzurri until 2012, before finally being persuaded by Olive founder Mark Geraghty to join him at the dealer – though the latter has since returned to Australia, where one of his interests is a horse racing syndicate called Geraghty Bloodstock.

The two had earlier worked together at Axxent prior to Geraghty leaving to form Olive in 2002. The first few years were fruitful for Olive, with its revenue jumping from £10 million to £30 million in three years.

Although the company started purely as a mobile dealer, it has now diversified into selling integrated cloud services.

Its turnover for last year dipped 7.6 per cent to £28.9 million due to a challenging mobile market, but Flick is positive about Olive’s cloud opportunities, with this segment growing 48 per cent year-on- year.

“We expected the drop in revenue, but cloud has really grown for us in the past couple of years. It has been offset by a decline in mobile, which in part has been affected due to EU roaming charges and ARPU erosion.”

Despite the dip in revenue, earnings before tax were up 43 per cent to £2.1 million thanks to the cloud burst. The Olive Cloud Managed Service Platform combines features including

enterprise mobility, workforce optimisation, analytics, AI and a contact centre – helping meet the growing demand for integrated cloud services and better customer experiences.

Expansion drive

Olive has also been bolstered in this area by Vodafone encouraging mobile users to adopt its cloud-based One Net unified comms service, adds Flick.

“Together with a better year for mobile, this means we expect revenues to return to growth in the current year to January 2020,” he says.

Olive has also expanded beyond the UK, opening an office under the name Olive Cloud Solutions in Brisbane, Australia, earlier this year with Queensland unified comms supplier Azentro.

“We did this to better support our customers,” said Flick. “While they may have a UK HQ, many of them have a global presence.”

He believes this ‘follow the sun’ approach provides a better customer experience than just relying on UK out-of-hours support.

There are plans to target North America too, says Flick, with an office due to open later this year in Florida – a location that works well for travel given that its not as far away as the US West Coast.

Flick is confident that expansion is the way to go, and presents less of a risk than the alternative option. “There’s risk in everything, but in order to provide brilliant customer experiences, Olive must grow with our customers as they continue their global expansion plans. The risk is not taking these expansion opportunities as and when they arrive.”

Of the wider context, he says: “We’re living in a more globalised society, with borderless services, and there’s no geographical restriction on cloud.”

And he adds that the substantial time difference doesn’t pose a problem. “We recently did our first simultaneous international presentation three weeks ago, between our Wycombe base and Brisbane. The time difference wasn’t an issue, with the call done during the morning in the UK and the late afternoon in Australia.”

Mobile outlook

Despite challenging times on the mobile side, Flick says Olive still sees that segment as crucial too.

“Mobile still plays an important part at Olive and will continue to do so,” he says. “It’s part of the suite of services that customers are going to want, so we’re not going to dismiss mobile.”

Flick also welcomes the opportunities that will be presented by 5G, a technology that he says will “liberate” the way we do things.

“5G is going to change the way people live and work, and once it’s widely available it will become a powerful tool for business customers. The technology is a game changer.”

Flick says further that Vodafone is still an important strategic partner for Olive, adding: “Vodafone’s 5G launch has put it in the box seat and is very compelling, coming at a time where the operator has needed to be innovative.”

Looking ahead

As for the future, Olive hopes it can continue to gain good, solid contracts. In this area, the company is still celebrating a notable enterprise win in the form of the Yorkshire Building Society, though Flick declined to give details of connection numbers or contract value.

“This is a significant contract for us to win, and one that sees us provide Yorkshire Building Society with our contact centre and UC services,” he says.

And Flick is confident that Brexit will not have a negative impact for Olive. “We see Brexit as something that will actually drive customers to think differently about how they communicate and invest in their infrastructure, and that’s good for us.”

Olive, meanwhile, has no immediate plans to increase its workforce, with 130 employees currently working for the company – though Flick isn’t closing the door on this.

“We’re heading towards a growth strategy over the next three years, so this will inevitably mean we’ll need to attract more talent,” he says.

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