At its peak SBM contacted around 10,000 people per week, helping around 6,000 save money on their bills; not too shabby if I say so myself! Awards followed including a hat trick of Welsh Fast Growth awards, a place on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 and 2nd place on the Sunday Times Best Companies list. I have to admit it gave me a real buzz to think that a little call centre like ours with all of the singing and dressing up, was voted the 2nd best place to work in the UK!
It was during this time of continued success that I received a surprise knock on the door from the BBC. The Beeb had an idea for a documentary about a call centre. It seemed an unlikely idea but somehow it ended as a ratings and award winning show. At one point even trumping the ratings of Wales’s other famous TV export: ’Gavin and Stacey’. The publicity we got from this wasn’t always good for business but I remain grateful for the opportunities it gave to me and some of my team.
Being part of such a show was a real eye-opener, I had no idea what was involved in making 5 hours of TV. The cameras caught most of what we did for 9 whole months, in all 900 hours of film was shot to make the 5 episode first series. I always smile when people say they couldn’t believe what we got up to, as most of the really crazy stuff never made it to air! The popularity of the show led to a Christmas special and 2nd series as well as endless repeats on BBC1 and later on Watch.
However, as the old saying goes ‘nothing lasts forever’ and the government grants which had supported much of our expansion were unfortunately, no exception. Whilst we had enjoyed rapid growth and success when the grants flooded in, we inevitably and begrudgingly had to downsize when the grants ceased.
The frustrating thing is that we had prepared ourselves well as a business, for both the launch of the much anticipated Green Deal scheme and new ECO grant – both of which were touted as a much needed ‘life line’ to an industry which was struggling. Ultimately, neither scheme delivered what the government promised, and NES, along with the majority of the industry, was forced to close its doors. Sad to see an industry which had done a lot of good work decimated so quickly.
With other parts of the SBM group also reaching a natural end it became time to look for new opportunities, or as John Wayne would have said “Get back on your horse and ride”. I am delighted to report that after years of working for me, my two boys have set up their own company in Swansea, and even give me an occasional bit of work as a consultant! I and a small team meanwhile, have been working on a new company called MSC. Setting up from scratch is never easy and I’ve experimented with offices in Swansea and Delhi to try and find the right mix for a profitable company that can save people money.
One of my first expeditions to India for MSC was filmed by UKTV and has ended up as a 6 part show to be broadcast in the summer of 2016. I never expected to be making a 3rd TV series, but as I always say, never say never!