With the support of the bank and our own money, we bought the business in January 2009 for £45 - but inherited a £624,000 debt! Whilst working through the recession in some of the most challenging times in recent years, we had formulated and agreed a five-year plan with our bank to turn the business around and get back into the black. In a profitable first year we turned over £5.6m and managed to achieve our “back to black” target of a positive balance sheet within four years. We have continued to be profitable year on year ever since and in 2017 achieved a turnover of £15.7m.
Fiona Shafer has supported us as a trusted Business Adviser throughout our growth journey, providing impartial, professional and pragmatic business advice and pointing us in the direction of valuable opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise been on our radar. She keeps us focused on our strategy of sustainable growth, backed by solid budgets and forecasts as well as good judgement of which projects to pursue to provide the best return.
Fiona has also helped us to identify our high-potential people and put them through the Futurehub training programme to prepare them to become part of the leadership team, thereby allowing us to focus less on the day to day and more on other opportunities. In addition, we hold regular Senior Management awaydays to discuss plans and future business strategy and gain valuable insight and feedback from the staff. We have also developed benefits and bonus schemes that allow us to reward staff and share the benefits of our success with our loyal team.
Fiona gets us; she’s very good at what she does and she makes sense of our ramblings, helping us to look at things and consider them in a different way because there are times when we can be a little bit too close to them and need to take a step back. Now and then she’ll throw us a curved ball (or two!) which makes us think outside of the box, focus and think about alternatives which we may not have considered ourselves. Often our quarterly reviews will give us the chance to talk about issues that we have both been thinking about but have not had chance to discuss because we’ve been focussing on everything else going on day to day. The quarterly review meetings provide us with the opportunity to sit and focus and in most cases we’ve agreed a strategy and way forward by the time we’ve finished our meeting.
From a leadership and development perspective, we are very different to how we were a few years ago. We’ve learnt so much from our experiences and all the situations we’ve been through and the support from the Hub and the leadership and people development training we’ve received have given us the tools we need to develop and take the business forward.
Terry Nitman and Steve Hayman
Directors of Cheesmur Building Contractors