24 I.S. Price Intelligence founder Tim Jones tells us his story
The best Managing Director I ever worked for said to me “You need 3 things to start a business: something to sell, someone to sell it to, and belief!”
After a decade of what had been a successful career in IT Software Sales and Management, and working for some very good companies, it began to dawn on me that every year was very much just like the last, and all of this hard work was ultimately benefitting faceless company owners more than it was myself.
I yearned for a fresh challenge – one that would break the monotony of the daily grind, one that would create something that was completely different (with an element of wanting to reinvent myself), but most importantly, I wanted to build something that was owned by our team – the small team of people crazy enough to leave their jobs and come up with this new fresh concept.”
The year was 2011 – the world of
Coming from a background in Computer Science, and having the technical expertise within our small team, we saw a gap in the market for a service that could retrieve information from websites and present this back to paying customers in the exact format that they needed it. After much deliberation, we called the business ‘Price Intelligence’ – we felt the name told customers instantly what we did!
From there, the first challenge is always to win your first customer and to send the first invoice out. If you can do that, you can verify that you can deliver the service at a profit, and then simply repeat the process with more customers.
Our first client was a small telescope retailer based on the south coast in Sussex. Whilst it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world, it at least persuaded us that we could both win business and deliver it, and we continued in the same vein with other small transactions.
It soon dawned on Price Intelligence that whilst having six live customers on board was very nice, this wasn’t going to pay the bills forever, so we approached three prominent household name retailers who had been talking about their ecommerce plans in the media. Within a few months, to our surprise, all three had signed up to the service! It was at this point that we realised we were onto something big…
Larger companies logically need more data than smaller ones, hence they paid more and this gave us an injection of revenue to take the business to the next level.
We had just assumed up to this point, that we could only approach companies that had not used this technology before – however our customers were now telling us that our service was better than what they had seen before. This gave us some real confidence to push on to the next level and displace some of the existing providers.
Using a combination of marketing methods – telesales, social media, Google Adwords, and the one that everyone forgets, word of mouth referrals, we were able to add on more and more well know customers at a steady pace.
It gives us a sense of enormous pride that we can walk on to any out-of-town retail park, and see that we are currently trading with approximately 10% of those businesses.
Now in 2017, Price Intelligence work with customers all over the world – and that can be retailers tracking competitors, or brands monitoring their sellers. Brands use our services to referee price wars between their retailers – and helps them to evidence exactly what has happened in the case of disagreements. One Brand Manager told us that as far as he was concerned our service was a ‘sales tool’ – he could see instantly online stock positions and use our data to get retailers to place more orders!!
Dealing with overseas has introduced new challenges. Most online markets aren’t as evolved as that in the UK and in the US, so we see huge potential for growth moving forward, although technically we have to do things differently when tracking overseas websites. However, we’re seeing more and more demand for data from Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
Naturally we would like to double what we do – but we always need to consider that we must not become complacent with our existing customer base. We must retain our humility, and continue to respond in a quick and efficient manner to the hundreds of support requests that we receive each week. The team has had to grow to reflect this, but maybe with luck or perhaps by design, the business has grown at a manageable pace.
It has not all been a bed of roses – there have been times where the “belief” that my ex-Managing Director talked about has been important. You will not win every deal, you will have knockbacks – and we’ve had some very long days on motorways, and long journeys over to the continent. Presenting to an Italian, a German and a Dutchman deep underground in what you can only describe as a dungeon in Brussels was certainly entertaining – if not on that occasion rewarding – but ultimately the sum total of all of these endeavours has resulted in us being where we are today.
And what of Brexit? What does this mean for Price Intelligence? Our company policy is to remain politically neutral. There are many greater authorities on what happens next in the current political process than ourselves. That said, one of our clients said to us recently ‘With Brexit looming we need to understand our market and our pricing more than ever before!’, which in itself means that we have a very good opportunity right now, and that’s the most important factor of all to our business.
We sometimes have to pinch ourselves when we look at our list of customers – leading supermarkets, online grocers and one of the world’s largest cosmetics companies – not to mention the leading UK retailers in the world of cycling accessories, mother and baby products, craft supplies, stationery, furniture, and alcohol.
Maybe my Managing Director was right on the three things you need to start a business – but you also need a good loyal team who really care, and that takes you a long way too!
We thank Tim for sharing his success story with us. You can read more about Price Intelligence here.