By Scott Wright

IN football parlance, Steve Langmead thought he had hung up his boots as a senior company executive when the opportunity arose to lead Commsworld, the Edinburgh-based telecoms connectivity specialist, nearly two years ago.

Having held leadership roles at such major companies as Atos and Capita in Scotland, as well as, over a 25-year period, Mr Langmead had settled into the non-executive phase of his career. Indeed, he had been on the board in that capacity at Commsworld since 2018.

However, when the chance came to take the helm at the company when founder Ricky Nicol decided to step down in January 2021, the temptation proved too strong to resist.

“I had kind of stopped doing executive positions more than 10 years ago and was doing non-exec [roles],” said Mr Langmead, a technology specialist who graduated from University of Aberdeen with a degree in computer science.

“Then I was persuaded to become an exec in Commsworld. It was not in my career plan – I thought I had finished. But I am quite enjoying it. Ricky persuaded me to put my boots back on.”

Given the upward trajectory the company has maintained since, Mr Langmead’s decision to get back on the field has been more than vindicated.

Commsworld is on course to turn over £30 million in its current financial year, having been around £20m when Mr Nicol – who remains on the board as vice-chairman – vacated the hot-seat. And Mr Langmead reckons there is still plenty of runway of growth open to the firm – on both sides of the Border.

“We are continuing to grow, and we are growing at a decent speed,” he said. “We will be over £30m this year. When Ricky moved on it was around £20m, so it will be more than 50 per cent top-line growth in two years.”

Commsworld, which Mr Nicol founded around 30 years ago, provides a “one-stop-shop” for telecommunications connectivity, doing everything from digging up roads and laying cable to connecting business premises to the internet.

Customers range from large local authorities, such as North Lanarkshire Council, to around 2,000 firms in the commercial sector. “We think our model differentiates us,” Mr Langmead said.

The North Lanarkshire deal is currently seeing the firm laying

cable across the region, improving connectivity for people and businesses across the area. It follows similar deals in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Renfrewshire.

Ultimately, the aim is to have public access wi-fi in the major urban centres of North Lanarkshire.

“We will be ready to do it, but it is up to the council, exactly how it deploys

it and what it wants to make available,” Mr Langmead said. “It will have the ability to do it, if it wants it.”

Asked to sum up general levels of digital connectivity across Scotland, which critics point out is lacking in rural areas, Mr Langmead said: “It is like that across the UK. There is a lot of work going into doing it, there is a lot of investment coming into the market now. The Government has managed to stimulate a lot of inward investment.

I don’t think it was good when it was just Openreach because you need more providers.

“That competition is now there. There are now more people putting fibre in the ground, so things are improving.

“But obviously geography has an effect. It is more difficult to connect people with difficult-to-get-to properties. I think the Government is trying hard to stimulate it and to get everybody to expand out into the most rural areas. It is making progress but it is going to take several years.

“Some of these digs are big, long digs. You have got to dig a lot of fibre over a lot of distance to get to these areas.

It is not an easy task but there is a lot on the go. You can see it is a focus for the UK and Scottish governments. I know it is a strain for people, but things are getting better.”

The company now has a “significant” number of customers in the commercial sector in England, which it aims to grow. It is also expanding

its presence in the public sector, including in the sphere of education. Commsworld recently started working with Northampton University and is bidding for other major public sector contracts south of the Border.

Asked how the company, which has 150 employees, was dealing with cost inflation, Mr Langmead said prices are rising across its supply chain.

But he said the firm is “managing to cope”, adding that it was “not going

to cause a major impact” on Commsworld.

The outbreak of the war in Ukraine did necessitate some adjustment, as some suppliers bought bitumen, which is used for restoring roads and pavements, in Ukraine.

“It has worked out quite well,” Mr Langmead said. “We have ended up working with more UK [companies] who supply end to end.

“There is a company called Emtelle in the Borders that are providing a lot of our fibre, which is good. It is keeping the money local.”


What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?
I have fond memories of working in Barcelona, because you can mix real business focus with a very relaxed pace of life.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?
I wanted to be an archaeologist, while my second choice was an architect. I used to say this was influenced by Indiana Jones – but now I am not sure if I just didn’t read beyond A on the list of jobs.
What was your biggest break in business?
Being seconded from Atos to be the chief executive  of when I was only 31 years old.

What was your worst moment in business?
I don’t dwell on the worst moments, but I do hate losing any large deal – and there have been four of these.

Who do you most admire and why?
Everyone who beats the odds. Being dyslexic myself, I love supporting young people with challenges so they can make the most of their opportunities.
What book are you reading and what music are you 
listening to?
I’m reading Conn Iggulden’s Wolf Of The Plains. I love a novel based on historical facts.

My musical tastes 
are broad, but at the moment I particularly enjoy listening to strong female voices such as Pink, Heather Small and Beyonce.