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.
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.