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Lister Communications: In it to win it

PUBLISHED: 15:40 25 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:56 20 February 2013

Lister Communications: In it to win it

Lister Communications: In it to win it

Stonehouse-based telecoms dealership Lister Communications targets growth.

Lister Communications: In it to win it

Stonehouse-based telecoms dealership Lister Communications targets growth.

After five generations in the diesel engine manufacturing business, its about time the family branched out into something else.

Brothers Rob and Tom Lister have done just that, establishing Stonehouse-based business telephone systems dealership Lister Communications, and with an annual turnover in excess of 4 million after 11 years, theyre hoping for similar success as their forebears.

You might have heard of the family heritage: RA Listers of Dursley, diesel engine manufacturers established in 1867, bought in 1965 by Hawker Siddeley, now independent again as Lister Petter. The Listers are no longer involved in the business. Thats not surprising, there are no Lewiss in the John Lewis Partnership either as far as we can tell (though like the Listers they started in the 1860s and stayed in the business until the late 20th century.)

Back to Rob and Tom. They are aware of the spin-off benefits in being associated with a highly-respected family firm, especially as their great, great grandfather and business founder, Sir Robert Lister, received his knighthood for philanthropy towards his workers (he built social housing, leisure and health facilities as well as building up the business).

Its about trust, stability and integrity, says Rob. Thats very important in a local market, especially for a telecoms business that provides an essential product for business and pleasure.

Fixed line phones have been around since Sir Alexander Graham Bell made his first phone call on 10 March 1876; mobiles since 1973 (though it was ten years before the first commercial mobile service was launched).

Phones are ubiquitous but were powerless if they dont work. Lister Communications makes sure that doesnt happen. We minimise risk by using the best possible telecommunications manufacturers such as Avaya and Panasonic for phones, Blackberry for business communications though we do supply Apple Iphones, often the phone of choice for a clients family and as a second weekend phone, adds Rob.

Armed with a degree in economics from Nottingham University, Rob got his first job as a trainee accountant for Ernst and Young in Birmingham, followed by eight years at Lombard Leasing as a salesman. He also completed an MBA at Oxford Brookes University. When Nat West, which owned Lombard, merged with RBS he was told to relocate or leave. At 29, this was his chance to walk away with redundancy money and set up his own business. I was 29 what an opportunity, he says. It was boom time in the telecoms industry so I joined a small company in Nailsworth and six months later bought the customer-facing arm of the business.

Robs entrepreneurial brother Tom, who was a partner in the well known Severn and Wye Smokery at Chaxhill, joined him and they now have a 50:50 partnership in Lister Communications.

We started from scratch and now we are one of three or four dealers who would claim to be number one in the County, says Rob.

Rob and Toms plans to grow the business are tempered by the knowledge that a dealership is only successful because it provides great products and supports them with good customer service. There are few successful, national dealerships so our goal is to make our number one position in the county undisputed and push our influence into surrounding counties to become a dominant regional dealer, at the same time maintaining our high level of customer service. Success is about getting out there, meeting people, listening to their issues and resolving them, adds Rob, also a past Chair of Gloucestershire Chamber of Commerce.

When hes not running the business Rob, who recently moved from Cirencester to live at the 285-acre family farm at Woodchester, is chairman of Cirencester Rugby Club his three sons play there regularly. He coaches the U16 team and plays in the Clubs Saturday Third Team.

At Lister Communications, last year was the businesss best to date. A combination of luck we landed some good contracts, and a difficult economy which might actually benefit our business. After all, telephones are essential and businesses want continuity and reliability so most prefer an established dealer to a cheap Fred in a shed who cant provide the same level of service and may not be there tomorrow.

As someone once said, apparently in relation to rugby, Play hard and play fair. A sound summing up of Rob Lister, rugby player and successful Cotswold businessman.


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