Entering the plan.com offices on Hope Street, Douglas is quite the experience. The building itself is proud and stately – IOMA House’s glass facade gives off London city vibes: corporate, cold and slightly intimidating.
Inside is a whole different story. As Gef makes its way up to the second floor, the first thing that’s apparent is a wave of pulsating house music. Vibrations rumble through us before we turn the corner and another wall of sound engulfs Gef whole. The intensity of a trading floor manifests itself in a buzzing swarm. There are people on headsets and people without; some standing, some sitting; all feverishly focused. Frantic tip-tapping of keyboards and plaintive shrieking phones do battle with the cacophony of the engrossed and the committed. Barely anyone glances up from their screens to clock Gef – all are wholly immersed. This is the fervent tunnel vision of the prize-fighter making their way to the arena: Blinkers on, unwavering concentration, ready to do battle.
A cursory scan of the walls provides further evidence that plan.com is not your typical office environment. Various eclectic images of team nights out and events on one side; a litany of awards the other. The eye is drawn to the towering wheel that takes centre stage in the office. Large and colourful, the wheel offers up staff incentives and recognition when performance targets are met. Imagine Wheel of Fortune set in The Wolf of Wall Street office sponsored by Creamfields and you’re almost with us.
We’re here today to have a chat with plan.com’s Chief Financial Officer, Neil Kelly, to find out what the hell they do (when they’re not in Iceland).
“We provide a full suite of telecoms to businesses – mobile, mobile and office broadband, desk phones and VOIP; our approach is unique however, as we use online tech to deliver the service. For example, all that information you see in a bill at the end of the month – when it’s too late to do anything about?! – we put it online, update it in real time and is available for customers to view 24/7. We also give people the opportunity to set up their own bespoke alerts and bars to keep them in the loop which, in a world of 4G data consumption – and with 5G just around the corner – is a very powerful tool to prevent bill shock. And if someone in your business has gone above and beyond – we provide the tools to investigate what’s happened and do something about it.”
After giving his elevator pitch, Neil gets a bit more personal.
“I knew the first few hundred customers by name. As a small team at the start, we were all very hands on.”
Neil is a man who is not usually one to reminisce. As we chat, his enthusiasm for his job and colleagues bursts out of him. The energy in the room is exactly as in the office as a whole – adrenaline-fuelled and energising.
plan.com started with a spreadsheet and a good idea. In March 2014, this was a pipe dream and now, five years on, it’s a game-changing company with a turnover of £50 million. There’s a glint in Neil’s eye as he takes a trip down memory lane. He speaks of McDonald’s breakfasts, the stresses of obtaining licensing and the uncertainty of the whole operation. Yet, his proudest moment is simple and affecting.
“That single spreadsheet held our vision for the future of the business and the industry. Half a decade later, we’re recognised by The Sunday Times as the fastest growing tech company and the seventh best small company to work for in the UK. We have over one hundred people working with us to achieve our goals.”
Neil gestures to the masses behind the glass doors, still demonstrably busy.
“These are people with kids now, with mortgages. The guys out there are in jobs thanks to revenue coming from business customers in the UK that pay their wages. It’s an incredibly powerful thing.”
So here we are, from spreadsheet to domination. plan.com is renowned for their innovative and playful social media presence, spoke about in hushed and reverential terms by all who speak their name. The masses huddle at coffee machines in offices all over the Island and speak of their trips to Iceland, bring your dog to work day and how, basically, plan.com is the Manx Google. But you don’t get to a £50 million turnover in a breathtakingly short space of time without hard graft. And without a great product. What is plan.com, then?
“At its heart we are a technology business,” Neil says. But as he continues on another of his impassioned, whole-hearted and wildly engaging monologues, it soon becomes clear this is far more than just another tech company.
This is a company focused on an e-commerce experience. plan.com is on the bleeding edge of technology and leading the way in software innovation thanks to their world-class development team. They have created a software platform that allows customers to monitor their telecommunications in real time, enabling them to map usage and avoid any unwanted bill shocks with live alerts. In partnering with O2 as service provider, plan.com offers bespoke and flexible tech customer solutions to keep them informed and in control. Essentially, they offer a one stop telecoms shop to suit business needs. It’s like Amazon for business mobiles. It seems crazy that such a service wasn’t around already and that, surely, is undoubted proof of plan.com’s success.
Neil tells us they now have hundreds of thousands of UK customers – packaging minutes, texts and data under its own brand and selling the bespoke products conjured up by their genius craftspeople. A previously clunky and leaden industry process has been given a shot in the arm by plan.com. This is a company that is, as they rightly point out, the marriage of “high tech meets low maintenance”.
Basically, it’s Minority Report.
Neil mentions the ethos of the company is about working smart. This is not your bog-standard corporate environment. It’s fun, dynamic and, much like the business itself, tailored to the needs of the individual. Neil speaks of the company’s “play.plan”, which Gef gets a glimpse of – a company platform, where each employee gets the opportunity to suggest ideas for social events. From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to a night out in Blackpool; from tickets to see Professor Brian Cox to FIFA competitions, this is a company subsidised badge of inclusivity. Yet, it is clear that putting the hours in is a prerequisite.
You don’t emerge victorious in The Sunday Times UK Tech Track 100, for example, without having real clout. This tech industry honour was awarded to plan.com last year. Trumping the likes of Samsung and Carphone Warehouse, plan.com were deemed the fastest growing tech company in the UK. The significance of such a prize may be lost on some but it’s a massive deal. To achieve such recognition at the first time of asking is truly remarkable.
It started with two men and a spreadsheet. From a standing start to £50 million turnover; from a handful of locals to a staff of 100; from Macca’s breakfasts to automated processes; from a sprinkling of clients to industry domination; plan.com is the tech equivalent of your morning coffee – invigorating and utterly necessary. Neil says, they try to “dream up what doesn’t exist”. Who knows what they’ll conquer next?