Few startups last past their first year — even fewer last more than five. M&J Communications is still going strong after 25 years. As a well-established, global distributor for SATCOM equipment and broadcast products, we’re proud to have stood the test of time and maintained our core values throughout the period.
It’s time to mark our 25th anniversary by looking back on our roots, examining what we accomplished, and making plans for the future.
M&J communications, from start-up
Like many startups, M&J Communications started from a home office with a small team. This was perfect for a business offering SATCOM equipment where unit cost is high, product quantities small, and sales irregular. The system is practically the polar opposite of the standard distributor model that requires low-cost, high-volume sales along with large stocks.
The beginning and the vision
John Osborne, the founder, decided to capitalise on a business opportunity in the SATCOM equipment distribution chain. M&J Communications would act as a local representative for overseas manufacturers, negotiating the sale with the customer and placing the order directly with the suppliers. The company would focus on being a distributor on a buy-and-sell basis without holding much stock.
Having a local office proved to be a shrewd move as quite a few UK companies as well as government organisations wanted to buy through a UK-based business.
Twenty-five years is almost unimaginably long when it comes to technological change. Back in 1996, practically no one used email and the internet regularly. Mobile phones were very basic, and even fax machines were of poor quality. Most of the time was spent visiting customers with data sheets to discuss products and finding out if suppliers could modify their SATCOM systems to match what the customers needed. A good portion of the job was collating various data sheets to hand out to customers and delivering new ones when information was updated.
Of course, like any long-standing business, M&J Communications focused on building relationships. Technology was slowly improving, suppliers and customers were starting to talk directly, so it was essential to have their trust and loyalty.
Challenges and achievements
Having to get those data sheets and catalogues sent from the US and then collating the information into something useful for each customer was a demanding process. With today’s communication and information systems, it would have been easy; but back in 1996, it had to be done the hard way.
Getting approved by some of the larger contractors was a challenge. The M&J team had to communicate with people regularly, maintain personal contacts, and discuss pertinent materials.
However, it all paid off, and getting valued customers and building trust was the biggest achievement. These relationships were the foundation of the company, and one of the initial key clients is still with M&J Communications as one of the biggest ones.
Fun facts during start-up
People today barely remember fax machines, but they were absolutely essential back in the 90s. Computers were also fairly basic. So the M&J team had to use a fax machine that reeled out loads of paper — and when they dealt with some of the larger organisations, things got a bit wild.
It wasn’t unusual to come back to 33 feet of fax paper to read and sort out after a holiday. Nobody used emails back then, so making sure everything was in order and that the fax machine was functioning was crucial.
M&J communications, now
Many things have changed since M&J Communications was founded. The scope of work expanded massively, and the whole process is much more streamlined. M&J Communications holds stock of products and even loans out demo equipment if necessary.
The ever-improving technology
The technology itself has undergone the biggest change. Satellite equipment prices have plummeted, gadgets have gotten smaller and more robust, and many items can be operated remotely. Everything is better, sleeker, and more versatile.
Throughout its 25 years as a satellite communication equipment distributor, M&J has developed relationships with a good core of manufacturers. However, the technology keeps advancing, so looking for complementary products that can enhance the existing offer is sound business practice.
Exhibitions are a good way to find out information about new gear, especially the Satellite show in Washington, NAB in Las Vegas, and IBC in Amsterdam, which we attended regularly. M&J Communications also consults its customers for information about equipment requirements or supplier recommendations. That’s how M&J started working with Adtec Digital, and it’s been a fruitful cooperation.
One of our main principles is sticking to a single supplier per product and not trying to sell products from competing suppliers. We try to offer the best equipment we can and only stock products we truly believe in. This also strengthens the relationship and creates two-way loyalty. Additionally, it encourages both customers and suppliers to interact, allowing for quicker resolution of technical queries.
We also feedback the customer design specifications to suppliers, ensuring they incorporate European standards into their equipment.
We have very high customer retention because we put effort into building trust and because we can get very creative when necessary. We’re not only representing SATCOM equipment suppliers and global companies to the customer; we also want to represent the customer to the supplier. We go the extra mile by making relationships two-way streets and building mutual trust, loyalty, and a sense of reliability. We’re representing global companies or suppliers to the customer. But we’re also very keen to represent the customer to the supplier. People will come to us because they know we will help them more than other distributors.
How COVID-19 affected the business
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to eliminate face-to-face meetings; also, many events were cancelled, limiting access to event-based equipment.
Since we were identified as a key supplier for critical infrastructure telecommunications, we kept the office fully operational with some remote work. Now we’re in an excellent position to pick up where we left off because a lot of projects that were postponed in 2020 are starting to happen.
M&J communications, the future
The future inexorably marches on, and the digital presence in the SATCOM industry has become incredibly significant. New suppliers may introduce new versatile products and groundbreaking solutions. Software-defined products are becoming more prevalent and replacing old hardware-only items.
The business should grow organically as that’s the key to making the business sustainable and expanding the customer base. Taking on more people is also in the cards, though just enough to meet the increasing demand. A lean and efficient team ensures good communication and streamlines workflow, which only improves productivity.
We pride ourselves on being very flexible and dynamic, and it’s that flexibility and openness with people that wins over much bigger organisations.
Finally, we fully intend to continue providing our customers with excellent SATCOM services, including proofs of concept, product demonstrations, demo stock, first-line support, repairs, and test facilities.