IT WAS a huge day for Matthew Riley the founder of telecommunications company Daisy yesterday. He announced a £23.5m buyout of his competitor, NEG MBO Two Limited – a big deal particularly considering that just last week Daisy bought out SpiriTel Technologies for £30m. When asked about the deals Riley grins cheekily and says he’s “been Christmas shopping.” Riley does not seem at all flustered by the affair; high speed seems to be his style. Riley has accelerated Daisy from a start-up launched from his garage in 2001 to the Aim-listed company worth around £260m that it is today.
Despite living in London for a few days a week for meetings, Riley has no intention of moving Daisy’s headquarters away from its birthplace of Nelson in Lancashire. Riley was born in Burnley, Lancashire. He left school at 16 to join a Youth Training Scheme where he earned £29.50 a week fixing fax machines. This was what initially led him into a career in telecommunications. But being a bit of, what he described as, a “wheeler dealer” it wasn’t long until he left to start out on his own.
Riley felt there was a gap in the telecommunications market for greater customer service care for small businesses, not just the cabling. The idea took off quickly, making Riley bold enough to launch Daisy on Aim in 2008 to raise capital to start buying out its competitors. He explains that the strategy was: “Basically to take on their customer bases but keep our own business model.” He has now bought out 36 competitors.
Riley puts his success down to two factors: the first was establishing a direct debit payment system: “After all cash is king, so many good businesses go under because of cash flow problems. Could you imagine chasing cheques from 75,000 small businesses?” The second was winning an RBS award for small businesses: “We had quite a low profile before that, it gave us more credibility.” Not to mention the prize: £5m interest-free funding and mentoring from Sir Philip Green who Riley claims he is still in touch with every other day. “I mean he’s an inspiration. If he phones HSBC he’ll be put through to the head of the bank, I struggle to get hold of my branch manager,” Riley chuckles.
He might sound modest but he is extremely ambitious. He talks excitedly about how he’s going to make his mark on the call-waiting services market to manage peak time calls. “Doctors surgeries really need these. If you’re feeling a bit off colour it’s a nightmare having to ring back over and over again trying to get through. I’m going to contact my own doctor’s surgery about it.” But the plans don’t stop here. He hopes to see Daisy Group in the FTSE 250 in the next five years.
CV | MATTHEW RILEY
Lives: Lancashire and London
Studied: Left John Fisher & Thomas More School at age 16
First ambition: “To make some money and get out of school.”
Reading: What You See Is What You Get by Alan Sugar
Favourite business book: Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
Motto: “Cash is King.”
Talents: “I can walk on my hands.”
Idol: Winston Churchill
Turnover: “Around £260m”