At one point Project Telecom was growing so fast it had to rig up four marquees on land near its Nottinghamshire headquarters to cope with demand. Banks of telephones and extra sales staff still had trouble keeping up. The reason for the bonanza was its early move into pre-paid mobile-phone services, which helped to drive up sales by 132% a year, from £9.3m in 1996 to £117.1m in 1999. Project Telecom was founded by Tim Radford in 1987 as a mobile-phone dealer. When Richard Cunningham, a former City analyst, joined in 1991, the pair set about providing companies with mobile phones, supported by high levels of customer service. Clients have included the RAF and News Corporation, parent company of The Sunday Times. When Vodafone launched its pre-paid services in October 1998, Project Telecom, which had a long-term relationship with the airtime provider, was ready to move, and it pursued an innovative route to market. Instead of selling mobile phones to specialist stores, the company went after the convenience market. ‘Everyone else was ignoring this sector,’ says Cunningham. ‘But given that you no longer had to have credit checking and individual billing, we saw no reason to continue selling through specialist stores.’ Project Telecom now sells phones and vouchers through 20,000 retail outlets. The company cancelled a stock-market flotation in June but went back to the market in September, when it was valued at £152m.
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