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Small Grant Scheme £25,000

Healthcare telecommunications specialist X-on in Framlingham, Suffolk is one of the UK’s leading providers of Cloud-based integrated telephony and virtual or triage communications systems to the primary care sector. It employs around 40 people and has customers across the country. Its main focus is installing both the hardware and software needed to enable voice over internet protocol (VOIP) communications systems, primarily for doctors’ surgeries.

Its systems help patients to communicate with their local surgeries even if the phone lines are busy. They’re able to leave and receive messages, book appointments and get vital information instead of having to hang on the end of a phone. It also helps the surgeries to run more efficiently and see more patients, with extensive reporting and clinical system integration providing the tools to optimise practice resources.  Additionally, the systems are scalable, so as practices grow, or utilise multiple sites, the patients and staff continue to benefit from the optimised call experience.  The feature-rich phone system assists practices meet the aspirations of the NHS GP Forward View.

X-on will supply whole systems that include conference phones, tannoys, fax lines and even recabling.

In recent years, a number of opportunities have opened up that offer X-on the chance to rapidly expand its business. Encouraged by an increase in Government funding, doctors’ surgeries are joining together to form Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and federations, pooling their buying resources together to drive efficiencies from bulk purchasing. The Government is providing funding to help CCGs to transform their networks of surgeries and reduce the strain on the NHS.

Having tasted success in securing its first federation – Taunton Deane – in 2017 and its first CCG – South Worcester – in early 2018, the management at X-on realised that there was a thriving market that was being under-served so set about putting plans together to meet the anticipated growth.

The issue that X-on faced

To take advantage of this new market opportunity X-on identified that it would need to increase the capacity and the quality of its servers, recruit more staff and invest in better marketing. This required a significant injection of capital.

X-on operates servers in two geographically distinct sites – one at its HQ in Framlingham and the other in London. This provides security, greater capacity and good quality back-up. But with two sites comes twice the expense when it comes to servers.

What made X-on turn to the Growth Hub?

Managing director, Paul Bensley, had met New Anglia Growth Hub business adviser, Sam Vinyard-Jones, previously at X-on’s offices and suggested that his Chief Financial Officer, Claire Bisset, give her a call to see if there was any support that they could request. 

Growth Hub help

Following a number of phone conversations, Sam identified that the Growth Hub would be able to help facilitate a grant from the Small Grant Scheme to provide 20% part funding to purchase 30 refurbished servers across the two locations.

Sam helped Claire through the application process which included having to get comparative quotes for refurbished servers which was a challenge in itself! Sam was able to help Claire to formulate X-on’s proposal in the most powerful way possible to appeal to the funding board.

X-on was successful in receiving nearly £25,000 part-funding to purchase the refurbished servers that cost a total of just under £150,000.

What impact did this have on helping the business expand?

Claire explains what effect the funding has had on X-on’s business prospects, “We had already established a solid platform for our business and we had the bonus of a healthy amount of capital built up. We knew that over the next few years there would be a massive opportunity for us to grow our business because of the increase in Government money that was being funnelled into the primary care sector.

“The funding we received has enabled us to purchase more servers than we could have originally budgeted for. This means we are now more future-proofed in terms of our capacity to grow our client base and the higher level of security it offers. We are confident that the quality of our service is reliable and that our new servers will operate efficiently. Without the funding we would have had less capacity to expand because the old equipment we would have had to have used could not be relied upon to deal with the increased capacity we foresee.”

“Sam was very supportive in finessing our application making sure it was rock solid before we submitted it, which reduced the risk of it being rejected. Understandably, the application process requires a lot of detail and paperwork but it was worth it for the size of grant we received. I think most business people will appreciate that a decent amount of rigour is required when applying for funding.

“I would recommend any growing business to think about what sort of support the Growth Hub can offer. But before approaching it you need to be able to articulate clearly the ‘need’ your business has for financial help. For our business to meet the market challenges in front of us we needed to take a step-change in our operation, not only in terms of the capital investment required, but also in the recruitment of more people.

“We are very excited about our growth prospects as are our staff. If you can see your company investing in its future it means it’s on the up, jobs are safe and that there is capital to meet its ambitions. It’s something we needed to do and now we’ve done it we are well placed to meet the massive demand for our services we are expecting.

The adviser’s view

Sam Vinyard-Jones said, “It was really pleasing to be able to help Claire and the team at X-on. Once Claire explained that they would need to purchase more server capacity that would directly aid growth we were able to seize that as an eligible funding target and support her through the process.

“The fact that Claire was able to articulate a clear narrative that would link the server capacity to significant growth, including an increase in headcount, meant that in the end it was fairly straightforward to package the proposal for the funding panel to approve. Dealing with a CFO like Claire, who had all the necessary numbers to hand and was really organised, helped X-on get its application approved quickly.”

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