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Andy Wilson, Head of Wholesale
Andy Wilson, Head of Wholesale

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a year that none of us will forget. We started the year with almost biblical storms and flooding, followed by a worldwide pandemic which saw the UK effectively ‘shut down’ for most of the spring and summer, followed by further regional restrictions and a second lockdown in November. What a year! 

But if lockdown and a request from the Government to ‘work from home where you can’ has taught us anything, it’s that there has never been a greater need for a full fibre infrastructure in the UK to serve homes and businesses.  

Looking back at the early months of 2020 when the pandemic first took hold, infrastructure builders were asked by the government to continue to build, as they recognised the essential role full fibre connectivity will play in the UK’s economic recovery. Our key workers kept breaking ground and carried on connecting people, continuing our mission to reach 8 million premises across over 100 towns and cities across the UK by 2025, by investing £4billion.  

In the wholesale channel specifically, we navigated through the first and second quarters much like many other businesses, our entire desk-based workforce were now successfully working from home and we had to be flexible and adaptive with our sales and marketing plans for the rest of the year. We spoke directly with several partners to identify how best we could support them through this challenging time and developed several popular initiatives including our 90 days deferred billing options and our ‘Buy now and pay later…or not at all’ offering for Ethernet connections.  

We also worked alongside many of our City Champions and strategic partners, helping them to reconsider their existing marketing plans and develop new and innovative approaches such as virtual events and alternative social media driven and online campaigns. 

Drawing inspiration from leading fitness and conditioning coach, Nick Grantham, we invited him to speak directly to our sales team about embracing ‘planned unpredictability’. He discussed how a business injury is much like a sports injury. The session with Nick was so successful, we invited him back as a guest speaker at our first City Champion and Launch Partner virtual event, sharing his stages of recovery and strategy for fighting back and returning better than ever.   

So, we took his advice onboard and we strived on ahead- we didn’t stop, we didn’t even slow down! In fact, at the height of the first lockdown we launched a new city to the channel, enabling partners to deliver full fibre connectivity solutions to businesses in Plymouth. And whilst some of our partners took the tough decision to furlough staff many continued on – still delivering connectivity solutions albeit with adjusted business models.  

Therefore, when we were approached to support NHSX in their plight to deliver high quality, fast and reliable connectivity into care homes across England, we went above and beyond to ensure our offering was the most competitive on the market. We worked closely with our key City Champions to develop a highly targeted sales and marketing campaign to qualifying care homes, ensuring residents and staff received the full fibre connectivity they desperately needed to connect them with families and healthcare services, whilst supporting our channel partners with profitable opportunities when they needed them the most. 

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year for us all, but there have also been rays of light amongst all the doom and gloom. From seeing the nation come together on their doorsteps every Thursday evening to support our NHS and key workers through to the innovation we have seen within our own teams and from our partners across the country, coupled with their sheer determination to overcome these challenging times and continue to grow and succeed going forwards. 

There’s no denying that the impact of COVID-19 knocked us, as a business, off our planned trajectory. However, having the ability to think outside the box and react in a positive way has enabled us to get back on target. Our number one priority is the well-being of ALL of our employees. Second to that, is to continue to support our partners in every way possible.  

If one positive can be taken from 2020, it’s that everyone has now realised just how much we rely on reliable, fast connectivity – whether that’s for home working, entertaining children at home during lockdown or home schooling – we’ve all experienced those frustrations recently of slow broadband, buffering and connections dropping out at the most inconvenient moments. If there was ever a way to educate the country collectively on the critical role of full fibre infrastructure this has certainly been it.  

We’ve also seen the channel really pulling together through the pandemic and even working together in some ways to ensure critical connectivity is efficiently delivered where it’s needed most. We’ve all been forced to rethink our usual ways of working and that’s driven a new creativity within the industry and a collective ambition to deliver the much needed full fibre infrastructure the UK so desperately needs to support our economic recovery.  

Let’s hope 2021 sees us manage to return to some form of normality – hopefully with an eventual staggered return to an office environment for some of us, and increased working flexibility and agility as a result of these testing times.  

Whatever 2021 throws at us and our wholesale channel, we will continue to be here, right by partners’ side and working with them to overcome these hurdles and turn these challenges into positives, with dedicated account management, tailored sales and marketing support and innovative products and services, available to an ever-increasing footprint across the UK.  

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