Latest News > Business Telephone Systems

  • Please Credit Picture:Keith Taylor


    A Stockton call handling company has benefited from a fresh new look as it prepares to expand its workforce after moving to a growing business park.

    Lemon Business Solutions, which provides 24/7 call centre solutions to clients in the UK and internationally, has relocated its 45-strong workforce to Odyssey Systems’ newly-established business park.

    As a result of the move, Lemon is hoping to increase its workforce by 20% to meet the demand of its growing clientele.

    Lesley Wratten, managing director of Lemon Business Solutions, said: “The new office space exemplifies exactly what our business is all about and has created a fresh, zesty work environment for our staff. We have experienced significant growth in recent years and these larger premises will allow us to gear up for further expansion.”

    “The IT infrastructure and connectivity in place was essential in forming our decision to relocate as we had simply maximised the space at our previous office and handle thousands of customer service calls every day. Our new, state-of-the-art call management centre will allow us to continue to deliver an excellent level of customer service to our clients and I am looking forward to what the future holds for Lemon.”

    Lemon Business Solutions’ relocation completes a hat-trick of new tenants for the business park following JBC Accountants and UK & Ireland SAP User Group.

    Odyssey Systems has invested in the complete refurbishment of the 20,000 sq. ft. business park for its tenants.   The site offers a comprehensive telecommunications service, which includes hosted telephony and a fully-synchronous, uncontended Ethernet connection, as well as fingerprint recognition software and increased security for tenants.

    Christine Gilbert, director of Odyssey Systems, said: “I am delighted to welcome Lemon to the business park and start a new chapter in our long-standing relationship.  Lemon is a longstanding Odyssey Systems customer and is well-aware of the excellent service we provide, which they will now also experience as a tenant of our business park.

    “Lesley and I have worked closely together on the creation of their new offices, which reflects their brand and personality as well as providing the high quality of telecoms technology they have become used to over the years from Odyssey Systems.”

  • Nick Lowther of Proactis with Mike Odysseas (right) of Odyssey Systems using video conferencing. Picture: Richard Doughty

    Odyssey Systems has upgraded PROACTIS’ communications system to support the company’s growing UK operations and improving its environmental impact and productivity.

    PROACTIS, a global Spend Control and eProcurement solution specialist, has invested in the installation of a leased line and video conferencing capabilities at its London and Wetherby offices to improve its interconnectivity and remove the need to travel to non-essential meetings.

    The company now has the option to hold virtual meetings between its UK and North American branches, which will not only save time but, significantly reduces costs incurred travelling to and from meetings.

    PROACTIS helps hundreds of organisations around the world to achieve greater bottom-line value by improving their operational and financial performance from how they buy and pay for all types of goods and services.

    Mike Odysseas, Managing Director at Odyssey Systems, said: “It’s important for growing businesses to ensure they maintain high quality customer service. By updating its communication system PROACTIS will be able to use its time in a much more effective manner.

    “Operating from multiple sites means that regular communication between each branch is vital. The new system will allow management to arrange regular video conference calls and provides a fully integrated internal communication system.”

    Nick Lowther, Director of Operations at PROACTIS, said: “With Odyssey Systems’ help we have been able to increase productivity across the board. Now that employees only occasionally attend meetings in person much more time is spent in the office, which allows us to maintain regular contact with clients without compromising on the quality of our service.”

  • Please Credit Picture:Keith Taylor

    Odyssey Systems, the Teesside-based telecommunications specialist, has completed one of its biggest projects to date, which included the creation of a 264,000 sq. ft. Wi-Fi zone at a factory in Chester-le-Street.

    Odyssey was appointed by Coveris Rigid UK to provide a portfolio of telecommunications solutions for the food packaging manufacturer’s Drum Park facility.

    Coveris Rigid, part of the worldwide Coveris group, which is owned by Sun Capital, acquired the Drum Park site last November after it has remained empty for a number of years.

    As part of the conversion of the building, Odyssey installed a 100MB lease line with microwave back-up, 100 IP telephony extensions, which are integrated with the company’s other UK and European sites, and 31 Kilometres of category 6 and fibre cabling.

    Central to the project was the need to create a whole-site roaming Wi-Fi network throughout the 18-metre tall factory, which would not only provide consistently strong Wi-Fi connections in office, manufacturing and warehouse locations, but enable operatives to move throughout the building using devices without losing connection to the network.

    The signal is transmitted through a network of Wi-Fi units, which have been strategically installed by Odyssey to ensure maximum coverage, with the connections handed over to the closest unit as operatives move through the facility.

    The system will be of particular benefit to Coveris’ logistics partner, Stiller Warehousing and Logistics, to enable its staff to interact with the company’s IT systems using mobile devices.

    The project was delivered to meet customer timescales over a five-day period by a team of 10 of Odyssey’s experienced, directly-employed engineers.

    Once the building is completed the company will begin producing its range of food packaging products and distribute in the region of 1.7 billion units per year from the site to locations across the UK.

    Mike Odysseas, Managing Director of Odyssey Systems, said: “We are very proud to have completed this significant project for Coveris, which not only demonstrated our ability to deliver jobs of this scale to very tight deadlines, it enabled our engineers to apply innovative solutions to meet our customer’s requirements.

    “The connectivity we have brought to the site will support Coveris’ productivity drive and enhance the interaction between the company and its logistics partner.”

    Ian Donal, Operations Manager and Drum Project Manager from Coveris Rigid UK, said: “Odyssey has played a key role in establishing the communication infrastructure at Drum Park and will enable our employees to maximise the use of technology to manage and operate our business.  The large Wi-Fi network will be of particular benefit to our operations as the consistency of its signal strength throughout the factory will support a wide range of technology-based systems designed to boost productivity.”

  • office move and fit out

    Continued growth at Odyssey Systems has led to the Tees Valley-based telecommunications technology specialist expanding into new premises.


    The move has been made possible after Odyssey Systems acquired the former Thirteen Group building opposite its current headquarters at Preston Farm, Stockton.


    The company is currently undertaking a significant refurbishment and fit-out of the building and plans to move in before the end of February.


    Odyssey Systems, which provides telecommunications and connectivity systems for business, has experienced strong growth in the past four years and has increased its workforce from 26 to 30.  As a result of the move into larger premises, Odyssey Systems aims to create a further six new jobs in the next three years.


    In addition to developing the top floor of the building for its own operations, Odyssey Systems has also refurbished a further 20,000 square feet to create new, fully-fitted offices for business tenants.


    The company is also utilising some the additional space to introduce a dedicated video conferencing suite and a technology demonstration area.  Odyssey is also creating a new stock and technology storage facility, which will hold the complete telecoms systems and replacement parts for both current and past models from its long-term technology partners Mitel, and LG.
    The new building will also enhance the company’s internet services to its clients.  Due to the building’s height and the installation of connectivity masts, Odyssey will increase the reach of its long-range microwave high speed leased line signals, which can extend to a range of 30km.


    Odyssey System’s new headquarters is the latest in a series of recent investments by the company, which has included the introduction of a new fleet of 12 branded Ford Connect vans.  It also recently achieved the ISO: 9001 accreditation, which highlights the company’s ongoing commitment to delivering exceptional levels of customer service.


    Mike Odysseas, Managing Director of Odyssey Systems, said: “We have enjoyed continual growth in recent years, which has facilitated the need for the new offices.  By building strong relationships with companies across the North East and establishing partnerships with technology partners such as Mitel, which has enabled Odyssey to work with larger business customers, we are in a strong position for the future.


    Mike added: “Expanding into these new premises has also enabled us to support the growth of other businesses.  The additional space we have created will be attractive to businesses, which will benefit from being located in this thriving part of Tees Valley and the infrastructure we have incorporated, such as hosted telephony and superfast internet speeds.”

  • mans hand on mouse at work

    Telecommunications specialist Mike Odysseas is warning North East businesses of an increase in targeted, sophisticated email fraud.

    His business, Stockton-based Odyssey Systems has experienced a spike in ‘socially-engineered fraud’ where scammers are using advanced methods to extract money from their victims.

    The company is now monitoring more than 200 emails per day within the million messages sent to its Internet Service Provider (ISP) business customers where fraudsters appear to adopt people’s email addresses and try to encourage financial transactions with the email account holder’s contacts.

    Common email fraud practices, known as phishing, aim to trick recipients into believing they know the person or company corresponding with them.  To prevent being caught by these scams, recipients can check the email address the message comes, which will reveal it has no connection to the supposed real sender.

    However, scammers are now utilising a new method, which actually mirrors real email addresses and make messages look genuine and, therefore, can also fool monitoring systems and programmes including Microsoft Outlook.

    Fraudsters are also researching the contacts the accounts they are mirroring and their contacts to make the emails more genuine and dupe unsuspecting victims.

    Odyssey Systems, which provides ISP services to hundreds of businesses across the North East, has identified this new practice and is employing new protocols within its automated email monitoring systems, including the ability to identify the fraudsters Internet Protocol (IP) address to capture these email before they reach their recipients

    Mike Odysseas, Managing Director of Odyssey Systems, said: “This kind of socially-engineered fraud is on the rise and people have to remain vigilant.  It means questioning any messages they receive about financial transactions, even if it looks like it’s from someone they know.

    “Fraudsters are relentless in their use of email as a way to illegally obtain money.  This latest method has the ability to not only trick recipients through a genuine looking message, but also fool computer programmes into thinking it has been generated by the real email address.

    “This could have serious financial implications for North East businesses and as a responsible Internet Service Provider we are continually creating new variables to prevent this horrendous practice from affecting our customers.”


    Please Credit Picture:Keith Taylor


    Odyssey Systems has quickly helped a Billingham-based logistics company back to its feet following the theft of copper cables, which disabled its entire communications system, severely interrupting operations.

    Devereux Transport, a long-standing customer of Odyssey, discovered it had been targeted by thieves and was unable to answer customer calls, access databases or maintain contact with its 120 Drivers.

    The thieves had cut through 2,400 individual cables and stole more than 70m of copper wiring. After getting in touch with Odyssey, engineers had installed a 4G system within two hours, which provided a quick and temporary solution that minimised downtime.

    This isn’t the first time Devereux has called upon Odyssey; previously, a tenant on the same industrial estate had accidently cut through a power cable, which brought other businesses in the area to a halt. Odyssey reacted by transferring calls to mobiles and using a portable generator to power Devereux’s internet infrastructure, avoiding any further disturbance.

    Borne from a business created by a 14-year-old, Devereux has become one of the UK’s leading transport and distribution businesses. It offers a comprehensive service tailored to meet the needs of a diverse client base.

    Mike Odysseas, managing director at Odyssey Systems, said “We were able to react quickly and assist Devereux at a time of crisis by using a temporary measure, which allowed operations to carry on as normal, until a permanent system was installed.

    “We pride ourselves on response time and understand how important business communications are – being a regional supplier gives us the ability to react swiftly and sets us apart from competitors”

    Chris Pickles, Commercial Manager at Devereux Transport, said: “With a fleet of more than 100 vehicles in operation, any time without communication has the potential to set us back, both in terms of time and money. As with any service sector business, we aim to deliver exceptional customer service, and had Odyssey not responded so effectively we would have potentially disappointed a number of customers.”

  • EMS (UK)


    Odyssey Systems has come to the rescue of County Durham-based EMS (UK) Ltd after being left without an operational telecommunications system for more than two weeks.

    EMS (UK) Ltd, the independent ambulance provider, expanded into a new facility toward the end of May, expecting a fully-functioning system to be in place upon arrival, as promised.

    However, the contractor, a national telecommunications provider, had failed to deliver – resulting in significant disruptions to the company’s regular business activities.

    For more than two weeks EMS (UK) Ltd had no option but to transfer calls to mobiles, which proved to be less than ideal. With no clear solution in place, they then called for help from Odyssey Systems.

    The Odyssey team got to work straight away, within two days they had solved the problem and restored full connectivity and installed a VoIP telephone system.

    EMS (UK) Ltd is one of the few independent, frontline ambulance providers that offer the services of highly qualified pre-hospital care personnel. Although based in the North East of England, it is a specialist in providing medical cover for all types of events throughout the country.

    Christine Gilbert, director at Odyssey Systems, said: “Service sector businesses need to be readily available to their clients, especially companies such as EMS that deal with extremely time sensitive situations.

    “The installation of the VoIP system will prevent further complications and ensure a reliable communication system moving forward.

    Mark Throw, general manager, at EMS (UK) Ltd, said: “The service delivered by Odyssey Systems was exceptional and without its intervention we may still be experiencing technical difficulties. They made light of a complex situation and provided us with regular updates on the situation.“


    Wear Referrals


    Odyssey Systems has overcome a notorious internet blackspot to help Wear Referrals treat injured animals at its new Sedgefield-based veterinary hospital.

    Wear Referrals’ facility is equipped with a range of advanced medical equipment to treat pets of all sizes, including an MRI scanner and digital x-ray, which consume large amounts of data whilst in operation.

    Under normal circumstances the Odyssey team would have prescribed the installation of a leased line, however, in this case it would have not been a cost-effective solution.

    After assessing a range of options, the Odyssey technicians installed stand-alone microwave mast dedicated to Wear Referrals, which provides internet speeds of up to 20mb – more than enough to simultaneously cope with the demands of the company’s medical equipment, and at a fraction of the cost of a leased line.

    Wear Referrals is a veterinary referral service for the North of England, conveniently located near the A1 in County Durham. It accepts referrals in orthopaedics, spinal surgery, soft tissue surgery and magnetic resonance imaging.

    Christine Gilbert, director at Odyssey Systems, said: “Wear Referrals’ high quality service provision is reliant upon technology that regularly uploads and downloads large files. The microwave link has provided a cost-effective solution that will effectively address the company’s need for a reliable internet connection.

    “At Odyssey we appreciate the fact that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This is why we often deliver bespoke systems in line with client requirements.”

    Stacy Burleigh, practice manager, said: “Opening a new hospital is very complex and time consuming, so it was important that we chose a company able to work around our schedule. Its engineers gave us regular updates throughout and completed the job at hand without causing any interruption.”

  • Official figures this week show that the UK economy has grown by 0.3% in the first 3 months of 2015, which is a slowdown from previous figures but still a positive sign overall for the economy. The figures are in some way reflective of business in general and the need to be reactive to the environment in which business operate.

    Odyssey Scalable Telephone Systens

    The key word for telecommunications in business in a fluctuating market has to be Scalability. Being able to add to and at times, reduce your current telecommunication requirements easily is crucial to any business activity.

    Traditional telephone systems operate using an onsite box that means handsets are “stuck” not just to the geographic location they are installed in, but also a specific port in your office. The telephone handsets are just dumb units. If your requirements grow past the original specification you’ll need an expensive onsite engineer with more complicated hardware modules to gain space. Don’t forget of course, all of this often takes a long time.

    Hosted telephone systems flip things around. The onsite box is completely removed and intelligent handsets register with their provider via the internet. Want to move desks? No problem, just move that handset to a different wall socket and its identity will follow. New team member? Your supplier can simply post you a new handset for self-install. Opening a completely new office at the opposite end of the country? Hosted allows all handsets to operate as part of the same telephone system regardless of their geographic location. Hosted telephony offers scalability and flexibility that simply is not possible with traditional phone systems.

    Businesses will always be reactive to the external market that they are trading in, but with the right communications partner to work with, scalability in either direction is not only possible, but easy.

    If you want more information on telelphone systems scalability contact us call us on 01642 661800 or email

    P.S. It’s important to remember that with hosted telephony systems your calls are transported over the internet. Make sure that you always use high quality business grade connectivity, preferably from the same provider!

  • Running a successful department or business has many contributing factors, one of which is the well being of employees and the massive impact they have on the customer experience and ultimately the profitability of the business.


    There has been a changing trend for companies to recognise that getting the work – life balance right for its employees, can have a positive impact on individual’s attitude and ultimately the overall productivity in the workforce.

    It is a legal right for employees to request flexible working, and giving employees the option to work from home is one of the ways in which telecommunications, in particular unified communications can produce a happy workforce.

    Being flexible to employees gives them a sense of well being and creates loyalty to the employer. From allowing the lone parent to work remotely when their child is ill, to the senior executive who travels the length of the country Monday to Friday time to return home Thursday night and to work on Friday catching up on emails and administration.

    Having a trusted telecommunication partner to deliver your unified communications or UC, as it is also known, is crucial  to making flexible working work well, as unified communications is more than just having broadband, landline and mobile. It incorporates real time connectivity, such as extension mobility, instant messaging and telepresence, such as audio and video conferencing.

    UC makes it possible to make and receive calls from a business telephone number, which in practical terms takes away the difficulty of locating a contact number for that employee by the caller. By having single number reach, you have one phone number to contact that employee wherever they may be; in the office, working remotely or in transit between the two.

    If unified communications is something that you are considering here is our guide for the essentials:


    Getting the infrastructure right is essential for seamless flexible working. Here are our top recommendations:

    Business specification broadband with minimum 3mbps download and 1 mbps uploads.

      • Separate to data broadband
      • FTTC or Leased line is the best option for main office usage
    • IP desk phones for the office and off site location.
    • Windows or mac, PC or laptop with internet enabled WIFI or 3g.
    • Android or IOS – 3G, 4G, or WIFI needed on Smartphone for internet connectivity.


    If you would like to find out more about unified communications, call us on 01642 661800 or email


  • Odyssey-Coles 5


    Telecommunications specialist Odyssey Systems has installed a state-of-the-art communications system for a North Yorkshire law firm, linking its branches across the county to Odyssey’s own dedicated data centre.

    Previously Coles Solicitors, which has nine offices from Yarm to York and from Beverley to Settle, had independent systems which communicated via the internet.

    Odyssey put in multi-Protocol Label Switching, MLPS, which allows the firm’s sites to operate on the same system and communicate with each other via secure broadband and a single firewall and with a single phone system across all the sites.

    Three telephone servers located at three different sites have been replaced and the system is now served from Odyssey’s data centre.

    Odyssey has worked with Coles for several years as the law firm has expanded and opened new offices.

    Coles Managing Director Peter Gibson said: “Instrumental to that growth has been the technology we have from Odyssey, which has enabled us to grow at the rate that we have because the systems they put in place for us enable us to have complete connectivity between each of our branches, so each branch is in effect, part of our main office.

    “We run our business as one business, even though we are in nine locations. Because a lot of what we do is communication, the broadband and communication for all of our telephony and IT have been a key and integral part of our business and I can’t imagine our business operating without Odyssey.

    “We speak to them on a daily basis about issues, problems and future developments. Inevitably there are issues and problems but it’s how they are dealt with and managed which is the real differentiator between Odyssey and AN Other provider. I can’t praise them highly enough.  ’’

    The new system will also make it easier for the firm to expand and open new offices with greater ease of connection to telecommunications.

    Odyssey Systems Sales Director Christine Gilbert said: “The installation of MLPS allows for a more secure and faster system with greater capacity. It provides access to our call recording software and allows remote management from our office in Stockton, giving the client a seamless and efficient service.’’

    Peter Gibson added: “We would not be where we are today as a business with our breadth of geographic spread had our telecoms been managed by a faceless national provider rather than by using a local, independently-owned operator. They know the continued success of their business depends on the continued success of my business making us partners in the same enterprise.”

  • Unified Communications, put simply, is the integration of real-time communication such as IP telephony and web or video conferencing with non real-time communication services like email, voicemail and SMS.

    man drawing a network

    The term doesn’t describe a single product, but an umbrella of products that provide a consistent unified user interface across multiple devices and media types.

    ‘Unified Communications’, or UC as it is often called, describes the technology that enables both data and messages to reach the recipient, as quickly and simply as possible.

    This means we are able to contact anyone, anywhere in the world, in real-time.

    What are the benefits of Unified Communications?

    A message from a variety of sources can be brought to a single source

    • One number can be assigned to a person, reaching their mobile device, home telephone or office telephone system, allowing calls to follow the individual or push/pull between devices without the need to disconnect and reconnect.
    • Voicemail-to-email sends a voicemail audio file to the recipient’s email address.
    • A downloadable client allows click-to-dial functionality which is commonly used with email software and any web browser.
    • In a disaster recovery situation calls can be redirected to any number allowing business continuity

    Unified Communication is a method of getting important information quickly, regardless of the situation. UC can result in increased productivity as well as customer and employee satisfaction.

    What should you be looking for in a unified communications provider?

    •  A business class dedicated internet connection
    • A solution that can be easily adapted with the change of business needs
    • Quality of Service (QoS)
    • A security solution so that both your network, and devices are covered
    • Emergency back up and disaster recovery so that communications are still accessible in any situation.

    At Odyssey Systems, we can design and install a unified communications solution based on the specific needs of your business, just as we did for one of our other clients, PROACTIS. If you are looking for us to do the same for you, speak to one of our experts on 01642 661800 or email us at

  • Heard any horror stories about SIP trunking and VoIP recently? We have. What at first looked like it was going to be the next big thing is now proving, for some, to be one to avoid. But what’s the truth behind all of the hype? Matt from Odyssey investigates…

    woman pressing a VoIP conference call telephone

    Firstly let’s go back to basics…

    SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and is basically a clever way of using your internet connection; it means you can use it for new and whizzy things including making and receiving phone calls. SIP Trunking allows companies to use the internet to communicate beyond their own internal network, and supports voice and video services such as VoIP.

    With the internet being as powerful as it is, VoIP was really the next logical move for telecoms. Named aptly, “Voice Over Internet Protocol” works on an essentially simple concept: telephone systems operate over the internet instead of, well, telephone lines. Despite earning itself a bad name.

    VoIP brings with it loads of slick new features and levels of convenience that a regular telephone line could only dream of. Firstly, the internet is a powerful tool and one that means we’re pretty much backed up where ever we are – VoIP systems are disaster-proof in the sense that, if your office building burned down, the only thing you’d need to restore your phone line is a decent internet connection. Now where would you possibly find one of those? Plus, it makes all of those tricky areas of work really easy and efficient, like working from home, or setting up big conference calls.

    Using the internet for phone calls removes a ton of barriers that usually stand in the way of communication. We can now speak to anyone, anywhere in the world, at a fraction of the cost. We can see which of our employees is talking to who right on the screen of our phone. It’s slick, it’s efficient and it’s definitely a step forward into the future of telecoms technology.

    This all sounds great – so why exactly does VoIP have such a bad rep? Let’s break it down. There are two potential issues with trunking for VoIP. Firstly, VoIp is usually sold as a cost saver, which means that it is used for both general internet usage and IP telephony; however, it should be sold as an enabler.  Having your phone lines on top of your normal internet usage places additional demands on your bandwidth – especially your upload bandwidth, and if provision hasn’t been made for that, you might find you reach the capacity of your network. 80% of small businesses use ADSL to connect to the internet, meaning that upload becomes a limited factor, and this is just not suitable.

    Man attaching network cable

    Secondly, if you hit that capacity, it means there will not be enough bandwidth to do what you’re asking. Typical issues with this are one way audio, broken audio, and even echo.  Meaning, that all familiar scenario – the internet has failed us and things grind to a halt. It’s a nightmare. With VoIP, this situation is made even worse due to the fact that your telephone systems go down too. Bad news for any business.

    You should always put in two broadband connections for the most efficient system. Don’t ever think about installing just one broadband connection as a failsafe, as mixing voice traffic with data traffic is a big no no. Implement two entirely different systems will ensure that you have a fully functional business telephone system.

    Too often we’re coming across VoIP installers who do not consider these two potential issues in setting up their client’s VoIP systems. The customers then go on to find it to be unreliable and even downright damaging. What’s worse, in order to fix the issues they are facing a whole load of unexpected extra cost in order to expand their bandwidth and possibly even introduce a second broadband line.

    The crux of the matter is: if VoIP is implemented correctly, and not in a haphazard way that neglects the issues discussed above, it can be a really empowering tool. For example, at Odyssey, when we install VoIP telephony, we do so on two separate connectivity, so that if one goes down, phones remain active. It’s all about seeing the system as something that will bring with it seriously advanced features, not one that is a cost-saving tool only.

    It may all seem a little daunting, but with the right expertise VoIP could be the perfect choice for your business. At Odyssey, we’re always advocates of the things that will truly help businesses in their mission to communicate, which is why we believe VoIP shouldn’t be written off. Give us a call to give it a chance – we’ll make sure you find out everything you need to know. Just be sure that we would never sell you this service as a money saver like most of our telecoms competitors, but as a system that will enable you to run your business as effectively as possible with no down time.

    For more information on our services, please give us a call on 01642 661800, or browse our business phone lines and calls page.

  • Odysseas

    Bryn Littleton meets Mike Odysseas, a man who has known the best, and the worst, of life in telecoms

    I’m late for my meeting with Mike Odysseas. It’s only by five minutes, but first impressions are important. My tardiness is down to the major roadworks in the centre of Stockton, a multi-million pound infrastructure project that will ease traffic congestion and open up quicker routes to and from the town’s Preston Farm business park. However, this particular morning it’s a log jam. Having successfully negotiated cones, ramps and traffic lights and arrived at Odyssey Systems, I’m relieved to discover Odysseas too is running late, as he’s just back from an emergency run for ice lollies for his entire workforce.

    “They’re the healthy option ones,” he states, quickly doling out iced treats around the office as I offer apologies.

    “Don’t worry about it. Was it the roadworks? Yeah, they’re a pain, but those works are so important for Stockton and will really benefit business in the town.” Mike Odysseas’ glass is always half full.

    An entrepreneur who over the past 25 years has built one of the region’s most successful telecommunications companies, Odysseas is as brutally honest about past business failures as he is about his commitment to his loyal workforce and further developing Odyssey Systems. He thinks fast, talks fast and, over the course of the interview, it is evident that he also acts fast, with his ability to spot an opportunity and act on it clearly key to his early ventures into the world of business. However, that business instinct is something that has been honed over the years. Odysseas’ first foray into the world of entrepreneurialism was, in his words, “an absolute disaster”. Stockton-raised, he moved to Preston as a teenager and was happily making a living as a waiter in his uncle’s restaurant when an unexpected phone call was to change his life.

    “I was the best waiter in the world,” laughs Odysseas. “I could run the restaurant from the front of house and I’d be looking after 160 customers on my own. And while I was obviously brilliant, the service was a complete joke! I couldn’t just make coffees for the two customers that had ordered them, I’d make them for the entire restaurant to save time, and by the time I’d finished making them all they’d be stone cold.

    “I really loved the job and didn’t have a care in the world then one day I took a call from a friend of my father’s. It was a chap called Joe Telford who asked me one question – “do you want to be a waiter for the rest of your life?”

    “It was just one simple question, but it really hit home. I was happy and enjoyed my life, but until that point my future wasn’t something that I had really thought too much about.”

    Telford, a teacher, worked with Odysseas to create a piece of software to provide online help for users of the early BBC Model B computers.

    “This was an unmitigated disaster!” says Odysseas. “People couldn’t get their heads around it. We were constantly asked “Why do I need this software? I have this enormous book that tells me what to do!”

    “These books were hundreds of pages thick, but people just weren’t ready for online help at the time and we lost a lot of money, but this provided my first real lesson in business – that the latest cutting edge technology is not always the answer.”

    Glass cases surround the boardroom table at Odyssey Systems containing telephones from the very earliest models to state-of-the-art touchscreen iPhones. The collection includes a selection of mobile devices, from “bricks” made famous by Michael Douglas in Wall Street to the first car phones, WAP phone technology right up to modern devices. It was the rise in popularity of car phones and mobile systems that was to set Odysseas back onto the entrepreneurial path and ultimately lead to the creation of Odyssey Systems.

    “After the software disaster I was broke. I literally did not have a penny and I bumped into a friend,” says Odysseas. “I had installed a car phone in this piece of junk Mazda I was driving and it immediately caught his eye. He said that he wanted one and out of instinct I told him I sold them. Of course I didn’t, I have no idea why I said that, but it was out before I had time to think about it.

    “He asked how much and I plucked the figure £1,500 from somewhere – I didn’t have a clue! I told him I could have it fitted in his car and we shook on it. Fortunately I found someone who could install it and that is how I started selling car phones and mobiles.”

    It wasn’t long before Odysseas had taken on a couple of employees and was operating from a base in Middlesbrough, but he was to soon realise that the rise of large mobile telephone retailers like Carphone Warehouse could spell the end of most independent traders.

    “I decided to concentrate on telephone systems and we began installing telephone switchboards, supplying cabling, providing call logging; anything the customer wanted, really.

    “And we developed our products; concentrating on providing excellent customer service, better pricing and clever features that would help our clients.”

    From Odyssey Systems’ Preston Farm Offices in Stockton, Odysseas’ 32 employees can constantly monitor customer service, with wall-mounted flat screens showing everything from the number of calls a client is making and receiving to their internet usage. They can pinpoint faults within seconds, switching clients to back-up systems so their telephony always remains online. Odysseas always employs at least two trainees in his team of 14 engineers.

    “Our trainees know that if they work hard and perform well we look after them.

    All our employees must have a personality; if you don’t have that we’re going to struggle to get along.

    “We also match our guys with the customer to ensure that they will get along.

    “If one of our clients wants to speak with me then I am available, anytime, anywhere.”

    Odysseas, who was raised in the Bowesfield Lane area of Stockton, is equally committed to the North East. The vast majority of his 1,500 clients are in the region, he says. “I believe in buying local. If local authorities purchased local the net effect would be three-fold. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen, but it would be a brilliant way to revitalise.



    Mike NECC