My Journey – Turning a Start-up into a Success.
In June 2019 through unforeseen circumstances I reached a point where I had a big decision to make. I had the opportunity to begin a new position through ringing contacts, letting the industry I belong to know that I was available by jumping the treadmill of trying to persuade prospective employers that I could add value to their business. Of course I could do that, I had done it before. This time though all felt a bit blah and a bit boring, I just didn’t feel motivated, I wanted to break free from my old cycle and had a desire to be more than that.
Or, and it’s a big or, should I do something myself? On my own, grasp an opportunity to be my own boss. I have always been difficult to employ , I look back and pity some of my line managers who never stood a chance, I knew better than them, I was more experienced than them, more innovative, more inspiring and a better leader…….well, that was my view and it was going to take a monumental effort on their part to change it! And they never did.
And so, a memorable coffee later with fellow Wolves fan and friend Ian Davies where we talked about work, not just football (for a change) lead me to learn what Ian actually did for a living. This one conversation with the right person lead to my lucky break and the start of a new business.
Ian’s company NDM support SME’s and start-ups, start-ups! That’s me! Digital marketing, insurance, finance, app design, and IT Support are all part of a long list of offerings from NDM of which I am now a part of and they a part of me.
A name was decided upon, ‘National Platforms’ and I was proud of it already. I started to think about what service I actually wanted to provide within the industry I had been part of for over 20 years. I had a list of wants and no idea how to turn this into the kind of business I wanted to run.
I wanted to be different, I wanted to do something that wasn’t being done, I wanted to work with independent companies and help the dedicated business owners around the UK. The type of people that get up every day and provide a living to staff members and support thousands of families around the UK. Of course, I also wanted to continue to provide for my own family but I didn’t want to be conventional, there are a lot of people already doing that and doing it very well, probably better than I could!
Opportunity’s arose to supply machinery to large contracts around the UK where I had relationships with key personnel, but they all meant DEBT and lots of it. Supplying powered access is, unfortunately a game of debt, rent it out for more than your paying and hope there is enough coming in to pay the bills with a bit left over! Simplistic but realistic, did I want to be in the position of taking on debt to create success? Absolutely not, so I had to be different and find another way, after all “different” is a word I used to describe what I wanted to be.
Customers who were friends began to seek me out asking for me to provide their business with access to height support. “We just want to use you”, “ we just want to call you and you sort it”, “will you have a look at this job for me and sort me a machine?” echoed almost daily down my phone. So, I reluctantly entered into a situation I hoped to be temporary just to pay the bills and put food on the table…the dreaded ‘cross hire’ transaction.
Cross hire is when you hire a machine from your supplier and then hire it out again to your customer for more than you are paying your supplier, simple? No, its nots simple its fraught with issues of risk and responsibility. However, cross hire is a necessary evil in the industry (my opinion) and lots of companies do it and do it well. In fact for some companies cross hire is their business model and that is all they do, they do enough transactions to provide a living for themselves and there are even trade groups set up for the sole purpose of cross hire, a kind of cross hire club!
So, it was a case of ‘needs must’, I reached out to friends in the industry who supported me and gave me a credit limit based on trust. I had no trading history but wanted to be able to supply a few customers who had become friends over the years who had asked me to continue to manage their powered access requirements.
I began to transact and provide machinery for this select group of customers whilst still planning on how the business could be different and move away from cross hire.
Then in the space of two weeks on two separate occasions I was asked by business owners to sell them the name ‘National Platforms’ they liked the name more than their own, they liked the branding and they wanted to be ‘National Platforms’.
On the back of these requests the planning coffees at NMD began and we started to look at how the branding and the name could be at the core of the business and not just simply a label for another powered access company.
We looked at business models from other Industries such as car and van rental and finally agreed on the current National Platforms concept.
I have been selling MEWP Rental in the UK for over 20 years so had developed a confident persona. Appointments and account management had become second nature but suddenly going out to powered access rental companies had changed. I was able to sell my own concept and my own business, and it felt exactly how I wanted it to feel, ‘different’!
It was daunting, nerve wracking, thought provoking and created a high level of self-analysis to an extent that I had not experienced for many years. I felt more motivated than I ever had in my career and I knew that regardless of any success what I was doing was exactly what I wanted and needed to be doing.
So here we are, National Platforms, a journey that I for one am very proud of, a collaborative network of independent powered access rental companies. No dreaded cross hire, just industry expertise, modern innovation and specialist business knowledge working to turn this start up into a success.
John Hall – Managing Director – National Platforms