Ask The Chairman
Since 1998 CPB has delivered thousands of successful telemarketing and lead generation campaigns for IT vendors, manufacturers and suppliers. As we approach our 20th anniversary I asked our Chairman, Jon Pritchett, to answer a few questions on his tenure, the industry and what comes next. These are the musings of a man who is as passionate about CPB and the industry now as he was 20 years ago … feel free to read and heckle!
Q: CPB has been trading since 1998, what ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture and how did the idea come about?
JP: As with a lot of business ventures, it was very much by chance. I had done some consultancy work for a former colleague which involved making an assessment of the company’s demand creation programmes. To cut a long story short, I was offered the chance to manage and deliver said demand creation, originally resisted getting too involved but eventually gave in to the perpetual requests from my former colleague. The rest, as they say, “is history”.
Q: Did anyone in particular inspire you?
JP: The guy who gave me the initial break was Mike Briercliffe, then Chairman of SphinxCST. Mike has remained a good friend and is a great bouncing board ; one of the best ideas men I have ever met.
Q: How did you decide what the focus of CPB should be?
JP: Computing and communications was, and still is, the only sector I have worked in so the choice of focus was a natural progression.
Q: How did you choose where to locate your business?
JP: I was UK Sales Manager for an IT vendor based in Banbury before I formed CPB and I have lived locally for the past 25 years.
Q: How did you build a loyal customer base?
JP: Through the good work of some excellent staff. Having been an IT salesman for most of my days, I had a real advantage over most of the competition who had formed their companies from a marketing perspective. I knew what a real sales lead was ….. and still do!
Q: How important have good employees been to your success?
JP: As per previous, they have been crucial to our success. Although I did do some calling in the early days, it didn’t last long as promoting CPB and doing administrative tasks took over. I wasn’t that good at it either! So, from an early stage I recognised that I was asking our call room staff to do something that I wasn’t keen on doing. This then helps to keep expectations real rather than demanding something that isn’t achievable.
Q: What motivates you to keep growing the business after 20 years?
JP: There is nothing that motivates me more than seeing staff progress, both during their time at CPB and, as in a multitude of cases, after they have moved on to new challenges. The fact that I, and CPB, played a part in their progression gives me a real buzz.
Q: CPB started life as a telemarketing agency, how have the services that CPB provides changed since you started the business?
JP: Our services have changed to include digital marketing and the ‘modern’ approach to direct marketing. This came about partly through the need to diversify and partly through the advent of new media. It’s easy to overlook that just 20 years ago websites and emailing were at a very early stage and by no means widely adopted. We started off faxing sales leads to our clients!
At the time CPB was launched, social networks and social media (which were still 10 years away) would have been interpreted as community-based broadcasts on the BBC!
Q: Can you pin point a particular highlight that has happened within CPB in the last 20 years?
JP: There are many, but looking back, it was the foresight to build ProspectaBase to what it is now. This is our greatest differentiator in enabling our clients to get to their target market as quickly as possible.
Helen joining me early on was a godsend as it took all of the financial, HR and admin duties away, and allowed me to concentrate more on growing the business.
Also, on a personal level, a major highlight would be witnessing the progress of Polina Nikolaeva. From a young, enthusiastic girl who was new to the call room team 10 years ago, right through to where she is now; a far more grounded person with total commitment to her role as Business Development Director. Her contribution has been immense.
Q: How has the IT industry changed in the past 20 years?
JP: In terms of the comings and goings of companies, it hasn’t changed at all. Start-ups, mergers, acquisitions and liquidations still seem to outstrip any other sector and it’s therefore difficult at times to keep track of what’s what. As far as the technology goes, in my view it is less compelling than it was 20 years ago and it is interesting to note that certain principles have come back into fashion. Hosting and centralised computing being two such examples. Probably the major difference is in the cycle that end-users refresh their infrastructure, with less investment in this area now but big increases in software and app development.
Q: How has CPB’s customer engagement changed with the IT channel?
JP: Methods change, for example the advent of email, but at the core of company/client engagement are people. Always has been, and we have had a number of good people who have been client facing and our clients, in the main, have been good people to deal with.
Q: What would you say are the key elements in running a successful business in this ever-changing environment?
JP: Tight financial control, staff motivation and knowing your clients.
Q: How do you think GDPR will affect the direct marketing in the B2B arena?
JP: Ask me again in 6 months!
Q: Where do you see the future of CPB and the IT industry in five or ten years time?
JP: As per previous question, this a tough one to answer at the moment as the true impact of GDPR cannot be predicted. Assuming the impact is minimal, I see CPB continuing to embrace new techniques and technologies in helping IT companies prospect for new business and I see us diversifying too. Exactly where to diversify will be a joint board decision and will not be speculative but the Directors jointly accept that we have to keep moving forward. Decisions on this will come post-GDPR so watch this space.
Q: Finally, if you had the chance to do things differently, what would you change?
JP: Around ten years ago, I had the chance to buy some office space but there was a serious risk in overstretching ourselves. On reflection, I wish I had taken the risk.
Other than that, I am very content that we have never reported a loss in 20 years of trading, and am enormously proud that I’ve given a start to many aspirational young people.