Exetel had a very good week over the past seven days with orders for almost all service types (with the exception of the previously very strong Business SHDSL services which was only an OK week) at or above 12 month highs. This would not normally be the case with school holidays and the uocoming ANZAC Day long weekend meaning that a lot of people take their last pre-winter breaks at this time of year.
It is always a minor irritation to me (the person responsible within our small company for 'planning') that I can seldom/never identify why these trends in order volumes by service type increase and decrease in the patterns that they do. In broad terms it's obvious why order flows are negatively affected in mid December to the first week of January and positively affected from the second week of January to the first week of March. Similarly with the weeks before and after Easter and the day before and after each public holiday. The school holiday periods also tend to knock off around ten percent of the order flows up to and immediately after those times.
We have embarked on a program of increasing our customer bases in several of our service types and I can see that these initiatives, which are in their very early days, are achieving some sort of success with our order volumes increasing by getting towards 20% compared to the 'normalised' volumes we plan for on a monthly basis. But last week was either the start of an amazingly pleasing steep upward trend generated from these initiatives or, as usual, by factors I haven't got a clue about.
The steep upward trends in SMS take up by business can easily be attributed to the efforts we have put in to promoting the SMS service to business prospects and, similarly, the even more dramatic increase in people taking up our VoIP service can be attributed to the removal of the minimum spend on the low end VoIP plansand the solid growth in the 'Naked' VoIP services - most of whom also opt for an Exetel VoIP service.
A more, completely, puzzling increase is the number of business customers taking up our 'added' services such as email, web site, domain and other hosting services. We have definitely done nothing different to that done since we started the Exetel business but the take up (and retention) of these services has almost doubled since the start of 2008.
Then there's the growth in ADSL1 services which, I suppose can be attributed to the various 'sweeties' added recently by raiding the promotional 'cookie jar' but if that's the case then those couple of initiatives have surpassed my wildest expectations for them. A 40% increase in order volumes versus the estimates for a 'quiet' week is too great to be put down to general fluctuation.
I'm not 'complaining' (far from it) but, one day, I'd like to be able to more accurately predict what the likely take up of new services is going to be rather than being constantly searching for what went right/wrong so more control could be exerted on what we do from day to day.
I will also make a start on doing the basic work on extending the Exetel business plan beyond June 30th 2009 over this weekend and that task is already difficult enough with so many unknowns in different marketplaces and product areas as it is.
I always try to take a relatively conservative view of future planning having been afflicted by the over optimistic planning of so many people in past 'lives' in meeting unrealistic targets set by uncaring and stupid people when I was younger.
A first cut at revenue in FY2010 which is staring me in the face at the moment is around $A100 million given the 'wishful thinking' plans to double the customer base over the coming two years. While I can see that could be aimed at I'm not at all comfortable with the assumptions that need to be made in the current environment.
The alternative 'macro' scenario that is being considered is to keep Exetel at the same/similar revenue levels as will be achieved in FY2008 and scale back the growth over the next two years to around 10% in terms of revenue for the coming two years.
It's always much easier to plan for such a low growth and it's also obviously easier to manage. Maybe it's the way to go while the various scenarios with FTTN and wire less data play out.
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