This week I was coaching Flood Protection Solutions Ltd in Nottingham, the brain-child of the amazing Simon Crowther. It was a great opportunity to help implement new sales strategies – I even managed to squeeze in an interview with Simon about his entrepreneurial journey. As the winner of Young Entrepreneur of the Year at GBEA, Simon was more than happy to share his top tips on how to win awards!
Getting to know Simon Crowther:
What is Flood Protections Solutions Ltd. And how did it start?
5 years ago, I set up Flood Protection Solutions Ltd following the flooding of my family home in 2007. We were out of the house for almost a year when it was being repaired. Our insurance claim was about £120,000 and we knew that we never wanted to go through the upheaval, stress and expense that flooding causes ever again. At the time, we didn’t actually know that we were in a flood risk area: 1 in 6 homes in the UK are in a flood risk area and roughly 60% of people do not know this.
We wanted to stop flooding from happening again. We did a lot of work – we had walls constructed around the house, fitted a pump in the driveway and a non-return valve, but the main thing we did was purchase a Canadian Water-Gate barrier. At the time, ten years ago, flood defences were either slow or expensive. We came across a product called a Water-Gate and bought one. Five years later it stopped the house from flooding again and worked amazingly well. Neighbours and the local Environment Agency thought it was absolutely amazing and asked where we got it from. It was great because it took us seconds to roll out across the driveway.
I was quite young and naïve when I started the company, I was just starting a degree in Civil Engineering and I just wanted to help more people with the product and I thought it would be easy. I set up Flood Protection Solutions Ltd and we became the sole UK distributor of the product. Since then we’ve grown – we work with a lot of Fire and Rescue Services, Water Companies and supply a various range of products including consultancy so that we can help as many people minimise their risk from flooding. In 2007 alone, about 6,800 businesses were flooded and statistics show 40% of businesses won’t re-open as a result of flooding. Flooding is the biggest threat to the U.K as a consequence of climate change, and the economic and social impacts can be devastating.
I want to pick up on something you said, you said you were ‘young and naïve’ – Simon, how old are you now?
I’m 23 and I started the business when I was 18 years old.
As a young entrepreneur, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Most challenges related to general admin. To begin with, no one would insure us, when I was trying to get a fleet policy for our vehicles, we were told that we couldn’t be covered. I needed to be on it or it would obviously have hindered the company – it’s like battling with people all the time to take you seriously just because you’re young.
When I got my degree in Civil Engineering, it became a lot easier and people assumed I was older than I was.
You’ve had the business for 5 years and we are currently working on your sales strategy to take it to the next level – could you tell us how much you are turning over at the moment?
It has grown and grown every year. Our first year was roughly an £80,000 turnover and it’s predicted this year, adding up everything we have done so far, to be about 2 million.
There are people who have businesses of all stages and ages – what are your top tips for them?
To be focused and confident in what you’re doing, there’s obviously a reason why you’ve set it up so make sure you portray that effectively to people – if you’re passionate about it, it will come across and people will believe in you and the products and services you’re offering.
So, do you think it’s important to have a story that people can relate to?
Yes, I think that it helps a lot because I had used the product myself other people became confident in it too. I went through a stage where I tried to shy away from the story of how the business started – I thought ‘no I want to be a serious business person’ but now I’ve come completely full circle, and I am proud of the story and why I’ve developed it. Now if I’m doing a presentation, I’ll start with a photo and say, ‘this is how we became involved in the product’ so I can show that I am passionate about it.
Alongside a good story and passion, having a clear sales strategy is also essential and I know that you share my ethos of ‘if you don’t sell you don’t have a business’, from the sales advice I have given you, what do you think has been the most important in helping you increase your turnover?
Open questions are the big one for me. Your questioning technique is so important – what are you asking people? Are you asking the right questions? This is one of the most important things I learned when doing your online course and is something I constantly refer to when making any sale.
Last year you won Young Entrepreneur at the GBEA and this year you are a judge, what are your top tips for those writing award entries?
My first tip is to enter any competition you can – a huge amount of people will think ‘I don’t stand a chance, I’m not going to bother’… but even just filling in an entry form is a great opportunity to see how far you’ve come. There are so many different categories which make you think about what you’ve achieved and what you could do to achieve more in the future. Also, make sure that when you apply your passion comes across. There are so many people now who see being an entrepreneur as a fashionable thing but you need to have the passion of why you actually started your business in the first place. What is your business’ story? What financial information is there to back it up?
What is your advice to those who get shortlisted for an award?
As taught by you, Alison, I used the ‘snog, marry, avoid’ analogy – when I go to networking events, I find out who is good to talk to, who I should be connected with, and who I am likely to get future business from.
One thing that I always do if I get shortlisted is find out who the judges are and connect with them all on LinkedIn but don’t necessarily message them. Make sure that you keep posting regularly and then when they come to judging, they will subconsciously be aware of who you are and what you do.
You can watch my full interview with Simon below!
There you go, no matter how old or young you are, you can start a successful business. Simon’s story is an inspiring one and I think you can tell from reading this interview, just how passionate he is about his business. Not only has this interview given you a dose of inspiration, but it has also given you some amazing advice and tips on sales and entering awards!
As always, a heartfelt thank you to Simon for doing this interview and to you for taking the time to read it.