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Excell Group – Excelling at communications for 25 years

Dean Hills co-founder of Excell. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dean Hills co-founder of Excell. Picture: Keith Heppell

By its own admission, leading communications company Excell is one of the best-kept secrets in the Cambridge area.

But all that is about to change with a new marketing strategy that aims to bring its services to the attention of small and medium-sized businesses across the county.

Excell looks after all of a company’s communications needs. Designed to work wherever and however they are needed, it provides a full range of fixed and mobile, voice, network and cloud services supported by its own core network and data centres.

Currently, Cambridge-based businesses account for less than a third of Excell’s turnover – which might seem low, given the firm is based in Sawston.

After brothers Darren Strowger and Dean Hills began the company 25 years ago, it expanded extremely quickly, mainly into London, where its leading clients include fashion retailer H&M, business centre provider Workspace Group, aircraft manufacturer Boeing and environmental services firm Veolia.

Now, Chris Attwood, head of marketing, wants to drive up the proportion of Cambridge-centric work. With the focus on acquisitions over the next few years and organic growth, the area is now a major target for Excell.

Chris explains: “We look after some big UK companies, but one of our challenges is that not enough people in Cambridge know we are here. Probably fewer than 30 per cent of our clients are in Cambridgeshire, and most of those are schools or business/research parks and it shouldn’t end there.

“Everyone in Cambridge should know about us, what we do and what we could do for the benefit of their businesses.

“In London, we supply the infrastructure to business centres, retail, media, healthcare and many other industries that have very specific requirements and that’s what we should be doing here.

“We began as a traditional telecoms company supplying telephone systems and lines and then moved into IT connectivity and security.

“With owned network and data centre assets and unbundled local exchanges, we are well placed to deliver cloud and connectivity services as companies move towards a hybrid model.

“That is where some of their IT infrastructure remains on-site, but, increasingly, it is being moved into the cloud or co-located elsewhere to provide resilience. That’s bread and butter for us.”

The business focus has changed, as Chris explains.

“Originally we were a sales-orientated company, but over the years that has changed and we are now a service-orientated company. It was a shift we made seven or eight years ago.

“Our services become an integral part of any businesses. Whether it is voice, data, mobile or cloud services we are supplying, we commit to unrivalled uptime and support. That’s what sees us apart from the big players such as BT or Virgin.”

The company has a workforce of 184 employees across offices in Sawston, London, Brighton and the Midlands. The accounts and back office administration are kept at Cambridge.

Excell knows it cannot compete in terms of scale with the likes of Vodafone, Virgin and BT, but it can be better at providing local small and medium-sized businesses with a bespoke solution of connectivity and service.

Chris adds: “It’s very hard, without a multimillion-pound marketing budget, to become a household name. Consumers will never have had heard of Excell, but that’s because we only work with businesses directly.

“But what we’re good at is serving small and medium-sized businesses with multiple offices. We’re a local hands-on company at the cutting edge of what businesses need in connectivity and security.

“Our support systems mean that we have someone here 24/7 to fix any problems our clients may have. We try to fix problems remotely, but sometimes we need to be on site to do it and as we’re local we can do just that.

“Cambridge is a great place to live and work, but if your business hasn’t got the core technology then it’s set up to fail.

“We understand that having access to world-class, secure and reliable connectivity is a top priority for Cambridge’s fast-growing, digitally dependent businesses.”

Excell has a record to be proud of, as Chris explains.“We are still a family-run business. Our turnover in April will be £30 million and profit will be £4 million – that’s the 25th year of consecutive growth.

“This year that figure represents record profits for us. The target is to jump to £40 million or £50 million in terms of turnover pretty quickly. The acquisition trail will hit the revenue stream but we will be adding to the bottom line.”

As the Cambridge Independent highlighted last week, Excell also has excellent cybersecurity expertise. And it is a class-leading technology provider which, unusually for a company of its size, owns an Ofcom-regulated core network. Built to support voice as much as data, Excell describes it as rugged, fast and secure.

Co-founder Dean Hills accepts that while Excell continues to grow year-on-year, it is not on everyone’s radar in Cambridge. “The provision of business-class connected services is fundamental to our customer offer. We provide dedicated customer support and a resilient, secure network, as well as to ensure scalability and flexibility; all of which are absolutely critical to the growth and productivity of our ever more digitally dependent customer base.

“Excell Group places a high value on our Cambridge heritage and our local customer base, who are increasingly looking for location, location, technology.”

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