Australia’s largest independently owned and fastest-growing telco, MATE, has incorporated the Australian cultural idiom of mateship in the way it treats employees as well as customers. Embodying a code of conduct that emphasises equality, loyalty, and friendship, mateship is embedded in Australian history and culture.
From its founding in 2016 the company now has over 100,000 customers and is continuing with its exceptional growth. CXFocus editor, Mark Atterby, talks to Mark Fazio, co-CEO and founder of MATE, about their success in growing the business as well as their novel approach to employee and customer experience.
Mark Atterby (MA): Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time for this interview. Can you please describe your career background?
Mark Fazio (MF): Since 1999, I’ve been working in the tech and telecommunications space across a variety of sales and marketing roles. My first job was selling mobile phones. Then I went on to work for Australia’s first consumer VoIP company, then Blackberry, 20th Century Fox and spent seven-plus years at Microsoft across a range of product categories. I moved to Singapore to manage channel marketing for Microsoft across Asia. I started MATE with my twin brother, David, while I was working in Singapore in my spare time. When it started to take off, I came back to Australia and committed to MATE full-time.
MA: What inspired you to launch Mate? What did you see missing in the telecommunications market or where current players were lacking?
MF: We saw there was an opportunity as the NBN was becoming available across Australia. We also realised there was a better way to engage customers and employees in building a business.
Most telcos try to lock customers into contracts that they don’t understand. They also offshored all of their customer service, so when people ring in and need support, they frequently deal with staff who don’t understand the issues the customer is trying to communicate. When we started MATE, we wanted to go against this and for our customers to love us.
So, aside from family, who are the people you love? Your mates. So hence we decided to name the business MATE. We wanted our customers to be mates.
My brother and I started the business in 2016 with a laptop in my Aunty’s backyard. Two years later, lo and behold, we had 30,000 customers and 19 staff. We entered into the Deloitte Tech Fast 50 award that ranks the fastest-growing technology companies in Australia. We came second behind Afterpay. A clear sign that this thing was really working. In 2019 we moved out of our Aunty’s backyard into proper offices.
We now have over 100,000 customers and employ over 100 staff.
MA: The concept of mateship also extends to your employees and the type of work culture you maintain. How critical has this been to your growth and success?
MF: If I look at the key ingredients to our success it’s about having the right people and the right culture in place. Starting any successful business, particularly a fast-growing startup, is about how you manage chaos. Things can change so dramatically and so quickly that you really need people who can adapt to that change. And these people need to be supported by a culture that supports and empowers them. That’s where mateship comes in. Mateship is about having someone else’s back, ensuring you are all there to support each other. Having such a culture builds a team that can do anything or meet any challenge.
Customers and our people are at the heart of everything we do. Customer-centricity and employee happiness are our top priorities. Happy employees mean happy customers, which, in turn, mean loyal advocates of the brand. We think of ourselves as a customer happiness business. Telco services are the products we just happen to sell.
We started in my Aunt’s backyard, so we also try to encourage a sense of family among our employees. When people come to work how do we give them the most positive experience we can and make them feel like they’re supported and that they’ve got everything they need to be able to do their job right? That’s something we really focus on every day.
MA: What are your plans for the future?
MF: I’m really inspired by Virgin, a company and a brand that originally started by selling records but now operates across a range of industries. Once you have built loyalty for a brand you can put that brand against any type of service and it’ll gain traction. We’ve started with the Internet and mobile phones as our core products, but we’re looking at other products that we want to bring to market that complement those things.
We have high ambitions for growth over the next 24 months. We want to double the size of the business and we’re fairly confident that we can. We have the right people and culture in place, the right platforms and systems, the right partners to work with and the right foundations. If you look at our space, every company has been bought by somebody else. We’re still privately owned and we’re still growing organically. We’ll just keep going the way we’re going because it’s working.
MATE’s Growth Figures
- 2016, 1,214 customers and $579,000 revenue;
- 2017, 14,522 customers and $6.9 million revenue;
- 2018, 35,756 customers and $30 million in revenue;
- 2019, customers experienced continued rapid growth in both customers and revenue;
- 2020 – Covid drove a huge uplift in services which was due to us having an Australian based call-centre and operations could continue (from home) vs our competitors – 185% growth.
- 2021 – Once we started to get back to our new normal and people started to venture out. The team still saw a 125% YoY growth.
- 2022 – being back to normal and after the back of 2 covid years, we still grew 103%.