Cheema’s pitch for industry leadership

For PMGC CEO Shez Cheema the coming years have a clear growth trajectory following an acquisition that's created a new force in business communications.

PMGC's acquisition of Northampton-based fellow Vodafone partner Pure Business Services in May created the third largest independent provider of mobile services in the UK with more than 70,000 users and annual revenues of circa £20 million. The deal puts PMGC on the road to becoming a comms industry powerhouse and it's the latest injection of buzz from Cheema in what is a stimulating, versatile and remarkable career. Most notably he was a co-founder of Azzurri Communications and as CFO was involved in 16 acquisitions over six years, a string of deals that took the business to circa £150 million turnover while working with 3i, PPM, Silverfleet and various financial institutions including Barclays and RBS. "Azzurri was a great incubator for many successful people," commented Cheema. "In building a strong, great and people-centric organisation we were the innovators and leading lights."

The Azzurri megaproject was well conceived and Cheema's strong influence has also been felt in senior finance positions at Safety Kleen Europe (CFO working with Electra Partners VC), Sunderland's Ladbrokes, National Car Parks (NCP) Services, NSL Group, Options, Crossrail London and Speedy Hire International (Middle East). "I've recovered and created significant stakeholder value throughout my career, particularly in buy-and-build scenarios," added Cheema. "I've worked in international, multi-site blue chip organisations including audit and consultancy where I was deployed in several change management situations, company mergers, flotation and turnaround work. But as a qualified engineer, accountant and IT professional I had always wanted to work in the ICT industry and use my broad range of skills and experience. Technology in all its shapes and forms excites me."

Cheema is extending his experience with PMGC which was originally set up by Vodafone Platinum Partner Premier Mobile in 2009 as a specialist vehicle to provide consultancy services for larger private and public sector organisations. PMGC Technology Group was officially established in 2012 by Cheema and senior management following a buyout of both Premier Mobile and Phonebox Communications. The company also acquired Veecom Systems, AMC Communications, Dane Europe and RGT, all between 2013 and 2015, making it one of the largest UK Vodafone Strategic Platinum Converged Partners. Cheema became CFO in April 2012 and then CEO in December 2014.

It would be an overstatement to say that Cheema has remodelled himself a number of times throughout his varied and sparking career, but reinvention is a strategic path he follows at PMGC. "We continue to challenge our own approaches and keep reinventing ourselves," he added. "We bring together the best people, technology and networks. Our success doesn't just come from what we do. It's how we do things and why that really matters. Everyone has a can-do attitude and works hard to create a great experience for our people, suppliers, partners and customers. We are aligned at all levels of the organisation."

PMGC's all-pervading organisational culture helped it to secure Vodafone Total Communication Partner status in December 2016, the highest tier available within Vodafone's new programme. The company is also one of just four Strategic UK partners to achieve this designation. These awards are recognition of how the business has grown from strength to strength in the past three years. PMGC now has a headcount of 150 and hopes to reach £20 million turnover this financial year.

"Our focus is on the mid-SME to large SME market," said Cheema. "Growing the business organically and moving us from a pure play fixed and mobile provider to a unified telecoms and IT fully managed service provider is now our sole focus. The acquisition of Pure provides us with the springboard to enable some ambitious longer-term strategic aims that include IP voice, IT hosting and cloud computing. Further capability-based acquisitions are being considered and we are in discussions with a number of strategic IT, mobile and fixed line partners.

"With continued organic growth, investments in our people and through working with our principal partners we will be a truly converged managed service business providing at least four services on average to each customer. Our five year goal is to become a £30 million turnover company with £3 million EBITDA and 80 per cent cash generation, with three to five years contract agreements."

To help advance its growth ambitions PMGC also set up a data centre infrastructure in 2013 to move into hosted and cloud services, building on its mobility and fixed hosted telephony capability. "We have repositioned PMGC from a pure play fixed and mobile provider to a unified telecoms and IT fully managed service company," added Cheema.

Organic growth has helped the company to expand as a national business with offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Northampton, London and Bristol. "The challenge in today's business environment is that companies are expected to grow quickly," noted Cheema. "We are looking to develop our IT and cloud services on an infrastructure that can cope with a significant increase in volume and improve scalability."

Looking into his crystal ball Cheema sees the Internet of Things taking hold sooner rather than later. "While the IoT has been consumer led so far, 2018 will be the year that businesses gain traction in adopting it," he said. "The rise of connected devices will present a huge challenge for businesses to build new models across multiple markets and applications, and leverage data to improve performance. I'll be keeping my finger firmly on the pulse to see what develops."