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Fast Growth Success Stories: White Star Security Services

Interview with Garry Ireland (Director)

What does White Star Security Services do?

We are one of the UK’s leading specialist independent security firms. With headquarters in Yorkshire and offices across the North of England, we support organisations of all sizes, providing a comprehensive range of high-quality security services including manned guarding, electronic security, key holding, alarm response, grounds maintenance etc.

What growth have you experienced since launching the company?

The company was launched in March 2014. We now employ nearly 70 staff and, this financial year, we have turned over about £2.5 million. The Security Industry Association (SIA) has awarded us Approved Contractor Status. It grants this to organisations which have distinguished themselves as being among the best providers of private security services in the UK. We volunteered to be accredited by the SIA, and it came in and took a full audit of our business. We scored +118 which means we are just outside the top 15% of scoring companies in the UK. For a company of our size with no compliance department and minimum resources, we are very proud of this achievement.

What are some of the biggest trials and tribulations White Star Security has experienced?

There have been plenty of ups and downs. I started the business after I was made redundant and had gone to a few job interviews which didn’t work out. I decided then I wanted to work for myself. I approached one big client whose account I had looked after previously and asked for an opportunity to work with them to prove myself.Not long afterwards, the client called to ask me to go out to a school ahead of demolition and remove the people who were illegally stripping metals and cables from the school. No other business would touch the job because they’d received abuse and had bricks thrown at them by those people, my uncle and I got dressed up in tracksuits, unlocked the padlock to the gate and went in. We identified at least six people on the site who were stealing the metal and cables. They thought we were just there to get our share of metal and cables too so ignored us.

We called ‘999′ [the Emergency Services phone number in the UK]. The police turned up, a helicopter flew overhead, and even a local film crew turned up. The police made six arrests that day! I took great pleasure in calling the client on the Monday morning and letting him know the good news. He asked, “How did you do that?” I said it was down to thinking outside the box and because we were our own business we had nothing to lose. We took a risk, and it paid off, and that company is still our biggest client.

In terms of tribulations, we had a couple of companies go bust on us. One took us for £2,500 and another for £11,000, and that provided us with great difficulty. It also taught us to be careful about what business we take on and that not every piece of business is good business.  We had a situation where we thought we might go bust, but because we had done our homework on due diligence we didn’t. We were asked to do a full security analysis of a building site in Leeds, and we wrote down several areas we had concerns about where security was lacking. One day we had a phone call saying, “Our £16,000 figure has been stolen from the site. We are going to sue you, and you will have to pay us back.” I thought, “This is going to put us out of business!”

However, when we went down there and investigated, the workers on site told me it [the figure] had been left in the far side of the site instead of in the compound as we had recommended. More importantly, we had our recommendations in writing. So, we went back to the client and said that they hadn’t followed our advice and if they wanted to raise a claim against us we would have everything available to defend ourselves. We didn’t hear anything after that.

That was another lesson we learned: you always need to put everything in writing to protect the customer and yourself.

At what point during your growth did you decide a part-time FD Centre FD was right for you?

We found over the first eight months of 2017, that we were being taken away from what we do best, and that is going out there and giving our customers a great service. We were dealing more and more with invoice and timesheet queries. It wasn’t a part of the business we particularly enjoyed, and it wasn’t a good use of our talents. That was when we decided we needed some help, so we spoke to a client of ours, and they recommended The FD Centre. That was when we were introduced to our part-time FD Nicola.

How does having a part-time FD on your team benefit you and White Star Security?

Just having that extra brain in the business, who can come in and say “You are doing this” or “You can do it like this…” She comes in and gives us a different perspective on the company. Just being able to tap into that expertise is essential. We couldn’t afford a Finance Director full-time, so part-time has been really great for us!

How has it affected your confidence in the future of the business knowing you have a part-time FD on the team?

It gives you that confidence when Nicola agrees with your plans. It is so easy to make a bad decision, and in a company of our size that can cause us real issues, so we really need to be careful. Nicola is now a member of the senior management team, and it has been really useful having her.

What message do you have for other fast-growth businesses who are considering taking on a part-time FD?

Do it! Tapping into someone else’s expertise is essential to help drive your business; listen and learn. The FD Centre also recommended The Lead Lab to us, so you are not just taking on a part-time FD you have access to all their partners and different groups of resources.

Finally, what are your top three tips for handling fast business growth?

  1. Keep an eye on your debt. It can soon build up and cause you cashflow issues. So, it is very important you do due diligence on people when you take them on as clients; make sure you stick to their terms.
  2. Tap into other people’s expertise to help you move forward. You need expertise in everything in a small business: finances, managing staff, compliance issues, health & safety etc. You can’t do it on your own, so having someone like Nicola we could afford part-time was great for us.
  3. Surround yourself with the right people—some people will come with you on the journey and some won’t. You don’t want negative people in the company that will hold you back. Things will go wrong in a business, and you need positive and strong people to stick by you.

Anything you’d like to add?

If you’re thinking of starting a business, be aware that it’s like being on a roller coaster. You will have sleepless nights and be awake at 3 am thinking about the business. However, it is well worth doing if you stick to that journey and you really believe in what you are doing.

To find out more about White Star Security Limited visit www.whitestarsecurity.co.uk or call 01482 22 38 39.

To discover how the FD Centre will help your company to scale up, please call us on 0800 169 1499 or contact us here now.

10 Ways To Resolve Your Cash Flow Problems

 

Managing cash flow is critical to the success of any business. Get it right, and shareholders, creditors, and employees are happy. Get it wrong, and the company could end up on the ropes like Carillion.

Cash flow problems can beset even profitable companies, particularly those experiencing rapid growth.

So, how do you protect your company from future cash flow issues?

 

 

 

1. Cut Costs 

Cost-cutting will have a more immediate impact on your bottom line than revenue-raising efforts. You could for instance place a freeze on bonuses and overtime payments. You could also reduce the number of employees through attrition or redundancy. You could also approach creditors to ask for better payment terms.

 

2. Carry out credit checks

Before taking on new clients, carry out credit checks. Companies that regularly make late payments or default on payments should be red-flagged. You should also get new clients to sign contracts that include your payment terms.

 

3. Offer early payment discounts

Encourage your clients to pay earlier than normal by offering early payment discounts. The early payment discount should only be used when the company is in urgent need of cash. Do it too often, and you will make a serious dent in your profit margins.

 

4. Reduce your payment terms

Cut your payment terms from 60 or 90 days down to 30. Think of it this way: when you allow customers to pay in arrears for your products or services, you’re essentially giving them short-term unsecured loans

 

5. Lease rather than buy

Consider leasing rather than purchasing cars, property, office furniture, machinery, and IT and telecommunications equipment. The benefit of renting rather than buying is that you will only have to make small monthly payments. This should help your cash flow. You can also claim on the lease expense.

 

6. Raise your prices

Companies are often reluctant to raise their prices for fear they’ll lose valued customers to competitors. But even a small rise in costs can chip away at your profit margins. You can overcome customers’ resistance to a price rise by offering bundled products or services.

 

7. Issue invoices promptly

Many companies don’t issue invoices quickly enough or chase late payments. Think of it this way: every sale has already cost the company in some way, whether that’s the purchase of raw materials, warehousing, labour, sales and marketing, and distribution. If you don’t collect what you’re owed, you’ll be worse off than if you never made the sale.

American entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell says a sale is a gift to the customer until the money is in the bank.[1]

 

8. Use invoice financing

Hire a company that provides invoice financing (either invoice discounting or factoring) to receive an immediate cash injection. Such companies provide funding against your unpaid invoices for a fee.

Usually, you will receive up to 85% of the value of the outstanding invoice within 24 hours. You’ll then receive the remaining 15% minus the broker’s fee once your customer has paid the outstanding invoice.

 

9. Get external funding

You could approach banks or lending institutions for a short-term loan or use other funding sources such as self-finance, partners, investors and alternative finance like peer– to–peer lending.

 

10. Hire a part-time Finance Director

A part-time FD from the FD Centre will look for all the things that pose a threat to the company and work with you to resolve them. Your FD will look for ways you can meet your most pressing financial requirements and review all incomings and outgoings to find where improvements and savings can be made.

You’ll be encouraged to use regular cash flow forecasts. Such forecasts will alert you to possible cash shortfalls in the near future. You can then make arrangements for additional borrowing, for example. It will also make decision-making over whether to hire new staff, raise your prices, move premises, find new suppliers or tender for a large contract.

 

Put an end to your cash flow problems now by calling the FD Centre today on 0800 169 1499. To book your free one-to-one call with one of our part-time FDs, just click here.

[1]Finance for the Non-Finance Manager’, Siciliano, Gene, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2003

Confessions of Part-Time, Portfolio FDs

Leaving lucrative and secure C-suite positions mid-career to build a part-time portfolio might seem crazy but many of those who’ve done it say it is one of the sanest decisions they’ve made.

Take Michael Citroen, who at 58 years old is a 14-year veteran of the part-time portfolio job world. The former Group Finance Director (FD) relishes the challenge and excitement of working with half a dozen SMEs in his role as a part-time FD. “It’s nice going into different businesses and meeting different people and having different challenges to deal with. There’s so much more variety every day.”

He particularly likes that the businesses he deals with are all at different stages of growth. Some are very new, others are more established, and a couple have been guided through a sale with his help.

Citroen had been working full-time as the Group FD of a large privately-owned company when he made the decision to go freelance.

“It was getting very political,” he recalls of his former company. “And I also wanted to be in control of my own diary,” he says.

So, in 2003, he resigned and joined FD UK, a company that offered part-time FDs to SMEs. When that company was bought out by the FD Centre five years later, Citroen stayed on and is still working with them today—part of an expanding international network of part-time portfolio FDs.

“That’s another great aspect of working within a network of part-time FDs: there’s massive backup. If there’s anything you need to know, you just ask the network, and you’ll get answers back really fast. I wouldn’t have that if I was working alone.”

Besides the enjoyment of working flexibly with entrepreneurs and with other part-time FDs, Citroen says he values the security that being a part-time FD with half a dozen clients brings.

“You don’t have all your eggs in one basket,” he says, explaining that if one client leaves he knows he can attract and retain another, so his income isn’t at risk.

“The FD Centre is very focused on helping its part-time FDs to win new clients,” Citroen says. “I could never have done as well as I have if I’d had to do it on my own. I had no idea about marketing and the technical aspect of things like websites when I first began.”

Like many people starting out on the part-time path, Citroen had been worried about giving up a salary with perks initially. “To begin with it was a little insecure, giving up a regular job.”

He quickly discovered that the financial return you get is contingent on the amount of energy you’re willing to expend.

He realised early on the new lifestyle would enable him to spend more time with family whilst maintaining a good level of income.

“It gave me time to be with them without having to answer to anybody.”

It’s something that another part-time FD Neil Methold has appreciated about this way of working. Being a part-time FD for the past six years has meant he’s been able to play a large role in his teenage son’s life: getting him settled into senior school and being able to attend almost every one of his sporting events.

“If I’d been working full-time I wouldn’t have been able to do that. And that’s priceless,” says 53-year-old Methold.

Like Citroen, Methold has found the move into the part-time portfolio world beneficial in so many ways. Not only has he been able to enjoy more family and leisure time but he’s had the pleasure of coaching and mentoring people working within his clients’ companies.

“My greatest satisfaction comes from coaching and mentoring people within these companies so they become self-sufficient and can do more and more of the work themselves.

“Nowadays I say to clients ‘My success here will be inversely proportionate to the number of days I charge you. In other words, the more I can get your people to do the work on a daily basis the less I have to do’. I see it as my responsibility to ensure the work is done, not necessarily to do it all myself. I think that has a significant impact on client retention.”

So too does learning to adapt your style of working to each client, says Methold. It wasn’t something he was aware of when he first started out, he confesses.

“But one day, I was mowing the lawn and thinking it all through in my head. That’s when I realised I was being too harsh, too demanding, too assertive, too telling. You have to be direct in a big company because there are shareholders and high expectations.

“But that doesn’t work with SMEs. You have to use a different style—you have to be softer and more accepting that things don’t necessarily move as quickly as they do at large corporations and that there are going to be different priorities.”

It was when he began to adapt his style of working to suit each client rather than going in “full guns blazing” that he started to enjoy much better relationships. It’s why he has retained his clients for so long, he says.

“You can’t go in and be all corporate. SMEs don’t want that. They want someone they can trust and rely on and build a good relationship with. A friendly face. Not just a very clever big shot. You need to be down to earth and be (remove ‘be’) people-focused.

“When I really accepted that and started to slow down my own pace I become more accepted. You have to adjust and be a bit of a chameleon to suit how they are and not how you think they should be.”

Citroen says the ability to communicate is critical in your role as a part-time FD. “You have to have the ability to talk to your clients on a personal level and to be able to relax with them. Clients will call you late at night or on a weekend because they’ve had an idea they’re excited about and want to share with you. People who can’t handle that aren’t successful as part-time FDs.”

Both he and Methold agree that time management is key to success in the part-time portfolio environment.

“Although I’m not in contact with my clients every day, I do keep in touch with them every week, whether it’s a phone call, text or email,” says Citroen. “It’s all part of the relationship I have with my clients.”

Successful part-time FDs need to take the initiative when it comes to client contact, says Methold. “You have to work really hard at proactive communication with your clients. It’s easy then for them to see you are valuable. I will go to see a client, and on the way home have three 20-minute conversations with three other clients who I haven’t been with that day just to keep moving them forward.

“You have to commit to doing that extra stuff. You can’t just go in for a day, leave and send a bill.”

This obviously takes a lot of organisation, and that’s another skill a successful part-time FD must have (or develop!), he says.

“I have various lists, so I know what I have to do and at what point each week to make sure I don’t drop any balls because when you have lots of clients doing different things, it’s very easy to forget stuff.

“You need to be aware of what’s happening with each client and what you last spoke about. You can’t go, ‘Ah, can’t remember that last meeting. Sorry.’ When they are talking to you, you are their FD.”

Being willing to deliver such high-quality service is something that makes a difference when it comes to client retention, he says.

“Clients really do value that you put yourself out to ring them at the weekend or speak to them late at night or when you’re on your holiday. That s when you and the clients really do start to cement the relationship.”

The relationships you have with clients is what helps to make this such a rewarding way of life, he says.

Citroen agrees, adding that working full-time for one company pales in comparison with working part-time across a number of growing businesses. “The job satisfaction you get working as a part-time FD is enormous. I would definitely never go back to full-time employment.”

If you would like to find out more click this link: https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

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