A little about me
Hi. My name is Clive Drake.
This information website is designed to give existing and potential UK exporters to the US, details of my profile and experience in this challenging market. I offer a consultancy service to companies new to the market or looking to refresh and redefine existing export strategies. I am completely flexible and can be engaged for a specific one off project, or alternatively short, medium even long term consultancy with specific objectives.
I make no secret of the fact I enjoy travelling to the US and doing business – over the pond! I like Americans, the country as a whole, and enjoy the variety of cultures within the business environment.
What I love to do
My primary skills centre around two principles; Value and Relationships.
My main focus is to build value in everything I do, as a business owner or consultant. I have a simple philosophy; build value and profits routinely follow. Relationships, in my view, are key areas of business management. Firstly, relationship with customers. Secondly with staff and colleagues. Thirdly with suppliers – an area often neglected. My secondary skills is to engage all three within a business consultancy, management and commercial strategy.
Forging Key Business Relationships
Project Planning & Execution
Strategic Team Building
Solid Communication Skills
What I can bring to table
When I built my telecoms business, the route into the US market was commercial partnerships. Essentially to piggy back on their brand. I targeted strong brands in telecoms and travel. At that time there was not a universal cell phone product available for Americans travelling outside the USA. I proposed a "turnkey" solutions to my partners in the US. To establish confidence with companies that eventually became convinced to engage with my company – required time, patience and establishing relationship with key decision makers.
I would anticipate with any client, a project plan being a critical part of the business strategy. I look to keep this as simple as possible. If your firm is completely new to the market, this would likely be a three year project plan. If you have a foothold then this will be shorter. The project plan will cover time, resources and cost; travel time, number of trips, geographical areas, sampling, trade fairs (if appropriate), IT and so on. The project plan budget must anticipate 2-3 years of minimal return on the investment needed. I will not undertake a project or product that I do not feel 100% confidence in.
I can provide the leadership required – delivering to your firm a turnkey solution with alternative options to the strategy, as well as budgets, timelines and projections. It's also about communication and language. A general misconception is as we all speak English – we will be fine. Not so. I will be able to provide the right guidance in communicating a product(s) using the right expressions and terminology.
The objective is of course to build and establish a strong foothold into the market. As the business grows so will the commitment required to underpin future growth. I still have several contacts in the US that may be able to help, perhaps establishing a US office, a distribution centre either in-house or a third party vendor. The first step will be to appoint a dedicated individual (s) in the UK with a strong business background in marketing.
The strategy would depend on the product – and the complexity. It is not impossible to open a company in the US, establish a retail premises or warehouse with a web based strategy. The issue is both cost and reaching the consumer. I would recommend, first time around at least, a commercial partner with a retailer(s) or specialised distributor to a specific industry.
I speak American to Americans. I use expressions, verbiage, they are familiar with and approach the market in the same way an exporter would in Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina or any country where there is cultural and communication difference. For example "multi frequency – broad band sound" means nothing in the US. They say "White Noise" or "White Sound." Simple and to the point.
What I've done
July 7th, 2005
Sold the business to Vodafone UK
Director, Sole Shareholder
I sold the business to Vodafone at the right time. Technology now allows for USA travellers to Europe. Before it did not and with 23,000 phones on Vodafone airtime what we did in the USA was a perfect fit for their relationship with Verizon Wireless (VF was a major shareholder). We had a state of the art IT system integrated with US toll free numbers, a 24/7 call centre and an excellent reputation with first class managers and employees. Six months afterwards they told me my company was the least problem free to buy at that time. As the expression goes; "we did what it says on the tin". Vodafone for me was a great company to work with.
Solidified major relationships
Solidified major relationships with the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, US Airforce and Army.
2002 / 2003
Invested over £1,000,000 into major IT upgrades
Recruited in-house IT team, developed custom billing platforms and CRMs, bought servers/IT services in-house.
24/7 Call Centre
Established a 24/7, 365 days a year call centre to support international clients – a unique feature and one of just three ISPs in the UK providing this service.
Integrated US cellular phones with int'l GSM capabilities
A unique facility for a seamless roaming product, the first of its kind in the USA, began in October 2000. This allowed a Verizon Wireless customer to interface his/her US registered mobile with our UK registered GSM cellphone. This grew from a handful of US toll free numbers to over 15,000 by 2005. A US customer, travelling anywhere in the world, was contactable via there own US registered cellphone number - a seamless service.
Incorporated Japanese mobile phones
Expanded product range to include PDC phone rental to inbound Japanese travellers.
Introduced US$ billing into IT systems
In the beginning we invoiced all our US customers in sterling. It soon became apparent this was not viable in the long term. We changed our billing into to US $ at the same time changing our billing increment structure to be consistent with US style for telecom billing. We sourced US credit card companies, such as American Express, to charge our US customers in US$ to allow a seamless communication process from responding to our marcoms to receiving the final bill.
ISP to Vodafone and O2
Appointed Independent Service Provider (ISP) to both Vodafone Plc and 02
Changed name to WorldRoam Ltd
Rebranded the company to appeal to broader global markets.
Incorporated Rent-a-Phone Ltd
Targeted car hire companies at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester to provide mobile phone rental. Closed long term contracts with: Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar and British Hotel Reservations
What clients, colleagues and business partners say about me
I have had the pleasure of working closely with Clive over a period of time that proved to be beneficial to our organization.
In the initial days of cellular phone communications, using ones handset outside your local domain was a novel experience as well as a game changer in how people kept in touch with others. Having the ability to roam internationally was an important requirement for business customers, and increasingly consumers too. Multiple technologies in different countries and the lack of mobile devices having the ability to inter operate posed many challenges.
We found a capable partner in Clive who rose to the challenge and innovated to give our customers the ability to use a handset that could make and receive calls while traveling overseas, using their own number and also getting such call records appear on their regular bills. Clive's organization invested in creating software to convert billing records suitable for our billing systems.
On another level Clive also created a 24X7 customer service center that was reachable from a whole host of countries to provide help to our customers while traveling, a concept that fairly new in those early days of international roaming. We were very pleased with the quality of support provided by his staff, their commitment closely mirrored the "Customer First" approach which was an integral part of the Verizon Wireless ethos.
Clive is a dependable partner who delivers what he promises. His commitment to meeting deadlines and maintaining high quality are attributes that make for a very satisfying and profitable relationship.
Formerly: Verizon Wireless - New Jersey, USA. Product Development, Marketing & Finance roles.
I have had the privilege of working with Clive Drake at World-Roam (previously Rentaphone). The product he offered Dnata (Emirates Airlines Group), was innovative and flexible: it added value to our offering to corporate travellers from the Gulf Region.
Gifted with good commercial vision Clive identifies strategic corporate opportunities long before the average business manager does. Additionally, amiable and genial by nature, he is easy to work with. The quality of his services have always been of the highest level and in keeping with the standards of the Emirates Group. Above all else, Clive always delivers and keeps his word.