Chamber-made partnership hits the heights

Esh Group and Nice Network

An introduction by the Chamber connected the businesses Esh Group and Nice Network, and was the forerunner to the latter winning a £750,000 communications contract. Mark Lane met with both businesses to find out more

Choosing a mobile telephony and connectivity provider is a huge decision for businesses these days. In many cases, the difference between the varying providers can be huge, and the cost of such services can run into six and seven figures on some occasions.

This is perhaps one business service where partnerships are 21more important than ever. Such services need to be tailored to individual organisations and there will be inevitable teething problems along the way. How quickly providers respond to such problems and ongoing customer service is, in many ways, as important as the initial contract offering.

All of which brings us to the partnership – and that’s the best word for it – between Esh Group and Nice Network. These two North East businesses were introduced by Julie Charlton, a relationship manager for Sunderland, Durham and South Tyneside at the North East England Chamber of Commerce and their relationship has gone from strength to strength.

For the uninitiated, Esh Group is a leading construction and built environment group of companies which operate across the North of England and Yorkshire. Via its main trading company, Esh Construction, the business provides civil engineering, property services, facilities management and commercial building, fencing and landscaping services to a wide range of public and private sector clients.

Esh directly employs an impressive 900 staff in the North East and Yorkshire who work out of regional offices in Durham and Leeds.

Nice Network, formerly known as CCS, manages business communications for global brands such as Nike UK, Draeger, Converse and many others, from its HQ on Sunderland’s Pennywell Industrial Estate. The company, which was founded over 30 years ago, employs 22 staff and has an annual turnover in excess of £4m.

Esh was seeking a new communications provider and undertook a competitive tender process, inviting several potential suppliers to bid for mobile connectivity. The winner of the tender, and a contract worth circa £750,000, was Nice Network – a boost for the company itself as well as being another feather in the cap of the local digital communications industry.

Nice Network now provides Esh with mobile connectivity across its whole group, offering 1000+ mobile connections ranging from traditional mobile handset connections to site- based data connectivity using 4G dongles.

As part of the package, Nice keeps Esh up to date with its ongoing spend through a data management service which allows it to monitor how much Esh is spending in real-time.

How, then, does a modern mobile communications business go about winning business in the current environment? While being competitive on price will always be a factor, there are also many other variables at play.

Tracey Appleby, head of purchasing at Esh Group, says: “Nice Network had the most competitive and compelling offering, that alongside having a strong local presence and a proven track record as a supplier to other high profile regional businesses gave Esh confidence that they could deliver.”

Asked about progress of the relationship, Tracey explains that while there were a few challenges in the early days of the project, Nice Network now has “an appreciation for some of the sector challenges, including the transient nature of construction … the service is running as we had initially anticipated.”

The million-dollar question then: what are Nice Network like to deal with as a service provider? Tracey is unequivocal here, telling us: “As the name suggests, a ‘Nice’ company to deal with. Transparent, no hard sales tactic and wanting to build a long-term relationship with Esh by understanding the business and its challenges and working with us in delivering fit for purpose solutions that benefit the group.”

Of course, there are two sides to any partnership, so we were interested to catch up with Nice Network and find out about the company’s take on Esh as a new client and hopes for the business relationship moving forwards.

What becomes clear from talking to Nikki Lee, marketing manager at Nice Network, is that here are two organisations with similar values. Nikki says: “The people [at Esh] are great! From the outset, we’ve worked with every Esh employee to agree connection dates and to see how we can help meet their needs and they’ve all been very friendly and welcoming.

“The staff are a real credit to Esh as is the group’s IT team. Esh has a clear vision and this is apparent across every touch point we have with them. It’s important we manage and support our clients who have such a vested interest in the North East and the wider community as we do and this is something which brings our relationship closer.”

To encourage ongoing dialogue between the two businesses, they have also agreed to hold regular internal scrum meetings to ensure everything is running smoothly on a weekly basis. It’s a small touch, and one that is
made possible by the relatively close proximity of the businesses (as opposed to, say, using a provider from Leeds or London).

Yet the relationship doesn’t stop there. It has become clear that Esh Group and Nice Network share common values in terms of corporate social responsibility.

Therefore, when Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) was looking to launch a new initiative providing
city centre traders with the technology required to go digital, the pair were happy to partner up on their involvement.

The programme – named SR1 Connect – provides businesses with a free tablet or mobile phone for one year, as well as a data package to allow them to access the internet and a place on a social media workshop.

The aim is to help businesses engage with new and potential customers via social media and also help them bridge the gap between the online world and physical retail world.

Explaining Nice Network’s involvement, Nikki said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working alongside Esh Group and Sunderland BID on this project.

“As a business which started life from humble beginnings in Sunderland almost 30 years ago, we are aware of the challenges the region’s businesses face, especially in the retail sector, but also the way in which a little bit of support can transform a business’ capabilities.”

Tracey added: “Ensuring local businesses have the support and skills to succeed is of vital importance to our economy and we’re delighted to be involved in a campaign which will do exactly that.”

“As a business which started life from humble beginnings in Sunderland almost 30 years ago, we are aware of the challenges the region’s businesses face, especially in the retail sector, but also the way in which a little bit of support can transform a business’ capabilities.”

Esh Group

Nice Network