Name: Rob Claydon
Company: Shielding Solutions Limited
They say that when one door closes another opens. It is a phrase that often comes to mind working at an Enterprise Agency. The number of people who find themselves redundant or out of work for other reasons are many and they are all united by the fact that they have extensive experience and an ambition to remain in work if not to be their own boss.
This is certainly true of Rob Claydon who founded Shielding Solutions Limited with some newly redundant colleagues when their former employer was eventually acquired by a large multinational organisation and all manufacturing operations moved abroad. After discussions between themselves they planned to establish a company that would utilise their engineering experience and qualifications within the industry. This led them to November 2005, when they founded a company to provide products and processes that protect electronic systems against electromagnetic interference and also to supply specialist seals for environmental containment.
As most laymen will realise, this is something of a specialist field, and it therefore presented them with some unique advantages and challenges. An advantage was that they already had a well-developed network of UK contacts to begin using their valuable knowledge with and they used this as a base from which to grow from while they were establishing some in-house manufacturing processes that were central to their future ambitions.
A challenge they found themselves presented with was that apart from the commitment in terms of the time and money required to establish the business, they faced a not insignificant learning curve. Rob said: “This was regard to the setting up from scratch and running of all the functional elements of a business, such as accounts, quality control, stock control, logistics, IT, advertising etc. some aspects of which we had only limited knowledge and experience. Last but not least was the consideration of where to operate from.”
This is when they approached Ignite. Having previously been located on the Springwood Industrial Estate with their former company, they were aware of the Enterprise Centre Ignite operated there and so thought they would investigate.
During their initial search for suitable premises they viewed several potential properties ranging from former chicken sheds to fully serviced offices however, none could match the benefits of location, services and licence terms provided by Ignite.
Rob said: “The Enterprise Centre offered relatively low risk easy in, easy out terms of occupancy and in addition to providing a spacious self-contained office/work unit also provided a good range of shared support facilities such as kitchen, toilets, meeting room, on-site parking and waste disposal all of which were very presentable (to customers) and well maintained. There was also the option, if required, to seek the help and advice on business related issues from the business centre manager.”
Once they had taken a unit in the Enterprise Centre, this support from Ignite was continually present as the company grew to match their ambition. First of all they were able to relocate to larger units as they became available within the centre and then in 2013 they felt that the time was right to commit to buying their own factory unit.
Speaking about the move, Rob said: “Through good fortune and timing we eventually found the ideal premises on Braintree’s Skyline 120 industrial estate and following some hard negotiations with the bank and owner of the building, we reached a viable agreement to acquire the property.”
As well as providing extra space for their engineering activities to expand on the ground floor of the new property they also took the opportunity to create an additional revenue stream for the company by allocating the entire first floor to the running of their own business centre and they now have 10 licenced offices for which they are providing similar services to those they benefitted from at Ignite’s Enterprise Centre.
Now that they have all of this experience and are business landlords of their own, they aren’t short of wisdom to share with those starting out. Rob listed seven key points for those starting out in business:
- Unless you are comfortable with taking big risks, always consider the ‘what ifs’ and have sensible backup plans if things don’t go as well as expected.
- If you are coming from a regular job don’t expect to continue to work in the same way. Be committed to working more hours, more days and at home. Consider the effect this will have on your social and family life.
- Don’t be a ‘me too’ company – offer unique products and services that differentiate you from your competition.
- Be resourceful, use your existing skills and knowledge to the fullest extent to support the business and develop new capabilities if required to ‘fill the gaps’. This will help you to get established and save you money.
- Be prepared to adapt your business to take advantage of new opportunities which may take you in unexpected directions.
- Allow funds to accumulate in the bank, a healthy bank balance makes conducting business so much easier and will also help you to sleep at night.
- Unless you are one – find a good accountant!
Through using their experience, hard work and vision (and with a little support from Ignite), for Rob Claydon and his colleagues, they not only found elusive doors to walk through when their former employer moved their jobs abroad, but they made some doors for others using the Ignite Business Enterprise Centre model.
Directors: Rob Claydon, Sean Howard, Phil White