Sometimes in business, we fail to appreciate that the experience we are picking up in the present can be vital to our future aspirations. In the case of Andrew Salmon, the former CEO of price comparison giant uSwitch, in his previous roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers and EDF Energy, he was being perfectly prepared for the influential role he was to take up.
Andrew Salmon was pivotal to the success of uSwitch, which rose from the ashes of the dotcom explosion in the late 1990s to be seen as a leader in the price comparison market for gas and electricity. It did this by taking advantage of deregulation laws and allowing consumers to save money on their energy bills by finding better deals and switching suppliers more easily.
It was a formula which was copied by many other websites, and actually served as a spark to revitalise competition in the energy sector, with suppliers launching new special offers and discounts in a bid to win over customers. The uSwitch idea has also since been exported further afield to emerging markets such as Turkey and Brazil.
Under Andrew Salmon’s stewardship, alongside fellow backers – including the likes of George Milford Haven, cousin of the Queen, and US industrialist Vipul Amin – uSwitch was taken to a market leading position and sold to the US media giant EW Scripps for £210m.
A route to the big time
But how had Andrew Salmon’s career prior to uSwitch prepared him to take the reigns of the organisation? His education hinted at his career path – Salmon studied Economics at the University of Plymouth followed by a Masters in Finance and Investment from the University of York.
And there is no doubt that his earlier role as a corporate financier for PricewaterhouseCoopers gave him a solid grounding in financial aspects of big business. This would serve him well when it came to the uSwitch sale process itself, in which Andrew Salmon was a central figure.
Full of ideas at EDF
Another position taken up by Andrew Salmon, at EDF Energy, sewed the seeds for uSwitch and the way in which it was able to fill a gap in the UK market. Before he was 30 years old, he already filled a senior position at the firm, and it was there that he began to discover new ways of selling energy products to customers. This was the dawn of an era which saw an end to door to door sales and other ‘hard’ selling techniques which had become outdated.
From there, Andrew Salmon formed an alliance with George Milford Haven and co, and uSwitch was to come to prominence. Salmon led uSwitch for eight years, and was instrumental in the steady rise of the business. His networking skills were in evidence as he created a group of backers made up of high net worth individuals which could provide the company with the stability it needed.
A valuable resource
He made uSwitch the modern day energy information centre, with customers able to shop around for the best energy, personal finance and communications products. They weren’t only restricted to the internet, and could also make use of the uSwitch telephone service in their search for the best deal. uSwitch used price comparison calculators to work out the very best contract for consumers based on factors such as their location and price.
And it proved a winner with suppliers too, as they now had an extra channel through which to sell their services – it didn’t cost as much as some direct marketing techniques, and was seen as a win-win.
His career, just like the trajectory of uSwitch, was continually on the rise. The path he took underlined the importance of gaining the right experience and not being afraid to put forward bold new ideas.