When media moghul Rupert Murdoch wanted his car fitted with mobile-phones to keep in touch with his business empire while on the move, he went to Project Telecom. Tim Radford set up the company when he was 27, selling mobile-phones from an office in the garden of his parents’ Nottinghamshire home. He rapidly gained corporate clients such as RAF Strike Command and Merrill Lynch by offering higher levels of customer service than his competitors. “If you give the customer no reason to look for another supplier, you are less likely to lose him,” he says. The real boom in business came in 1998 when Vodafone launched its pre-paid service. It was now possible to buy mobile-phones and top-up cards from anywhere, rather than simply from dedicated mobile-phone stores. Project Telecom seized the opportunity to target convenience stores, and began selling from the likes of Morrisons and Welcome Break. The Nottinghamshire-based company picked up a huge amount of business almost overnight and, at one stage, was growing so fast that Radford had to rig up four marquees in the grounds of his parents’ home to house new sales staff. When Project Telecom floated on the London Stock Exchange in September 2000, it was valued at £152m. Its profits have grown at 100% a year, from £514,000 in 1996 to £4.1m in 1999, when sales reached £117.1m. It recently doubled its subscriber base to 110,000 by buying Hutchison Cellular Services’ UK Cellnet and Vodafone customer database for £14m.
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