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Liam Patterson – ‘Programming’

I started my employment at CheaperGroup as an Apprentice in the IT Department. It was a tough year balancing both my college assignments and tasks at work but I have been able to learn a massive amount in such a short time so it was well worth the effort.

I had previously spent 2 years at college gaining a level 3 IT qualification but I was unable to secure an IT focused position and instead spent 2 years working various Admin jobs in the Public Sector, but my ultimate goal has always been to find an IT focused role.

When I joined I was primarily working for CheaperWaste, helping the IT Manager Matt with various tasks, from data management to developing systems for our CRM used by the entire company. There was a lot to learn, not only about the company but the waste industry as a whole; I had no idea there was so much to it – luckily for me the team has made it very easy to understand the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of it all.

The biggest hurdle I have had to overcome while working here was gaining a good understanding for programming concepts and how to use them in a real working environment. I have had some experience in the past making websites using HTML/CSS and have written a few basic programs in Visual Basic but I have had to learn a whole set of new languages to create systems for CheaperGroup. The main language I am focusing on now is JavaScript which is perfect since a lot of our systems are web based and JavaScript can be used in many ways to create all kinds of powerful applications. My biggest accomplishment so far is putting together an internal system to track job requests between staff members which is able to send email alerts between all relevant people, making it easy to track tasks that are in progress around the entire company. I have also implemented a system that is used to track allowances and handle requests for annual leave for the whole company.

As you can probably tell, my role is mainly centred around writing code, and I believe it is quickly becoming an essential skill to anyone working in IT as there are near unlimited uses for it. For example we are able to automate processes that would take a human hours to complete, all by writing a few (or a few thousand) lines of code. Matt, the IT Manager, and myself are also attending an event in London next month which is centred around one of our core systems used at CheaperGroup, which will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the platform we develop on and should hopefully give us a few good ideas to bring back and use in our own systems.

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“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” – Tim Notke

I didn’t go on to further education. With hindsight, would I have done? Maybe. Once I left school I went straight into work; £20 a day collecting donation bags for a charity whilst hanging out the side of a white transit van. It wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs but I worked hard and took home my money, and back then I had no bills so it was gloriously wasted on new clothes, shoes and other things I didn’t particularly need.

I then found my calling – people. The majority of the rest of my working life has been spent in customer facing roles in the retail industry selling mobile phones, cameras and jewellery. More recently I worked door-to-door fundraising for national charities.

Jobs like this have always excited me – after all I am a people person – and I am in my element when I can have a conversation with somebody. I enjoy finding out more about them, offering a solution, and closing a sale where the customer and I are both happy.

I have learnt that it pays to build a rapport. If you develop a relationship and create trust, that’s when customers remain loyal to your company and that’s what customer service, in my eyes, is all about. In the past there have been many times I have received a warm handshake or a return visit to say thank you from people who I’ve built a friendship with, which essentially leads to further business from these loyal customers.

Though jobs like this are highly KPI driven there is no need to ignore the needs and wants of people, and despite focussing on targets it has never stopped me putting the customer first.

I think what I enjoy the most about the role is the diversity of people, as not one person I speak to is the same, each with different mannerisms, interests, and lifestyles, meaning everybody wants something different. It is exciting exploring their different needs and matching it to a product or service I can offer.

Now I find myself as the Customer Retentions Manager at CheaperGroup. I’ve been here two weeks now and so far I feel like I’m settling in well, despite it being a new role to me (I’m generally in front of the customer not on the other side of a phone). The job has been exciting, educational and interesting, and these are the main factors I look for in a job.

A large part of my role is exploring customers’ needs – it’s a great feeling working together with the rest of our team, the suppliers, and the customer to explore what they need and provide that service to the best of my ability.

I have had numerous phone calls and incoming/outgoing emails, and the diversity of people is still evident. No two people are the same; some prefer a more formal approach, some are more than happy to chat about their weekend for a little while before looking into resolving their issue or query.

I guess the reason behind the title quote, is although I have no university qualifications (despite a couple of NVQ’s I have picked up through work) I have worked extremely hard in every role and it’s always been recognized. I’ve never enjoyed ‘standing still’ in a job; I am forever looking to move forward and sometimes throwing yourself into your work and looking to constantly improve is better than feeling like you know everything and doing the bare minimum.

With this in mind CheaperGroup feels like more than just a job. It feels like a strong career move.  With the company growing rapidly, I’m excited to be part of its expansion and personally progress alongside it. With a wealth of customer service experience already and the desire to constantly improve, I know this position, and this company, will help me further develop, and I’ll be doing so with what seems to be a diverse team. We have people from different backgrounds with different interests and lifestyles, all working together towards the shared goal of the development and progression of the company, and I feel so privileged to be a part of it.

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The Launch of CheaperPay

I come from relatively humble beginnings as a salesman, and my employment experience is layered with marketing and promotions. My career to date has afforded me a broad and integrated perspective on sales and marketing, including elements of design, development and the implementation of programs and activities; I am no stranger to the creative aspects of launching a business. From my early days as an events manger to my new founding role at CheaperPay, I have a proven ability to identify, nurture and deliver a business’s requirements for growth.  My career path has been driven by my desire to adapt and learn, and now sees me advance to my position as one of the Directors at CheaperPay.

My first position within the payment industry was with Jonathan Atkins, the area manager for Handepay Merchant Services. It was under his tuition that I gained my first exposure to the industry, and it was thanks to him that I acquired so much knowledge so quickly. During my employment with Handepay, I successfully completed my WorldPay Accreditation exam, which then permitted me to join the field as a sales consultant. As I reflect on my time at Handepay, I am thankful for the exposure, professional wisdom, attention to process detail and the fine-tuned sales approach that I witnessed in my time there.

I was flattered and excited when James Jukes (founder of CheaperGroup and other successful companies) came to me with the opportunity to start an Independent Sales Organisation within the card payment industry.  I knew that it would entail a long road, personal sacrifice and hard work, but with a shared vision and agreed direction, I was motivated to make it happen.

I was welcomed by a wonderfully vibrant, ambitious and dedicated group of people when I arrived at CheaperGroup. It was obvious from the outset that James and co-Director Lucas Borthwick have built up a portfolio of thousands of customers so rapidly for good reason. My time here thus far has shown me that there is never a dull day working out of this office, as we share ideas, knowledge and experiences with one another. I was also lucky enough to join CheaperGroup just as they took over their 2,500 square feet of brand new offices on Collingwood Street in the heart of Newcastle. This bigger and better headquarters is a sign of the company’s growth from strength to strength.

Setting up an ISO within this sector certainly has its barriers to entry. As you may expect in the financial services industry, everything is heavily regulated. After much groundwork, we secured a partnership agreement with Allied Irish Bank Merchant Services (AIBMS) and finalised an agreement with a third party terminal supplier (Global Payment Solutions), a move that very quickly made CheaperPay a reality rather than just an idea. This inception period has been a very exciting time as we prepare to go ‘live’ and begin trading.

Our plans for the direction, development and sustained growth of CheaperPay have been clear from the start. We each understand that we want to create a broad portfolio of clients and be in a position where we own our customer contracts, ultimately taking us from an ISO to a fully fledged PI (Payment Institution). Taking the major step from ISO to PI has certain criteria that must be adhered too, such as formal approval from the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and other government bodies that monitor and regulate PI’s in the United Kingdom.

This is an exciting time for myself personally and another great expansion for the CheaperGroup, which I look forward to reporting back on as we grow into the market. Thanks for reading and please follow me on social media.