Jason Downes: Taking over a multi-million pound company

What’s your background and what made you initially join Powwownow?

My previous role before joining Powwownow in June 2013 was as Managing Director of Staples UK, where I was tasked with creating growth in a declining market, which I’m pleased to say I achieved. Before that, I worked at Rentokil as Director of Operations and Office Depot where I was Sales Director.

I joined Powwownow as it is a model company in an exciting sector, with a passionate group of staff sharing a common mission. The company has grown significantly in a relatively short amount of time and there is substantial scope for further expansion and that, for me, is hugely motivating.  

How do you expect to make the transition from Sales Director to Managing Director?

When I joined the company back in June 2013, it was with the expectation of stepping up to Managing Director within three years. Therefore, I have had some time to prepare for the role and learn from Paul, while driving forward the sales department.

I have held Managing Director positions previously, including Staples UK, and when I was aware of the opportunity with Powwownow in the free conferencing market, it felt the right time in my career for such a move.

How have you been able to put your own stamp on the company since joining in June 2013?

In my role as Sales Director, I have managed to introduce a handful of new methods which have borne fruit and contributed to the company enjoying consecutive record months this autumn. I feel I have helped people improve by developing sales skills, increasing activity and developing knowledge.

We have an excellent customer base which helps with developing the exceptional growth rates we have been experiencing. I think when you join a successful company; there is no need to reinvent it.

I have joined businesses before when a complete overhaul was needed but at Powwownow, there is an impressive model in place and as such it will be more evolution than revolution. 

What have you learned from Paul since joining the company? 

I think one of Paul’s big strengths was that he knew people’s areas of expertise and let them get on with what they do best. Showing total trust in employees is hugely motivating to any workforce. I have my own management style and you have to be careful not to try and emulate somebody else but heeding advice from those who have been there and done it is never a bad thing. 

In your opinion, what does it require to take over a multi-million pound company?

I think it goes without saying that you have to be self-assured and appreciate that there is a reason why you have been chosen ahead of other candidates for the role. I think that having a clear vision going forward is essential while being wary of attempting too much too soon.

We have a strong, loyal customer base which is a key factor as customer service is something we pride ourselves on. Today’s business is run well but we need to look to the future and emphasise the ambitious growth plans that people can buy into.

I think listening to those around you with different skill sets is also important and I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a hugely talented team.

I guess it’s quite a privilege to take over from someone of Paul’s calibre?

Of course, yes. Paul has clearly done an outstanding job starting the business from nothing and building it up to what it is today. He has a real energy for Powwownow and the brand, and that is genuinely infectious.

It’s not hard to buy in to the company’s ethos where service and rewarding our customer base is prevalent; I am very excited for the challenges that lie ahead.  

How did the news come about? 

It has always been the plan since I joined that I would be running the business at some stage. I have a good relationship with Paul and he informed me that the time had come for him to step aside and consequently this got the wheels in motion.

It has been a relatively smooth transition for which the company and people around me deserve much of the credit. 

What are your plans for Powwownow - how do you plan on taking the business forward?

I think the most tangible and accessible thing I can say is that we want to double the business in four years. That is very much the goal I have set myself and everyone in the company.

A big way in which we envisage doing that is further expansion across Europe; in particularly France and Germany, as they have a similar economic and business structure to us in the UK. We are looking to build on the foundations that have been laid over the last ten years. Making technology simple for customers to get things done. Now we have access to the PGi group, products to offer our customers such as iMeet, opening a world of collaboration to them.

Within the UK, we have a good market share but there are still large numbers of businesses unaware of the benefits of conference calling and we hope that will be another fruitful area of growth for us. 

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