Reflections of 2014

A year ago Hazel and I sat in the Marriot Hotel in Panjim, Goa, on a winter break overlooking the Mandovi River and talked about goals and aspirations for both our business and personal lives for 2014. We find Christmas and a New Year a great time to look at what’s been achieved and look forward to the next 12 months.

As we sat with our latte’s watching people taking boat rides out to see the dolphins in the bay and enjoyed the sun on our faces, we made a list of the main points for 2014. After whittling them down we came up with two main priorities,

1. Open up the business in the Yorkshire region, and
2. Move to a more suitable house.

Of course both of these would require quite a substantial amount of planning, organisation, strategy and of course, finance.
It had always been our plan to open up our area of operation and push in to areas where there is a lot more opportunity for growth and also I personally was becoming a little restless as the North East business was being run brilliantly by our Operations and Sales teams and this was leaving me with less and less to get my teeth into. Hazel was always going to busy with the administration side of the company but, to be honest, I was getting bored. I’m the type that needs challenges and has to be contributing to feel a sense of satisfaction in what I do.

So, we looked at offices, lock up facilities in Leeds and I spoke to several people who had expanded their businesses to get an idea of the scale and requirements needed to push open the borders and move further afield. Costs, or rather avoiding them, would be extremely important in a new venture so we decided that in the early stages, we’d run everything, administration wise, from our Newcastle office at home. We’d need sales, marketing and operations to be based in Yorkshire and put in the communications to enable that. Our ‘system’ works well and simply needed to be expanded and implemented a little further south.

Getting the right people would be a real challenge and after some ‘tweaking’ we now have the start of an excellent team covering the new region. I’m always astounded and amazed with the quality of people who want to come and work for our family business. I feel privileged when people with huge experiences of working for well known brands, in secure jobs, decide to come and share their knowledge and give their time to help us achieve marvellous things. Yes, of course they are paid for this but isn’t it just awesome that brilliant people WANT to come and help? It’s a bit like when I was asking fellow business owners for their experiences and advice on how best set up a new business in another area and they did so enthusiastically and without reward, apart a few coffees!

With the increase in staff and additional pressure on administration and space we needed to look for a new house with enough office and storage to cope with the continued expansion in the North East and Yorkshire. Well, just this week we’ve completed on a move to a lovely house in Fenham. Apart from making Hazel extremely happy, there is a huge amount of storage space which even includes a large cellar which will be used to store personnel records and old accounts etc which really do use up large amounts of space. The move in should happen before the end of January as we need to have telephone lines, internet, improved lighting and some building work done before we relocate from our Jesmond base. It’s going to be a very busy start to 2015.

Of course we learned quite a few lessons during 2014, some good and some bad. New additions to the team have certainly added to the professionalism and culture of how we do things and it’s always great to get new blood in to learn from. We’ve grown every year since we formed in 2003 and 2014 was no different with steady, controlled expansion especially in our new Yorkshire region. That did bring one of the ‘bad’ experiences for us as we mistakenly took on a contract in Derbyshire and immediately suffered as we were simply not close enough to respond quickly to staff issues and the resultant problems with sickness and other absence. To be honest, it was just too far away to be able to manage to the standards we pride ourselves in and we’ve learned from that.

As we all hurtle towards the New Year we thought that it would be slowing down a little but we’ve been surprised that sales enquiries are still coming through, resulting in new contracts starting at the end of December and in the first weeks of January. The consequence is that we’re recruiting new Operations staff and mobile staff to ensure we’re all ready to go after Christmas. Walkthroughs are done, equipment ordered and the usual Transfer of Undertakings (staff transfers) all taken care of. We may get a little rest yet between now and then!

See you in 2015.