Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Ethan Timor from TelcoGreen.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
TelcoGreen is built on the idea that you can make a difference wherever you are and whatever you do. Telecommunications is seen as a dry and tech-y field, but for us it's an opportunity to build connections and community, and to make a real difference to the environment.
We offer boutique B2B telco services, with a focus on service -- honesty, reliability and real, human-to-human connections. The environment is also central to what we do, keeping the environment and future generations in mind and heart. At the practical level this means donating at least 10% of our net earnings, planting a tree for every service added, encouraging staff to work from home to reduce carbon emissions from commuting, minimising electronic waste and more.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
After exploring a number of growth strategies (outbound marketing, word of mouth, even acquisition-led growth), we found the one that works best for us: inbound marketing. We put a lot of effort into creating relevant, valuable and shareable content, we participate in forums and social media platforms, we run PPC campaigns and of course we take note of SEO. We also come up with special promos that create a buzz. Word of mouth is still very important.
What's the biggest challenge facing your business?
Fear of change. Many Australians have been burned by dodgy telcos, and are therefore reluctant to change, even if they go through hell every time they have to call their current provider. Many of our clients are surprised to find that calling and engaging your telco can actually be a pleasure -- it doesn't have to be a nightmare. Unfortunately, many Australians accept a low quality of customer service. If they shopped around, they'd be surprised at what they'd find.
Some are even under the impression that for services such as PSTN, ISDN and ADSL, Telstra is the best choice as they own the network, not realising that Telstra must provide a similar level of service to their retail and wholesale arms, something which is being heavily regulated.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
The market is crowded, but we've gained a lot by focusing on service, and by making telecommunications part of a commitment to a better planet. We call it the P.L.U.S advantage:
- Personal – High quality personalised service delivered by an executive level account manager;
- Local -- Australian call centres, Australian owned;
- Unique – Flexible contracts or no ongoing contracts as well as customised plans;
- Sustainable - 'Green as we can' Policy & donating at least 10% of net earnings.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
It's not cool or sexy and some of my colleagues are calling me a dinosaur but I've been using this software for approximately 15 years and it still serves me very well. I'm talking about Microsoft Outlook. It integrates my emails, tasks and meetings in one convenient place. I usually start the day with 30-80 tasks, sometimes more, rarely less -- and there is no way I would remember them ALL (and forgetting even one of the things that needs to be done in order to get you to where you want to be, is one too many). Incoming emails that are not being immediately replied to are marked to be followed up at a later date. Same goes for outgoing emails that require further future action or follow-ups.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
A couple of years ago, TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) representatives visited us as part of their routine procedures. It was a lovely visit and we maintained a good relationship since. The next time that we were in Melbourne, it was our time to visit them. We ended the private tour in the cafeteria downstairs where one of the Reps told us a 'secret'. She said: "You guys are more special than you know". That hit home. In over seven years of operation we have had only two complaints (both resolved in level 1, the lowest level) and tons of love letters. At the time of the visit, we were struggling to keep growing as more clients meant more staff, more procedures, more mistakes. That acknowledgment of our uniqueness pushed us to become B2B, specialising in specific services and niches while focusing on providing valuable service to an appreciative audience.
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