I have now been running a business for 35 years, from being a sole trader in a garage, to a limited company in a purpose-built workshops with 40 staff. So, I have a good understanding of the trials and tribulations of succeeding in an ever-changing world.
Is there something special about us that has allowed us to weather recessions, bad debts and myopic government policies?
I have the great honour to be a Royal Warrant Holder as Cabinetmaker to Her Majesty the Queen, there are over 800 other warrant holding companies covering sole traders to multi nationals. The vast majority are owner run specialist suppliers who are passionate about the excellence of their products and the well being of their staff. Achieving a Royal Warrant is an endorsement that comes after the establishment of the business and its principles. It is clear to me that the success of any venture is determined by the reasons for its existence and the guiding principles of its management.
It is usually fairly easy to identify a successful enterprise but possibly not so easy to quantify it? Profit is a good thing without it no business can flourish but is it the only measure of success, I guess if you’re an investor or a banker then probably yes. I would suggest though, that the relentless pursuit of profit and growth can be detrimental to the business, it’s staff and the community.
If I had decided on whether to continue in business purely based on financial performance, I would have closed down in 2008 after a large customer collapsed owing us a very large sum of money. 10 years later we have double the staff and finished a massive investment in premises and equipment. In that ten years we have supported charities, our local community, given young people a place to start their careers, given older disenchanted workers a new lease of life, channelled millions of pounds into the local economy and our supply chain, supported new businesses started by ex-employees and provided support and expertise to national trade and skills bodies.
In that 10 years we have had years that have been very good and very bad even having to post a loss one year when a client cancelled a huge project without notice. What has allowed us to do this? A willingness to risk everything, a refusal to give in, a passion for design and manufacturing and a team that know doing the right thing will be supported irrespective of the cost.
The blind pursuit of money usually leads to the exploitation of others, usually the most vulnerable, with the beneficiaries steadfastly refusing to see the consequences behind walls of privilege. As a business owner your first responsibility is not to yourself but to those your business affects.