Brien aims for top spot

Hot on the heels of a six million euro investment boost from Development Capital, Dublin-based IP Telecom acquired Centrecom Systems in a deal that adds capabilities in Wi-Fi, voice and IT solutions.

Here, IP Telecom CEO Shena Brien shares insights into the fast expanding company’s scaled up ambitions and growth story.

IP Telecom is an Irish founded, owned and operated company focused on becoming the go-to service provider for voice and managed data services across all media in Ireland. In the following interview, Brien reveals insights into her strategic thinking, leadership priorities and the career experiences that shaped her as she squares up to the task of creating Ireland’s premier B2B ICT provider...

What got you into ICT and when was IP Telecom established?
Following a degree in electronic engineering I started my career working as a network controller for a subsidiary of Aerlingus which had me hooked. I also developed a passion for planes. I was always on the operational and network design side of the companies I worked for. However, due to a redundancy midway through my career I took the opportunity to work for a start up, Leap Broadband. I was a jack of all trades doing project management and support, and working with the founders gave me a taste of what it would be like to work for myself. Here I met IP Telecom co-founder and CTO Brian Chamberlain.
At the time VoIP was in its infancy and not being executed well. Brian was working on the idea of setting up a VoIP telco and we shared a common passion for excellence in customer service with a good technically sound solution. Ireland was ready for a better class of product and service delivery and IP Telecom was born in 2010, working out of Brian’s kitchen with a shoestring budget that paid for the data centre.

What were the big turning points?
Hiring our first people in billing, support and sales in 2012 allowed us to focus on developing the platform and fine tune the business processes that enabled us to grow. We started selling with intent when we hired our first sales agent. We found not having a sales person onboard limited our reach. Therefore we launched to be an exclusively partner-based operation, but started selling direct. Launching our platform, which is built on a distributed architecture and is highly scalable and resilient, allowed us to provide UCaaS services in 2018; and moving from leased premises into our own offices in Parkwest the same year was another big turning point for us. Since 2018 IP Telecom has focused on development, partner support and customer acquisition in the enterprise space.

Where are you seeing the greatest success and where will future growth come from?
IP Telecom provides B2B voice and managed data solutions to medium and enterprise level customers. Having developed our own platform, this gives us the flexibility to provide scalable bespoke solutions to larger customers that can also be productised and rolled out to SMEs. Additionally, connectivity, be it fixed or mobile to ensure best quality of voice and managed data products, is gaining great traction. Our growth in revenue has increased by double digits year-on-year and the acquisition of Centrecom, a B2B service provider in managed connectivity and existing partner of IP Telecom, marks a significant milestone. Enhanced with our integrations to CRMs such as Salesforce, Hubspot and Zoho, call recording analytics and most recently managed connectivity we feel that our future lies in developing opportunities in the large enterprise space while building partnerships with existing and new services providers.

What are your immediate priorities?
We are a people-first company. The people factor is key in every decision we make, whether product based or how we approach customers, staff and partners. Therefore we have employees undergoing professional training along with our apprenticeships and entry level recruitment. We will continue to invest first and foremost in our people to allow us to grow solutions in house. Also, where we see solutions being developed elsewhere we will be keen to bring them in house to augment our suite and ensure we are on the cutting edge of innovation in our sector.

Which new technology areas are on your radar screen?
The adoption and business case for AI integrations with IP Telecom products has been a trend gaining momentum in recent months. However, this is limited to internal use to increase customer satisfaction, ensuring the migration away from bots and the evolution to near human-like interactions.

Our industry lacks self-promotion. IT professionals deserve to be esteemed alongside the likes of doctors and lawyers

We are a voice company at our core. And over the coming years we are going to see the businesses we serve employ the younger generations who are changing the landscape for voice in the way they communicate. They are more comfortable with instant messaging over voice and we will need to have a portfolio that caters to those needs. The ‘connect from anywhere’ culture is fast becoming ubiquitous.

What are today’s leadership imperatives?
If the past five years has taught us anything it is how quickly change can come about and those who are flexible and anticipate change will survive. So ensuring business processes are robust and flexible to deal with change is key, along with sourcing and developing the right talent. It’s also vital to keep our finger on the pulse of all trends in the telco sector while sifting out what will just be a flash in the pan.

What’s your main industry bugbear?
The skills within the IT industry are indispensable for shaping the future of virtually every aspect of our lives yet they are too often overlooked as a career choice, particularly by women. Our industry lacks self-promotion and IT professionals deserve to be esteemed alongside the likes of doctors and lawyers.

Your role models
Richard Branson has been a hero of mine for some time. And my mother who studied hard, had an amazing family but never stopped dreaming of running her own business which she finally did in her mid-50s. She was my counsel all of her life and I was very lucky she lived to see IP Telecom.

What talent do you wish you had?
An ability to fly.

What do you fear the most?
Not learning from my mistakes.

Name three ideal dinner guests
Richard Branson, just to speak with him about his life; Queen Victoria, such an enigmatic person and influential for a long time; and Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know
I spent seven years of my life competing in Irish dancing.

Your greatest strength and what could you work on?
I have a dogged determination to get things done, but I am not great at saying no.
Best piece of advice you have been given?
When standing on the top of a cliff over the Tully white water river, make sure you have your life jacket on and just jump in.

One example of something you’ve overcome
I was incredibly shy as a child but many years of amateur acting, dancing, putting myself out of my comfort zone and meeting new people have helped me to get past this.

If you weren’t in ICT what would you be doing?
My second choice was always law.

What’s the biggest risk you have taken?
Walking away from a steady income to start a business.

How do you relax when not working?
Walking, travelling and reading.

Top tip for resellers
Building and maintaining a close relationship with your vendor will ensure you are armed with everything you need to know. Also, we should always be ready to adapt and open to new ways of working.                      

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