A Day in the Life of....Simon Burckhardt, MD of Vonage UK17 May 2016
Vonage worldwide is a leading provider of VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services. In the UK, we mainly serve small business customers, many of whom work from home, and need an accessible and affordable telecoms solution. With our multi-line business phone system, businesses can operate anywhere in the world but communicate with a UK number. That means we help growing businesses to build trust between themselves and their customers, and offer them real flexibility over where they work.
I’ve spent most of my career in telecoms, working around the world from the Philippines to the Czech Republic & Moscow. I have also started and run a small business myself, so have first-hand understanding of why businesses need to appear professional and well established from day one. Any promising entrepreneur will always be looking for competitive advantage – and Vonage exists to help them find it.
As MD, I am responsible for running the UK business and am proud that since joining in 2012 we have secured strong growth rates. We are a small team in the UK – 15 people – but like any company it is still easy to form silos. When I took over, one of the things I tried to focus on was the customer and the commercial side, not just the technical aspects of the business. It sounds obvious but you have to keep that growth momentum and focus on what you are selling. Importantly, our relatively small size for a UK telecoms firm means we can effectively serve small businesses, who have particular and varied needs.
Running the UK arm of a US-headquartered company means my days are governed by time zones. In the mornings, I’ll be managing Vonage’s UK operations, either from the main Hammersmith office or from our shared working space at WeWork in Moorgate. That is, when I’m not travelling on business. Due to the international nature of Vonage, I am often in the US at the global head office or am involved in developing sales strategies from our bases in India or Prague.
6:30 – 8:00
My alarm clock goes off at 6:30am and after a bowl of cereal with yogurt and fresh berries, I start my commute from Hertfordshire into London via train.
Meeting with the team to make sure everyone is clear on their tasks for the day and any queries are resolved. This face-time is crucial because of the nature of Vonage’s operations. The work is so varied; we truly get the whole gamut of challenges and opportunities. We also have those memorable moments to talk through at these morning meetings; two things stick out in particular. I remember after we ran a TV campaign showing the dangers of running a business from home and letting your kids take business calls, we were inundated with responses from UK small businesses all worried about the havoc their children could potentially wreak. Another one was being asked by a businesswoman to set up a phone number that indicated she was near Stonehenge. Why Stonehenge? She was a white witch and was taking advantage of the flexible location services that we offer.
A big part of my role is creating new partnerships, so I am often out meeting potential partners. Many of these meetings take place around the Silicon Roundabout area in London, which makes Moorgate the ideal WeWork location and means I get to meet the dynamic individuals and businesses powering the next generation of UK enterprise. It also reminds me just how un-hipster I am. Not for lack of trying. I’ve bought the en vogue laptop and I carry it in a trendy bag, but I just can’t bring myself to discard my socks and grow a beard – it would be far too grey!
As the US day begins, we start to take video calls and requests from them. We have to be flexible with our afternoons to accommodate the US office – it’s what makes each day different and exciting. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the US so I like to be on-hand to explain and resolve any of the linguistic and cultural nuances.
Head back to Hertfordshire. More often than not, I keep on taking US calls.
Vonage UK are proud sponsors of the Business Enabler of the Year category of this year's Lloyds Bank National Business Awards. If you are a business enabling company such as Vonage, enter this category before 20th May 2016.