I must admit, when I was first approached by the founders to see if I’d like to build, launch and lead another UK mobile network, my initial reaction was less than enthusiastic:
“Does the UK really need another company offering cheap data and poor service?” I thought to myself.
Having spent over 20 years in the industry, I was very familiar with the price-based competition ripping through the market. How could a new player possibly survive, let alone thrive?
My curiosity got the better of me: I arranged an introductory meeting to explore what this was all about. Not long into the discussion with the Founder, I realised that this is something quite special. A mobile network that has a social purpose at its core and can be life-changing for many millions of people who live with hearing loss. If this technology really can do what the Founder claims then absolutely, I would love the opportunity to launch the service. A world first and medically certified. Amazing!
And so, it began – day one of building a new mobile network. There was a lot to do.
To be accurate, Audacious is a ‘mobile virtual network operator’ or an ‘MVNO’ as the industry acronym goes. An MVNO does not actually have a radio network as such – that’s the domain of other mobile service providers (MNOs) Vodafone, Three, EE and O2. MVNO’s such as Tesco Mobile and Giff Gaff, simply pay one of the main networks a wholesale rate for the data, minutes and texts. The MVNOs then provide marketing, sales and service ‘wrapper’. So, we do all the customer-facing stuff, and the host network does the tech parts.
So, the first thing we had to do was find ourselves a host mobile network. As it happens, those smart people at BT-EE were quick to see the opportunity of working with Audacious and gladly offered us an MVNO agreement. Great news! Audacious would sit on the biggest network in the UK. That gives us the best possible coverage to offer our customers.
Building a team
Things were starting to heat up, and I needed to hire some great people to help build the business. Whilst the opportunity to work in a start-up and create a business from scratch seems exciting and fun, it’s not for everybody. For some, they prefer the certainty and scale of ‘big business’. What I needed was great people in finance, sales, service, marketing and technology – people with ‘big company’ experience. Yet, people who were prepared to take a risk, get stuck in, to be bold, take responsibility and make decisions.
And that’s what I got: welcome to the party Nick, Ian, Paul and Neil. (Annoyingly, an all-male line-up, but I had to hire from those available). A great team with over a hundred years clocked up in the telecoms industry – but itching for something more entrepreneurial and purpose-driven. It must be an age thing, but we were all desperate to get out of the big corporate world and do something fresh. We went for a curry in our local Indian restaurant to celebrate and to plan. We had work to do.
With the team in place, we wanted to discuss and agree on the values which would define our business and provide a ‘moral compass’ for decision making. After many hours we locked on three key words: Clear, Fair and Purposeful.
- Clear: because that’s what the product offers to customers and that’s the way we wanted to be with our customers, staff and stakeholders.
- Fair: in an industry known for dodgy deals, overcharging and confusing tariff’s, we wanted to stand alone in treating customers fairly. The way we’d like to be treated ourselves. We also wanted this to apply to how we recruit and retain our team.
- Purposeful: this is an important value for us. It reflects the history of our founder Matthew, who has worked tirelessly over many years to bring this service to market. It is also important that we remember the core social purpose of the business and that we keep this at the core of everything we do.
So, there we have it – our values. Clear, Fair, Purposeful.
Giving ourselves a name:
But what we were to be called? We needed a name for the business. As I was about to learn, getting a name for a business is a lot harder than it may appear!
Something cool and trendy or something more direct? Everybody has opinions and trying to lock down a shortlist – from our initial 400 names – was not easy. Then, bring on the lawyers to help us with the trademark law. Very quickly, one realises, most names are already taken! Ultimately, we chose Audacious for a few reasons. First, it sounded fun and reflected the audacity of launching a new mobile service. Second, we liked the subtle nod towards ‘audiology’ and lastly, the lawyers said we would not get sued!
We loved the brand name, and we loved the great work the creative team did with bringing the brand to life. Vibrant, happy colours that we believe stand out amongst the other mobile phone network brands. I nearly said “other competitors” but to be honest, and not wishing to sound arrogant, we don’t really try and compete with other networks as we are the only ones offering clearer calls to those with hearing needs.
Customer care is key
The final ingredient for building an MVNO is customer care or as we call them, the ‘Help team’. These are the amazing people that have been handpicked to look after our Audacious customers. Led by Adam, each member of the team has been specially trained in communicating with people with hearing loss. They take as long as necessary to ensure our customer’s questions are answered thoroughly. We believe this is important. And that’s why we do so well on Trust Pilot. We care.
Looking to the future
So, with a mobile network, a team, values, a brand and amazing care, we launched Audacious in the Autumn of 2019 selling the service via telesales and web channels. Into 2020, we will extend this by working with Boots Hearingcare to make Audacious available through ones of the UK’s leading health and audiology retailers.
It’s been an amazing year. Thank you to all the team and to the customers that have joined us. We value your trust in Audacious.