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Blue Star breakaways set up new telco

By Aimee McClinchy

Friday 18th August 2000

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A group of former Blue Star Group managers who have made their personal fortunes twice over are repeating their successful formula based on an aggressive sales force - this time as a telco.

Multimillionaires after the recent sales of Eftpos supplier and Telecom dealer Netco and electricity retailer Empower, Grant Baker, Shane McKillen and Dave Spicer have launched EmPhone, which sells toll and business line packages in partnership with Clear.

The three men are also partners in ventures EmGas, Meter Holdings and investment vehicle Technology Investment Holdings.

EmPhone has already racked up 1000 customers with annual revenues of $1 million in the two months since it began.

EmPhone managing director Dave Spicer said their ventures were all based around the same formula.

"We are strong believers in a traditional business model based around a sales team and a telesales force.

Two other ex-Blue Star Group managers, from Cogent Communications, have joined the three men as shareholders in EmPhone.

Mr Spicer said EmPhone was taking on Telecom, Clear and Call Plus.

"We are not keen to tread around the periphery," he said.

He was aggressively trying to build this business and would open offices in Wellington and Christchurch later this year.

Following his formula of direct marketing and low overheads, most of the 20 staff were in his phone and street sales force.

He said the men had seen a niche in bundling call products and access services and the company planned to stick to that core business.

"The element missing in many businesses is the management bring into too many varied and specialised products and business lines and that's because they are not making the grade with their core line."

Despite the similarity of the names of their businesses, Mr Spicer said it was less likely they would be co-advertised now Empower had been sold to Contact.

Messrs Spicer, Baker and McKillen are serving three-year management contracts at Empower, which under their leadership gained about 25,000 customers through commission-only door-to-door sales force.

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