Jola Cloud Solutions' Blog

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew has been involved in the telecommunications industry for over 30 years. Andrew held a number of senior sales and general management positions during 10 years with Mercury Communications and Cable & Wireless. His last posting was as an Investment Manager with C&W Innovations based in Menlo Park, CA, USA. In 1996 Andrew co-founded specialist ISP FOL Networks and as MD helped steer the company through five rounds of fund raising. The company grew to over 100 people and a value of £23m within four years. Andrew left in April 2001 to become CEO of Visual Protection Ltd and at the end of that year FOL was sold. Andrew sold Visual Protection Ltd in August 2003. Andrew conceived and founded the investment management company Lucrum in 2002 and was a Director of UK Countrylife until 2004. In April 2005 Andrew was involved in a management buy-in of Griffin Information Systems and served as Sales and Marketing Director until July 2010 when he took over as Managing Director. The company was sold to MDNX in August 2012 and Andrew left the business in March 2013.
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Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 01-Jul-2020 12:46:31

In the last 12 weeks we have recruited 6 new staff. None of us had ever hired someone without physically meeting them before.



Too many trips to your office can put candidates off. Conversely the more we see them, the more likely they are to reveal their true selves. You can use multiple Teams calls and they don’t all have to be an hour long to justify the travel time. Just make sure you prepare well and avoid repeating questions.


This enables you to take fewer notes, focus on the candidate and include others in the review process. Ever interviewed a candidate from an agency and within 10 minutes you know it’s not a fit? Help your agency filter better by watching videos of their CV interviews.


References are especially important if you can’t physically meet someone. Nowadays written references are practically useless. Ask candidates for phone numbers of recent bosses and their permission to call them. If they think highly of the person, they will take your call so as to not harm their chances. Describe the job and ask them why they think 'X' is suited to the role and what training will be required.


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Topics: Business

How can resellers make money from eSIMs?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 29-Jan-2020 13:40:53

What is an eSIM?

If you've even heard of eSIMs, you might think it’s a new Apple initiative to fix a SIM to an iPhone circuit board. It is, but that’s not even half the story, and a long way from the real opportunity for the channel.

eSIMs solve a number of problems for businesses, and therefore represent a significant opportunity for resellers looking for a magic mobile data bullet to compete with a Mobile Network Operator (MNO).

What are the typical use cases?


Companies with thousands of SIMs in devices globally are often locked in with existing suppliers, even when their contract has ended and better commercials are available, because the cost of swapping out SIMs to another provider is too high.


Companies usually want to connect to the network with the strongest signal. Some multinetwork SIMs are steered and so always try to connect to their own network, when competitor networks may be stronger. Multinetwork SIMs also negate the need for expensive site surveys.


Companies need to have visibility of their data usage on each device to manage data limits. If they go over their monthly data limit, they may be billed high data overage charges or run the risk of being barred.


An eSIM MVNO solves all these problems with network agnostic, un-steered or steered, embedded or plastic triple-cut SIMs. MVNOs buy wholesale, from mobile data aggregators (so they're very price competitive). Their SIMs are invisible to individual MNOs so, unlike with consumer eSIMs, MVNOs don’t need permission from MNOs in each country. MVNO eSIMs roam automatically across hundreds of global networks and additional profiles can easily be added OTA (Over The Air) to take advantage of cheaper local rates.

Where the MVNO has a self-serve portal, resellers and their customers have complete control over the networks they connect to, and data usage.

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Topics: eSIM

How is Microsoft Teams helping to drive voice revenues in the channel?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 09-Oct-2019 17:45:33


Part of Office 365 and launched in 2018, Teams is Microsoft’s fastest selling product and recently overtook Slack as the #1 collaboration tool, according to recent research. By upgrading to MS Phone System, Office 365 users also get call management features.

If you need to make and receive calls outside of the Teams family, the Microsoft solution starts to look a little clunky and quite expensive. Out-of-bundle calls are paid for per minute by logging a company credit card on the system, and whilst some country rates are in line with the market, others are not.

Instead of using their Calling Plan, Microsoft will allow you to connect Teams to an alternative network provider using Direct Routing. However, setting this up is complicated and expensive and only a handful of companies in the UK offer Direct Routing as a service. There has not been a true, self-serve, white-label, channel programme for Direct Routing in the UK - until now.


Jola’s Direct Routing for Teams is built on a Microsoft approved platform and offers numbers in 167 countries as well as every area code in the UK. Jola’s unlimited wholesale UK call package costs less than half that of MS Calling Plan with very competitive out-of-bundle rates – billed monthly in arears. 

For the first time suppliers of Office 365 will be able to offer a viable alternative to traditional, or hosted telephony, at a compelling price to their customers, whilst making a good recurring margin on call bundles and out-of-bundle call charges.

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Topics: Direct Routing

Does negotiation always have to be win-win?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 11:08:47

I was on a beach and a guy tried to sell me some local precious stones. Very quickly we went from $100 to $10 and when I tested the ‘stones’ they were actually lumps of plastic. He shrugged and moved on to the next tourist – no hard feelings on either side. His negotiation approach is more zero-sum than win-win but has this damaged his business? – probably not.

Handle negotiations with a one-off sale badly in B2B and you may harm your reputation or your bottom line, but usually only on that one deal. However, getting it wrong with an ongoing relationship can be disastrous, especially in the channel. Where a company is re-selling your product, you have to know exactly where you fit in the value chain. What is the Standard for your product? What will your partner need to sell at, to win against the competition? - and still make enough margin to excite them, and their salespeople. What is unique about your offering and how does that translate into benefits for your partner and their customers?

I see basic negotiation mistakes all the time in my industry and usually due to lack of research and preparation. Suppliers trying to sell products to resellers without considering what they will sell it for, or assuming that their ‘unique’ features are benefits, without having properly tested the proposition. On the other side, resellers come back with random requests for discounts and get offended when you ask why. Alternatively, they invent prices they have received from other suppliers in an attempt to improve their own margin.

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Topics: Business

What if you can't negotiate a deal?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 11:06:02

Going into a negotiation, there is an assumption that you will come to an agreement. If you are unable to agree terms this is often viewed as a failure but whether or not it is depends on how well you have prepared.

Before you start a negotiation it is important to think through potential outcomes. Which party has most to lose if you cannot agree? If you have done your homework on Standards you will know the range of acceptable outcomes. If you cannot get to a deal in this range, which side is most adversely impacted?

You should be able to answer this question for both sides and for individuals on both sides. e.g. perversely a product manager incentivised on average margin may be more inclined to lose a large customer than give them a significant price cut to stay. However there is a cost to switching suppliers as well as acquiring and on-boarding customers, and moving away may be the wrong decision for both organisations. One option is to adjourn the conversation with the product line and find someone with a more holistic view. Even then they may overestimate the value of inertia, so you have to make them believe there is a real possibility of losing your business. Properly research the alternatives and be prepared to walk away from a deal if your minimum requirements cannot be met.

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Topics: Business

New Manager

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 11:03:34

It doesn’t necessarily follow that just because you’re great at your job, you’ll naturally make a great manager. Management is a learned skill and if you can understand a few of the basic principles you will get off to a great start. Here's my top five;

1.    Feedback. There is a very small, very old book called ‘The One-Minute Manager’ - read it. Try catching people doing things right to start with. Focus on what happened rather than your opinion. “I listened to that call and your approach immediately calmed him down. I think this was because you…” Avoid ‘yes-but’ feedback. “That was really good but maybe if you…”. If this becomes a regular style, employees ignore the positive start and brace themselves for the negative punchline.

2.    Coaching and training. Your most important job as a manager is to improve the people working for you. Introduce regular and well-planned training that addresses the knowledge gaps of your staff. Don't just use ‘chalk & talk’ training. Get people involved and regularly test their learning. On skills, you need to agree a framework of feedback and learning both on-the-job and in the classroom. This is most relevant in sales where observation and role plays are far more effective than PowerPoint slides and ‘watch-me’ coaching.

3.    Mood. Displays of emotion are often counter-productive because they undermine your message and authority - if you lose your temper you lose the argument. I often see new managers adopt a deliberately surly demeanour as a defence mechanism and a badge of authority – this is a mistake. As you develop as a manager you will become deliberately more vulnerable. This opens up more space for creativity, employee development and good decision-making.

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Topics: Business

What can hosted telephony resellers do about Teams Phone System?

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 10:51:41

There are plenty of doom-mongers around Microsoft’s recent incursion into the cloud PBX market but little practical advice. If you find yourself competing with Teams Phone System, here are three things to consider;

1.   Be prepared. Microsoft list only 22 inclusive features of Phone System on their web site and they don’t appear to offer optional extras. If you currently charge for some of their standard features, you may initially feel a little disheartened. However, many features you offer, and your customers need, may not be there. Put together a competitive matrix for your salespeople and their customers. Include the range of devices you offer vs Microsoft approved devices. Make sure your salespeople understand Office 365 pricing. Phone System is available with only the more expensive licenses and at time of writing is not an upgrade on Microsoft’s most popular 365 licence, Business Premium. Build a price comparison table into your Features Matrix. As Microsoft expand their features update your sales team.

2.   Focus on SMEs. Due to the level of licence and technical skill required to configure Teams Phone System, it feels as if it would appeal more to bigger companies. It has always been hard to sell a hosted cloud product to really large organisations. Yes, they benefit from not having to have a PBX in every office, but at a certain size it’s often cheaper for them to buy their own cloud platform. Because it is an upgrade to expensive Office 365 licences, Teams Phone System may be less attractive in the SME market, which is the sweet spot for most hosted providers and where the average sale is still only seven seats.

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Topics: Microsoft Teams

Motivation as a process

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 10:47:46

Someone shared a ‘guru cartoon’ with me today (please stop blind-sharing these self-absorbed phoneys), where the message was ‘be happy’ – genius! Of course, we all want to be happy but someone shouting it at you will usually have the opposite effect. Most of the stuff these self-styled ‘experts’ churn out is like Usain Bolt’s coach telling him to run faster.

The reality is that over the longer-term, people motivate themselves and it’s our job as managers to create an environment for them to do so. How?

1.   Take care of the hygiene factors i.e. remove obvious demotivating factors from the environment. If employees know that others are doing the same job as they are, but getting more money, they are justifiably pissed off. If they have a two-hour round-trip to the office just so you can watch them work, you lessen their commitment, and their respect for you. Be flexible and help them to spend more time working in their unique ability.

2.   Define success, measure it, and let them get on with it. Some of the annual objectives I have seen senior managers set are laughable and amount to no more than a task list (I remember ‘attend training’ was one). Objectives are numbers that relate directly to successful outcomes, that your business can measure and report on. Ever had a KPI that when you get to appraisal time you both realise has not been recorded because the business just cannot collect that data? 

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Topics: Business

Product Development

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 10:43:55

On average, Jola launches two new products every month. It’s true that some of these are product extensions, but they are all projects requiring a plan, specification, funding, coding, collateral and training.

This is how I think we do it.

1.    Agile, agile, agile. We re-evaluate and re-prioritise every week in a two-hour meeting that includes all the senior stakeholders. We consider every project, regardless of where it is in the process, and we add placeholders for ideas that are either embryonic or ahead of their time. As market conditions and customer needs change, we accelerate, slow down, hold and re-prioritise. We are ruthless, we kill, and park ideas and we don’t invest in marginal vanity projects. We own our own software development resource so we can stop/start projects, and we don’t produce exhaustively detailed specifications.

2.    Fill the hopper. Product development cannot be a serial process. So many companies bet the farm on a new product and when conditions change, that should question the original business case, they soldier on regardless – because there is no Plan B. At Jola we have run out of letters for plans. As I write there are 29 products in the development process, 15 with ‘Go’ status. We do not limit the number of projects going into the hopper, and if we have too many projects with equal priority, we get more resource.

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Topics: Business

Hiring sales people – five tips for a successful recruitment strategy

Posted by Andrew Dickinson on 30-Sep-2019 10:41:04

Salespeople are like hotels in Monopoly. Buy as many as you can afford because the more you have, the more income you generate.

Of course, it’s never as straightforward as that. Under-performing sales people are a drain on management time and your biggest mistakes won’t even pay for themselves, let alone make a positive contribution to gross margin.

This is why you need to be hiring all the time, especially if you are a growing business in a growing market. If you wait until the position comes up in the budget, or you lose someone, you are likely to miss the best people. Moreover, because you’re a little desperate, you are likely to compromise, take a risk, and make a bad hire.

Continuous recruitment requires a strategy. The objective is simple; whenever a person that fits your target profile starts to look around, they must know about, and consider, your company. Achieving this is a little more challenging.

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Topics: Business

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