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Business started above a garage marks 10 years

A 24/7 call management company that started above a garage and now counts major national companies among its clients is marking ten successful years in business.

Lemon Business Solutions, which is based in Stockton, is starting its second decade by continuing its year on year growth and recruiting more staff.

Founders Lesley Wratten and Martin Anderson, who are members of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, launched the 24-hour business after Lesley was made redundant from an alarms company and Martin was working as a network operations centre engineer at Comcast.

Lesley explained: “We started in a room above my mum’s garage. I used to go in on a Friday and not leave until Tuesday. There was a bed, and I even had Christmas dinner brought up one year. Martin would do late shifts after work, and my sister covered a couple of nights for us.

“We were 24-hours from day one. We always wanted to answer the phones from an office, rather than have calls diverted to a mobile, which would have made a mockery of the service we were offering.”

Lemon provides call management services for clients who do not have the capacity or skills in house to answer the telephone 24/7, 365 days a year.

Martin explained: “The majority of our business starts when everyone else goes home.

“In the beginning we imagined we would be a virtual reception taking messages for small businesses. In fact we got our first national client within three months and now provide a bespoke service for clients of all sizes across a variety of sectors.”

Lemon handles 2,000 calls a day for customers including facilities maintenance clients, national engineering organisations and an international law firm, as well as smaller businesses.

The company, which moved from the garage to premises on Preston Farm Business Park in 2004 and, five years later, to a bigger office on the estate, employs 35 people.

Lesley added: “Businesses aren’t always aware that services like ours exist, which is partly due to us having to be discreet for our existing clients. All our staff are trained to deal with different clients’ calls in a bespoke way and we even offer very specific customer service solutions in situations of crisis management.

“Every call we get is about an issue that’s affecting someone’s life. Our staff are real people who listen, connect with customers and have a real conversation with them.”

Martin said continually improving the service and standards was key to growth, signified by its investment in Operation Zest, a training programme making Lemon an ambassador for customer service and its staff leaders in the field.

“We’ve found that by focusing on excellence, continuing to invest in technology and cultivating a positive working environment for our team we have grown by 15 per cent every year,” Martin explained.

“We think it sends a strong message to other businesses that from basic beginnings, with hard work and a focus on quality, you can attract a healthy and valued portfolio of clients, including large national and international organisations.”

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