Success has always been about a lot of hard work and a good attitude.
From an entrepreneurial family, XLN founder Christian Nellemann has proved himself adept at spotting opportunities across multiple industries.
Christian Nellemann had entrepreneurship in his blood. He came from a long line of Danish entrepreneurs who had run businesses and built them up over generations.
His instincts for business emerged even as a child. He would make Easter eggs and sell them in his father’s department store or take apples from the neighbours’ gardens and sell them back to them. At boarding school, he was selling candy to his classmates.
After studying Economics in Denmark, Christian moved to San Francisco to cut his sales teeth in the US. At the age of 22 he moved to the UK and started his first business in Mile End, selling perfumes. He built the operation up to 200 salespeople with a multi-million pound turnover, distributing across Europe.
Part of his success was drawing on the techniques he’d learned in the US, tweaking them for a UK audience. After perfume came office supplies, and then came the internet - where he co-founded and grew Euroffice.co.uk. However, Christian really made his mark when he founded XLN in 2002 – the first business to offer affordable phone and broadband services specifically to small businesses.
The opportunity came to him by chance. He was helping small businesses with their electricity bills when he realised many were also struggling with their telephone bills. Many simply weren’t getting access to the best deals. Since it was founded, XLN has saved more than 500,000 small businesses a combined £1 billion on a range of utilities.
In the process, Christian led an MBO in 2008 with Palatine Private Equity and again in 2010 when ECI acquired a majority stake in the company. In 2014 Christian bought back control of the company with support from GSO (part of Blackstone) who retain a minority stake in the company.
A two-time winner of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and an inductee into their Global Hall of Fame, he was also named BVCA CEO of the Year in 2015. Christian recently became the non-executive Chairman for Wifinity, an internet service provider supplying the defense, leisure, retail and education sectors.
For Christian, success has always been about “a lot of hard work and a good attitude. You need to be passionate and you need to have a lot of resilience: you run into a brick wall every day; you are putting out fires constantly. You have to be a good leader and able to communicate a vision. Often you’re starting with nothing and you have to be able to motivate people.”
He is also clear that business can’t just be about profit. It is important to be building something meaningful. “It’s about making a difference and helping your customers and the people who work with you.”
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