As part of my market research when setting up Enrich Accounting I have spoken to several owners of local businesses. This was to understand their views on both their individual industries and also how finance impacts businesses.
One of the main reasons why I decided to set up my own business was because I wanted to help more than one business, and preferably as many as possible. Corporate businesses employ multiple staff in finance teams to support them. However smaller businesses require the same level of advice and support to help make the right financial decisions. Most importantly these businesses are vital to keeping the economy going, and helping them survive and thrive in these difficult times is my goal. Offering a part time service gives smaller businesses access to this advice at an affordable cost.
This blog has been created following an interview with Steve Davis, owner of Harbour Upholstery, which is based in Dorset. 90% of their business comes from the marine sector, predominantly on yachts. However their slogan “Marine and more” gives an insight into the variety of business they obtain, including refreshing patio furniture covers, motorbike seats and camper vans.
Steve entered the industry 17 years ago through a slice of luck! His current employer was shutting their office down, and Steve was on the brink of redundancy with no future plans. He noticed a traineeship role being advertised, which was rare at that point in time. His current employer gave him a glowing reference, and out of 30 applicants, Steve was 1 of the 2 employed by Toomer and Hayter. Steve was fascinated by the role and constantly learning new skills, with a growing reputation in the sector.
After 12 years working in the industry for various companies, Steve decided to open Harbour Upholstery in 2005. With a young family Steve required more flexibility, and he had always held a desire to set up his own business, so this seemed the perfect opportunity, especially in a sector where good financial returns can be achieved. I don’t know many poor yacht owners, do you?!
Harbour Upholstery may be a small company, but it has a big reputation in the marine sector. Steve and his team provide a personal approach from start to finish, and have retained a large contract for several years from a local well known yacht builder.
I was very fortunate that Steve was prepared to speak to me for this interview. His career has led him to work for some famous individuals, with a particular highlight working on one of the boats owned by the King of Jordan! I had to use my “Lord” status to get him to answer the following questions:
What inspires you?
I want to provide the best service possible to the customers of Harbour Upholstery. A happy customer ultimately leads to future referrals and is therefore good for business. Most personal customers place one-off orders, so the referrals are vital for the sustainability of the business.
The business being successful enables me to provide for my family, enabling us to enjoy quality time together, either locally, or on day trips and holidays further afield.
What is your favourite memory since opening Harbour Upholstery?
The memory that stands out for me is when I received my first referral. I started the business with a couple of clients, but the feeling of pride when a new customer contacted me after all the effort put into starting the business was a particular highlight and made it all feel worthwhile!
How has Coronavirus impacted the business?
During lockdown with all marinas shut and no customers allowed in the workshop, some appointments were cancelled. With lockdown now easing, business is picking up again.
Coronavirus has made quoting for work more time consuming for Harbour Upholstery. Where previously we were able to hold 10 minute personal face to face conversations either at the client’s home or the company workshop, more customers have been communicating by e-mail. The back and forth nature of the discussions have made them more time consuming.
What do you know now that you wish you had when you started your business?
During the early stages of setting up the business, I panicked if I had a quiet month, as I worried about the business surviving. Over time I have learnt to utilise any quiet time on being productive and concentrating on other areas such as design/development work, getting on top of paperwork or sorting out the workshop.
How do you measure business performance?
The main metrics I use are turnover and profits, monitoring the year on year improvements in these results.
What do you find most challenging from a finance perspective?
Tax! Knowing what expenditure is tax deductible and what is disallowed for tax purposes.
Are there any products/services you use that you would recommend to others?
Since starting the business I have used Invoice2Go. It’s easy to use, and creates a professional invoice appearance with the ability to add your company logo. You can create templates for future use, and I set everything up on my Iphone. You can also accept payment directly either via card, Paypal or Applepay.
What finance changes would you like to see in future?
I would like to either see the vat rate lowered, or the vat threshold increased. In a business where the majority of clients are personal, anything that can reduce the cost to them is beneficial.
What is your view of the accountancy sector?
They provide a vital service to small businesses if you find the right partner. They can give you advice to help your business become or maintain profitability, and also their advice can also deliver some significant tax savings!
What do you do when you’re not working?
I enjoy spending time with my family and walking the dogs. I’ve been lucky that my fiancée has taken control of the home schooling for our children, which we recently had a graduation party for to celebrate it all being over!
I would like to thank Steve for his time being interviewed, and if you or anyone you know requires any re-upholstery being completed, you know who to contact:
If you are a local business who would like to be interviewed or have any questions around how finance impacts businesses, please contact Paul at Enrich Accounting here, on 07403 407455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org