“Enhanced technology and the cloud have enabled employees to be constantly switched on”

Employment & Skills | Interview | Technology
Jason Downes

Business Leader recently spoke with Jason Downes, the Managing Director of Powwownow and the Founder of the Smarter Working Initiative.

Powwownow is one of Europe’s fastest growing conference call companies. The business offers more than just conference calling – it offers innovative tech and meeting solutions, facilitating a more flexible and remote working culture across the UK.

The firm has transformed the communications approach of hundreds of businesses across Europe, including Mediacom, NHS and Bentley.

Jason talks about the company’s rapid growth, their international expansion and how the cloud is changing UK businesses.

Can you give me an overview of Powwownow?

We’re on a mission to simplify the increasingly complex world of communication. Our core offering is a conference call service, but we also offer innovative web meeting tools and hosted voice technology to clients all over Europe.

Our aim is to facilitate a more flexible and remote working culture, ensuring workers across the globe are given the opportunity to work smarter, not harder. We currently operate in 15 countries and employ over 100 people, with our HQ based in Richmond. Some of our clients include Mediacom, the television and communications provider in the US, plus the NHS and Bentley.

What are your day-to-day activities as MD?

I split my time between the UK and the US, travelling every two months and managing teams in both countries simultaneously. I’m a huge advocate of flexible working so am always thinking of new ways we can champion this.

At our Richmond office, we have a policy where every member of staff works from home at least one day per week, and this has had a positive impact on the team and the level of productivity. My biggest challenge as an MD is to ensure that my staff are inspired and happy working at Powwownow, so we also invest a lot of time and energy into away days and social events, as these can make a big difference to employees!

Can you also give me an overview of Smarter Working Initiative?

The Smarter Working Initiative is a nationwide awareness day, encouraging employers to allow their employees across the UK to find a positive work-life balance on the first day of the school summer holidays. The initiative has been going for three years and we’ve so far had 250 companies sign up, including; RED Driving School, the BFI, the University of Gloucestershire, Purplebricks and MediaCom. This year, 250,000 office workers across the UK were given the opportunity to work flexibly on Monday 23rd July. We also partnered with PureGym, RentaDesk, AndCo and DeskLodge to offer workers free workouts and flexible working spaces on the day to participants.

Why did you start the company?

Before joining Powwownow in May 2013, I was the UK Managing Director of Staples Advantage and held previous senior roles at Rentokil and Office Depot. I took over the reins of Powwownow in September 2014, after the business was bought by PGi, and have very much enjoyed the challenge of running a multi-million-pound business.

What products and services do both companies offer?

Our core offering at Powwownow is a conference calling service, but we offer so much more than just that. We also provide a web meeting tool to all users, which aims to simplify the increasingly complex world of business communication. We have launched a hosted voice as we believe that SMEs deserve a flexible, scalable cloud-based telephony solution that until now has been the preserve of large corporates.

How has technology changed telecoms and conference calls within business?

Technology has improved vastly in the past few years but there is a still a way to go!

Enhanced technology and the cloud have enabled employees to be constantly switched on, but this means that workers are struggling to maintain a positive work-life balance.

56% of SME workers have a poor work-life balance and are the least likely to engage in hobbies or spend time with their family and friends. So, although there are lots of positives that have arisen due to the changes over the past few years, there’s still more we as business leaders need to do.

With the growth of remote working, is your business perfectly placed to capitalise on this market?

For remote working to be successful, the right technology needs to be in place. Being able to have meetings as if you are face-to-face when you are miles apart is what drives business success. Allowing comradery and a feeling of belonging if you are a remote worker is also key. Instant chat and video messaging are ways to do this.

How would you describe your company’s growth and the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Powwownow is in an extremely strong position – we’re currently growing at a double-digit rate, have a turnover of £25m, operate in 15 countries and employ 50 plus people. We’re dedicated to making people’s lives easier by providing them with the necessary communication tools to do so.

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