Free beans help Plusnet bring home the bacon

Paula Smith, Financial Director at Plusnet. Picture: Chris Etchells
Paula Smith, Financial Director at Plusnet. Picture: Chris Etchells

Beans - not Bacon - helped Sheffield-based Plusnet serve up record financial results, again.

The internet services provider now has beans on the extensive free menu in its cafe - one of a huge range of perks - after so many requests from staff that bosses dubbed it ‘beangate’.

Demand for the humble pulse is in keeping with the firm’s image - fronted by Yorkshireman ‘Plusnet Joe’ in television ads - in contrast to Hollywood A-lister Kevin Bacon, who does the honours for EE.

It helped the firm post a £20m rise in gross profit to a record £148.2m in the year to April, up from £127.4m in the 12 months previous.

Turnover was up 17 per cent to £312.8m, while staff increased from 1,183 to 1,351.

Profits were dented by an £800,000 fine in March for charging people after they had cancelled. The company also paid £12.3m in tax, which left a profit for the financial year of £48.3m.

But while Yorkshire is in its DNA, customers are spread across the country, according to financial director Paula Smith, with undisclosed numbers increasing by 11 per cent on last year.

Ms Smith said she was “thrilled” with the figures, the challenge now was to maintain the firm’s culture as it grew, while keeping staff happy.

In a survey, 68 per cent felt ‘engaged,’ a figure she said “wasn’t good enough,” although it was similar to the previous year.

“If free beans are the issue it shows we are getting a lot right. What’s more important is it shows we act on things that have been said.

“And when you look at how much the company has grown, to maintain that engagement is encouraging.

“These results haven’t come easily, they’re through the continued efforts of everyone. I’m optimistic about the future, the strategy is about keeping what’s important within the culture at Plusnet.”

Plusnet Mobile, launched in November last year, had exceeded expectations and was pivotal to the firm’s growth plans.

The firm was also comfortable with its brand.

Paula added: “People recognise Plusnet as a Yorkshire brand and everyone likes Yorkshire.”

And recruitment woes - which led to the extensive perks package - had been eased after it was brought in-house.

“We know best who we want and we have definitely seen an improvement in attrition rates.

“We certainly don’t think we have exhausted Sheffield. There is a lot of talent we can attract, the universities are a great benefit for us for agents, engineers and in sectors including finance.”

Another cost was keeping up with new technology.

She added: “We’ve got to ensure we keep investing in products.”

Plusnet is wholly owned by BT. Headquarters are in the Balance office block on Trippet Lane, Sheffield. It also has a base in Leeds.