Chris Wilson and James Murray set up Alternative Networks in 1994 with £9,000 to take advantage of deregulation in the telecommunications industry. The pair began by selling services on behalf of an American telecoms company, but business really took off when the company became what Wilson, now marketing director, calls a ‘mini-BT’. ‘We operate a range of telecom services for businesses and produce one bill for their long-distance and local calls, charges for 0800 or 0845 numbers, and their internet usage,’ says Wilson. The company is now an internet service provider and also supplies and maintains telephone systems for medium-sized companies. Early entry to a growth sector, combined with a range of services, have driven up sales 117% a year, from £670,000 in 1996 to £6.9m in 1999. A booming market has led to a shortage of telecoms workers. Alternative Networks has responded by offering staff share options to secure loyalty.
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