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Entrepreneurs Panel

Julie Meyer
Steve Purdham
Richard O'Sullivan
Michael Oliver
David Pollock
Tony Caldeira
Jennie Johnson
Brian Hay
Charlie Mullins
Jeremy Roberts
Laura Tenison
Debbie Pierce

Videoconference time?

Tony Caldeira

Set up St Helens-based home textile company Caldeira Limited in 1991 to supply cushions, pillows, throws, curtains and bedding to volume retailers worldwide. Caldeira opened a Chinese joint venture company in 2004 and completed its expansion into a 200,000 sq ft factory in the Hangzhou province in 2006. The firm has now moved its headquarters to Knowsley and, in 2007, opened its doors in the US with its first sales office in New York. The firm bought 14 Fabric Warehouse stores out of administration in 2008 to cement its expansion into retail to boost its manufacturing division.

Question: 

My consultancy company does a lot of business abroad, involving frankly too much travel to project meetings for my liking by my senior team. I’m sure a lot of this could be substituted with videoconferencing but I don’t want to alienate clients. What do you think?

Answer: 

As video conferencing technology is evolving rapidly, it’s a good idea to consider it.

There are obvious benefits for your company. These include saving senior staff time and energy as they travel less, saving the company money with a smaller travel budget and helping the environment through driving and flying less. Also, a virtual face-to-face meeting via video conference, although never as good as the real thing, definitely beats a conference call.

There are drawbacks though. Certain systems involving ISDN lines are expensive to run and some cheaper, internet-based systems still crash from time to time. Also occasional delays on the line can make some conversations frustrating and clumsy. Your clients will also need to invest in the technology and training, which may be prohibitive for them.

However, for me, the pros outweigh the cons. Caldeira Ltd uses an internet-based video conferencing system to link its offices in Liverpool, China and New York. This enables our clients to come to our UK showroom and see our Chinese showroom in real time, which gives us a significant competitive advantage – and our clients love it too!

I therefore suggest that you talk to your clients about it first, explaining the pros and cons. If they are comfortable with it then video conferencing could save time, money and carbon for all. Their savings may well be greater than yours.

Sounds like a no-brainer to me and an easy win-win – go for it.

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