Herts Review caught up with Jim Huntington, the energetic and friendly founder of Ironwood Flooring Services Ltd to talk about his 15 year old flooring business which he has positioned as the leading supply and installation flooring company covering Hertfordshire and surrounding areas of Buckinghamshire and London. You see Jim is a people person. He loves the experience of meeting new people everyday and working on a diverse range of projects.
Jim got into the flooring trade in 2005, after he had completed University and had worked in the Food industry in various role. He has an agriculture background and was always itching to get outside and back to nature. The flooring business was one way of achieving this goal. Setting off as a sole trader but working with a mate, he worked on smaller residential floor contracting projects in Hertfordshire but soon wanted to challenge himself a little bit more. With time, he focused on the London area undertaking a lot of midsize to large scale flooring projects as well as subcontracting which he thoroughly enjoyed. In 2012, the business became a Ltd company, as the staff strength and range of services continued to grow. It moved from just floor installation services to a bespoke supply and install business in St Albans and he and the team have never looked back.
Jim loves spending time with his family and never wants to miss out on family life. With changes in his personal circumstances as he had a young family, 6 years ago he decided to put down some roots opening a workshop/gallery for the business on a site at Great Sarratt Hall, Rickmansworth. This location has served as the base from which flooring projects are delivered across Radlett, St Albans, Kings Langley, Rickmansworth, Watford, Hitchin, London and other locations across Hertfordshire, London and Buckinghamshire.
Jim has successfully built a strong team that imbibes his values of honesty, hard work, transparency and putting the customer first. If you had a choice between Ironwood Flooring Services and other similar sized businesses, he is confident that Ironwood’s personalised and friendly approach will make them the obvious choice. He says “it is always important to have a connection with the customer. Once that connection is established and people trust you then they would do business with you”. Sounds simple huh!
It has not all been plain sailing though. When the business was in its infancy, he recalls committing to a massive project with a big company. Unfortunately, the company was too slow making payments and his working capital was stretched. These were difficult times and he has learnt never to place all his eggs in one basket. He has also mastered the art of building a strong team which means the business is stronger, more flexible and capable of adapting. He says, “it is important to have a team as it is never wise to do everything yourself”. In addition, it means he can take on more work and undertake various projects simultaneously. Some of the team have been with him for 10 years.
Ironwood Flooring Services have undertaken various projects – floor restoration, reclaimed flooring, supply and install of vinyl, laminate and wood flooring, luxury vinyl tile flooring amongst others for offices, shops, residential properties, schools, churches and village halls. They undertake both residential and commercial projects.
And how do they win business? Referrals. 80% of their business has come from referrals from previous clients and this is why they put the customer first in all their operations. The internet, social media – Facebook and Instagram have also been vital to the growth of the business. Not surprisingly there a lot of great reviews of the business across various platforms.
So, what does the future hold? Jim always dreamt of running a personalised business that offers bespoke services to his customers. He has nothing against being big or having a massive showroom in London or St Albans. The picture of his dream business is very clear, and the journey has already started. And while he covers all of Hertfordshire and surrounding areas, he is looking forward to doing more projects in the local area of Sarratt, Rickmansworth where the business is based. Adapting the business to be lean and efficient is also big on the agenda as covid has changed our way of life and the way businesses operate. He is also working on some exciting things in the background to be released in the last quarter of 2020. So, watch this space.
If he had to start all over again what would he do differently? He will be more strategic. He would put more time into planning and sourcing finance. With more strategic planning and funding, he believes he would have accelerated the growth of the business and perhaps achieved more in a shorter period.
If you are in or around Hertfordshire and you have a flooring project, then call on the friendly team at Ironwood Flooring Services for an affordable bespoke service. The team undertake both big and small projects. See photos of some of the great work they have done or check out their website.
Today Herts Review are speaking to Tony Jacobs, the founder of ARJ Plastering, Decorating & Maintenance about his business journey so far. Tony has been running his plastering and decorating business for 14 years as a sole trader. Initially working as a general builder/sub-contractor and being part of much bigger teams working on big projects, he decided to strike out on his own in 2006 and has never looked back.
ARJ Plastering, Decorating & Maintenance services include plastering walls, skimming, painting, and decorating. He started the business after completing his training and having gathered a lot of experience working for other people. He undertakes both big and small projects from plastering or decorating jobs to fix minor issues in homes to working on house extensions, loft conversions, renovations, and refurbishments. He has also worked on some commercial projects.
When he struck off on his own years ago, initially there were challenges finding work. He was working on average 2 to 3 days a week which was not sufficient to sustain the business. If he had to do it all over again, he would invest in more advertising. Today most businesses are online and he is using the internet taking advantage of Facebook and other online platforms. Thankfully, he has overcome the challenge of finding work and today he gets jobs through recommendations, Facebook or even people calling because they have seen his van on the road. He does such a good job that 70% of his jobs come through recommendation.
Tony has been lucky over the covid lock down period. He has rather been busy and has not slowed down. This period allowed him to catch up on projects, plastering empty houses and undertaking some re-plastering jobs he had in the pipeline.
What is the outlook going forward? Tony is happy to work independently and maintain his small business. He is not looking to expand or hire staff as he wants to maintain that personal connection with his customers and not compromise on his standards. It is especially important that he keeps his word with his customers. He wants to keep the reputation of the business intact.
If you were thinking of hiring a plasterer or decorator, then think of ARJ Plastering, Decoration & Maintenance. Their detailed quotes are affordable and there are no surprises. The service is great, Tony keeps to time, is friendly and talks you through the process. Finally, when the job is completed, he cleans up and makes sure the place is left very tidy. Whether you are in Watford, Bushey or in and around Hertfordshire, if you have a plastering or decorating project then reach out to Tony.
Plot owners at the Burydell Lane allotments have lamented the destruction of their allotment by flooding. After the intense heatwave that lasted for weeks in the UK, the rains finally came. But while it was a respite for most, the heavy rainfall from the past few days have been devastating for plot owners who had their gardens destroyed by a flood.
The allotment chair Kim Scrivener who has contacted the St Albans Council, Affinity Water, and Environmental Health Agency says she hopes they can get the problem fixed soon. However, most of the year’s early harvest has been destroyed already by flood waters from the River Ver.
Much of the plants, flowers, and vegetables at the lot have been submerged underwater due to the flood which Damien Rodwell-Davies, one of the gardeners described as catastrophic. Rodwell-Davies who has held a plot in the allotment for more than three years said this is is the worst he has seen so far.
Like Rodwell-Davies, many of the gardeners were heartbroken and devastated as many of their plots and greenhouses have been destroyed by the flood, and hours of hard work on their plots have been ruined right in the peak of the harvest season.
On the factors that contributed to the flood, Rodwell-Davies says it is likely that the build up of vegetation that would have been grazed on by cattle on the river further narrowed an already narrow channel. The channel is not clogged and this is causing the water to burst its banks and flood the allotment directly downhill.
Most of the submerged plants will die due to the excess water. Those that survive will most likely be unsafe to eat since they are likely to be contaminated.
Rodwell-Davies says he feels disappointed since he rented the lot to grow food for his family and now all has been lost due to the flood. What makes it even worse is that it is happening this year that the Covid-19 pandemic has made it unsafe for vulnerable family members to visit shops to get the produce they need.
Kim Scrivener shares the same thought on the significance of the lot particularly during this pandemic. “During COVID-19, the allotment has become an important source of refuge, as well as a much-needed outlet for physical exercise and emotional wellbeing… To see an allotment destroyed at the peak of the season is heartbreaking especially in this particularly difficult year.” she said.
The St Albans District Council has been notified about the unfortunate event and the allotment association are already in discussions with them to find an urgent solution
Councillor Anthony Rowlands, the portfolio Holder for leisure, said talks are ongoing and the council is offering all the help they can at this time. The council and the environmental agency are working to identify the reasons for the flood and brainstorm to prevent a recurrence of such an unfortunate event.
The number of Londoners seeking to move to St Albans increased by 10.5 percent last year compared to figures from 2018, new research has revealed. According to recent statistics, more people than ever are being drawn to St. Albans from the capital city.
According to a recent report by Hamptons International, the number of people moving into St. Albans from the capital city has shot up in the past year. Based on the statistics, up to 31 percent of new people moving to St. Albans are Londoners.
Also, migration figures from the Office for National Statistics seem to further lay credence to this fact. According to statistics from the ONS, up to 350,000 people have left the capital city in the past year alone.
The ONS also predict and an even larger exodus of people from the city due to various factors including the effects of the lockdown increased work from home and an increased desire for an outdoor life which will cause many people to favor moving to the country.
The Hamptons research shows that four out of every 10 first-time buyers leaving London typically opt to buy a home out in the country. Conditions such as high prices, steep deposit requirements, and high buying costs are driving people towards buying property outside the city.
Martin Gibbins who is the branch manager of Hamptons in the city of St. Albans says At Albans has always been a popular choice of destination for those moving out of London. The higher influx of newcomers into the city can be attributed to various factors one of which is the presence of the Thameslink train service which is one of the main attractions of city. But Gibbins says there are other factors as well.
“When you consider the area also benefits from a wide choice of both independent and high street shops and restaurants, as well as the green open space of numerous parks, you start to understand why St Albans is so popular with London buyers.” He explained.
There is a new generation of buyers coming into the city that are more environmentally savvy, passionate about the culture of where they live and willing to spend more time with their local community.
St. Albans also offers a lot for young professionals looking to stay back and raise a family thanks to its quality education which includes an impressive number of great elementary and higher schooling options for them.
As far as the demography of the new entrants goes, statistics show a higher percentage of the younger generation, with 31 years as the average age of people moving into St. Albans from London. This is 8 years younger than the average age of typical London leavers from previous years.
Businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry recently secured bailout funding from the Crowdfund Hertfordshire. One of the benefiting businesses is a Wheathampstead holiday company. The company, 2by2 Holidays located in Wheathampstead is among the four companies that were awarded the fund which was released to help companies get back up the devastating effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
2by2 Holidays received the funding for the proposed launch of the company’s Auriel Holidays project which will be targeted at providing holidays that are tailored specifically to fit into current travel restrictions in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The business innovation funds from the Crowdfund Hertfordshire will supportbusinesses that have been most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
2by2 Holidays has been in the business of creating customized holidays to various locations all over the world like India, Africa, and Latin America for several years.
The company which has been in business for more than 20 years is planning to launch a new firm, Auriel Holidays with the bailout fund.
The new agency will provide solutions that fit perfectly into the ongoing travel restriction making it possible for tourists who still want to travel during this period to see it happen.
Auriel Holidays will deliver holidays in the UK and other parts of Europe with a focus on road trips, rail journeys, and other travel options that are not affected by the restrictions. The holiday plans will include simple small group wildlife tours, hikes, and rail tours. It will also include some island hopping tours in locations like Ireland, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly.
Claire Farley, head of 2by2 Holidays explained that the travel and tourism industry has been one of the most hardly impacted by the pandemic and there is still a lot of uncertainties about when normalcy will return to the industry in terms of international travels.
Faley explained that the lack of income for the past few months meant their options was limited to either laying off some of their staff or looking for ways to diversify their services despite the precarious situation of things.
The crowdfunding scheme sponsored by Visit Herts & Herts LEP was the creative solution the company needed to stay afloat. Businesses who participated in the scheme were required to raise money through pledges. Once the target of the business has been reached, the funds needed for the project will be unlocked from the scheme.
While Claire is grateful for the grant, she says there still a lot that needs to be done. She believes there is still a mountain to climb, but the grant has made it possible to start looking for innovative solutions to the holiday problems by focusing on locations closer to home in Europe.
A heroic St. Albans surfer has saved a teenager and his mum from a drowning accident. 14 years old James Donnelly was saved by Oliver Stockwell who swooped in to rescue him after the young boy was almost dragged out to sea . The 14-year-old was out on his bodyboard in Trayarnon, Cornwell when he lost control and was knocked off into the water. The tide was already dragging him away from shore when 18 years old Oliver Stockwell spotted him.
Stockwell, a former student of Verulam School on seeing Donnelly in danger, paddled out into the water to the teenager and helped him get to safety on a nearby rock.
Sheryl Donnelly, James’ mum narrated how the events unfolded. She was out on the shore when she heard her son’s desperate cry for help after he was knocked off his board. Sheryl said she was trying to swim out to him to help him when he noticed Oliver come to his rescue. She explained that James had gotten caught up in a rip current, but she noticed that someone on a bodyboard was coming towards him to assist.
Sheryl saw Oliver as he paddled up to her son and help him get onto his own board and steer both of them to the safety of a rocky outcrop in the water. Sheryl said she was grateful for the young hero’s efforts as he ensured that James was on the rocks, out of the way of danger before he got out of the water too.
Oliver’s timely action not only saved James, but he might have averted a double tragedy as Sheryl could have been caught by the tide as well.
Falmouth Coastguard had arrived at the scene later following emergency calls which reported some swimmers in distress. While Oliver had gotten James to the safety of the rocks, Sheryl was still in the water when rescue arrived and was spotted gradually drifting towards the rip current
It was already sundown when the coastguard arrived and they had to use their car headlamps to light up the beach before they could find Sheryl, her son, and the hero that rescued them.
According to a coastguard spokesperson, Sheryl, was directed to safely swim out of the water at an right angles to the current and she was assisted to the shorelby the people present.
The Coastguard administered first aid care to the mother and her son before the arrival of an ambulance which took them to the hospital. Their hero and his family were with them all through. Sheryl expressed her gratitude for how the youngster came to their rescue and he has been rightly praised by the authorities for his quick thinking, proactive actions and selflessness.
Layton Jeffers, the man who resisted arrest and attacked police last year in St. Albans has been sentence to jail. The 29-year old will serve close to 10 years in prison for his recklessness and dangerous actions. His sentencing was delivered roughly a year after his arrest. He was charged with a string of offenses including the possession of a firearm during a police chase.
Jeffers was involved in a heated police chase sometimes in August 2019. Before the confrontation and subsequent arrest last year, he had earlier been declared wanted for a blackmailing offence he committed. Around June 2019, Police sources say Jeffers contacted his victim through social media and threatened to harm him three times, demanding payment of £200 on each occasion. Jeffers was eventually reported to the police and was declared wanted for his offenses.
Days later, Jeffers was seen on London Road, But when he was approached by the police he attempted to run away form the officers. He was also reported to have brought out a taser and turned on the officer that tried to bring him in. Afraid she would be hit, the officer stopped chasing him and Jeffers ran into a pub after discarding the taser he had used on the officer on the floor.
Jeffers also assaulted other officers that attempted to bring him in. He threw pint glasses at one officer then head-butted and punch another before he was finally subdued and arrested. Following his arrest, he was taken in for a mental assessment.
Officers say he was continually aggressive even after his arrest hitting an officer and spitting on two more police officers. One of the officers he attacked was hospitalized for an injury to his eye.
Following his arrest, Jeffers was remanded in custody. He was subsequently charged to court where he pleaded guilty to the accusations and was eventually sentenced on the 10th of July 2020. He received custodial sentences for two years for the blackmail and got nine years and nine-month sentence for the possession of a firearm and attempting to use it on the officers.
Part of his conviction also included sentencing for aggravated public disorder offenses and five counts of assault on the police officers that arrested and detained him. All of his sentences are expected to run concurrently.
According to Detective Constable Mark Chipchase, of the Local Crime Unit, Jeffers, violent behaviour was a threat to the police officers that took him in and everyone present the time.
“He used violence, threats and – most seriously of all – a taser in his attempts to avoid arrest"
Chipchase agrees that his long sentencing rightly reflects the seriousness of his offences and show that his kind of behaviour is not tolerated in St. Albans.
DWP told to make 14 radical changes to Universal Credit - here's what it means for your benefit payments
Some major changes are coming to the Universal Credit Scheme that is currently in use. According to a new parliamentary report, the current system is leaving households with less money than their entitlement. The Economic Affairs Committee in the House of Lords has completed its review of the welfare scheme and some changes have been recommended.
It was stated in the report that "The Government is using Universal Credit to recover debt-mostly £6bn of historic tax credit debt”
This system allows the deduction of up to 30 percent or more of the standard allowance from claimants, leaving fewer households with less money than they are entitled to.
Although the report revealed that the controversial scheme is currently “Failing millions of people”, a complete shut down of the scheme was not recommended since it still retains most of its original aims and objectives. Instead, the committee suggested a major shakeup and substantial reform.
According to the new report, up to 14 major changes were recommended regarding the design and implementation of the system. These changes will see to the wellbeing of the poorest in the society that are the most adversely affected by the current system.
One of the recommended changes is that payments should be fixed for three months. Under the current credit system, claimants receive their Universal Credit only once per month after the assessment of their finances for the previous month. The implication of this is that their payment for any given month may go up or down.
According to the report fixing the credit awards on the same level for at least three months will give claimants a certain level of security and certainty. This may encourage them to work for more than they would normally work since they are sure that an increase in income will not cause a reduction in their benefit.
Another recommendation is to give claimants a two-week grant. Currently, claimants will have to wait for a minimum of five weeks before they get their first payment. However, the new report noted that the five-week wait is a cause of insecurity in the Universal Credit systems as it disproportionately harms the vulnerable and increases their debt. Instead of following this method, the new system will see the DWP introduce a two-week initial grant to claimants which is non-payable.
Parts of the new recommendations is the possibility of making split payments. Unlike the previous system that only allows the credit to go into one account for each household, the committee recommends that there should be an option of separate payment for each person because the single payment account can exacerbate risks of financial coercion in certain scenarios and make it more difficult for individuals under any form of abuse to escape.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean who was the chairman of the committee that reviewed the Universal Credit system said the committee report shows that the system needed a major revamp as more and more people have been relying on food banks to survive due to the failure of the system.