Mark Burland and Steve Payne

Mark Burland and Steve Payne of First Class Comms

A pioneering South West telecoms reseller has marked a decade in business by setting a UK precedent, becoming the first in its industry to achieve B Corp status.

Staff at First Class Comms in Weston-super-Mare have spent the past 12 months on a journey towards the certification which assesses the governance, employment standards, community outreach, environmental values and customer service levels of a business.

Fewer than 1,500 companies in the UK have achieved B Corp status – the gold standard certification for businesses making a positive impact on their various stakeholders.

Now First Class Comms, which started life as a one-person, home office business in 2013, has become the first of its kind in the country to achieve the award.

The company provides telephony, mobile phones and contracts, and broadband and internet services to some 300 clients, the majority of which have their head offices in the South West.

“Becoming B Corp certified is a great achievement for the company,” said FCC founder and managing director Mark Burland. “Fortunately we had already incorporated many of the values into our business practices, particularly in terms of our management of staff and our customer services.

“The challenge for a small company like us is to formalise those values into coherent policies which can then be assessed, so it’s been a time-consuming process. But we’re delighted to have our achievements recognised.

“We believe our customer service and corporate values are inextricably linked – you can’t have one without the other. So hopefully this badge of honour will be recognised and appreciated by the people we want to do business with, including current customers and those we seek out as we look to grow the company further.”

FCC moved into new offices in Weston-super-Mare in 2021 and, 10 years after incorporation, now employs seven staff with a forecast turnover for 2023/24 of £1.75m. Staff include business analyst Steve Payne, who was largely responsible for FCC’s B Corp accreditation process.

This year will be the company’s most successful to date – double-digit turnover growth after two years of flatlining during the pandemic, with revenue up by 25% and EBITDA up by a third.

Customers range across business sectors and include widely recognised businesses such as Bristol Airport, café chain Boston Tea Party and food services firm FSC Group.

Mr Burland said: “Throughout our client relationships, our personal approach and determination to understand business challenges help us articulate the benefits of their various options, finding best solutions for the most important parties – our clients.

“To facilitate that, we have invested heavily in supporting mobile services, creating cost alerts for every single customer so that their unbilled data usage and billing is transparent and well-communicated.

“It’s an example of us proactively helping our clients control costs, prioritising their performance over our immediate profits. The result is a return on investment through customer loyalty and our enhanced reputation.”

Based on its B Impact assessment, First Class Comms earned an overall B Corp score of 89.3. The median score for ordinary businesses who complete the assessment is currently 50.9, with a score of 80 qualifying the business for B Corp Certification.

Andy Hawkins from Business on Purpose, who guided FCC on their B Corp journey, said: “Huge congratulations are due to the team at FCC. The amazing Steve Payne did a brilliant job of leading things and it’s been a pleasure to support everyone involved. Let’s hope this inspires many other comms team to have a go. I think it’s one of the most inspiring and educational processes any company can go through.”