Tim Flint, Eurovines Wine Merchants, Seaview
“Adapt!” said Tim Flint.
“I started the business in London. Through a customer, I heard that there were no wine wholesalers here and within six months I'd brought the business to the Island.
“Immediately, although my competition was on the mainland, I needed to find a way to convince local buyers to try us. I had to think of ways to make Eurovines really attractive.
“The other companies only delivered twice weekly to the Island, so I decided to offer daily deliveries six days a week.
“That meant our hotel and restaurant customers could wait and order only when they really needed to. They could hold much less stock – that saved them £500 or more.
“We keep a very personal link from vineyard through to customer. It means we can offer amazing quality at reasonable prices. Even for organic & biodynamic wines.
“It makes a big difference to those who know. We're asked to send cases of wine all over the country – for business and as gifts.”
“I'm told that smaller businesses are more flexible and opportunistic: but that only comes true if you work at it!”
as published by IW County Press, Column by Dave Simon
The Island is always going to 'import' goods across the Solent.
Commentary by Dave Simon
We just don't make the range of products that we want to buy. So we shop online more often, and very conveniently parcels are delivered cheaply to our front door.
Except... there is a hidden price. Upward of 30% of parcels go to addresses that delivery services do not know and cannot easily find.
It seems that many houses do not have their name or number displayed in the form the Council originally gave permission for. Some show no name or number. Others have replaced a number with a name. And shops are probably worse.
The result is delays, unnecessary phone calls, and extra petrol being used as vans carry undelivered items back to base and then try again next day.
So before Christmas, I urge every householder and shopkeeper to make sure their property's name and number is correct and clearly displayed. Everything will arrive quicker and with less hassle.
And that includes the emergency services – which is why the bylaw says our address should be clearly visible from the road.
We could all help reduce congestion, stop delivery charge increases and perhaps slow global warming.
More about Tim Flint's experience:
I was ambitious from quite a young age. I'd joined BP as an apprentice straight from school. I did well – I ended up at the age of 28 as an electronics designer for control systems. But I wanted to make something for myself. At the time, in 1992, BP was making redundancies, so I got out that way.
I was thinking around various ideas and realised that I was quite passionate about wine: that was an area of business I where could happily start up. I discovered a guru – a wine merchant in Guildford – and decided to emulate him.
I'd broken my back in a motorcycle accident when I was 17. I was determined to get on with life. In fact, I was the quickest paraplegic to get out of Stoke Mandeville hospital, which doesn't surprise me. That sort of injury leaves your mind intact but your body is bloody inconvenienced. I wasn't going to let that stop me!
Where I Started
I set about building the business in London with my wife. I was talking to one of my early customers, a Shanklin hotel owner, who told me he was ordering from me because there was no-onewholesaling wines on the Island. So I had a quick research trip and decided “Right, we'll do that!”
Not everything has gone right. But I would not want to go back to being an employee now I've been my own boss. Yes there are worries, but the sense of freedom is different.
The people I really admire are those who try several businesses until they find the one that really flies. Many people would say I was lucky to do well on my first try, but I know people who would have moved on and found an even better opportunity. That's courage!
I have gained huge benefit from mentoring. It probably wasn't called that when I started, but I have had some scrapes and near misses, and Shaun, now our accountant and friend, has always been there for me. We wouldn't have got to where we are without him.
One area where I got caught out quite early in my business life is understanding margin and markup. Both describe the difference between cost and price, but margin starts with price and markup starts with cost, so they arrive at different numbers. But they sound the same if you say them quickly – and that's the trap. I was losing money without realising it, until Shaun spotted what was going wrong and set me right.
So I think it is really important to pass on experience to help others make it in business. Without learning, we would have to stay in poorer circumstances. Progress is important to all of us, because that is the real source of wealth for any community.
Profit is Essential
You can't run business without profit! I feel strongly that I have an obligation to my staff: there's ten of us here. I have to pay them and I have to make sure I can continue to pay them in the future. I need them to help me to keep the business going. It pays me and my wife a wage – if the business folds, I'll have to start again – without redundancy pay!
If the business cannot pay my staff well enough, they won't stay and support it. If it cannot pay me enough, I wouldn't support it either. So I have to make sure the business earns more than that. New vans, new uniforms, new protective equipment and so on all needs paying for.
And there are many things we do for our clients that we do not charge for. For example, we design and print bespoke wine lists for our clients. We provide wine tastings and dinner talks about wine. Most importantly, we research and travel to find new wonderful wine growers and producers so that we can bring their lovely wines back to the Island.
Beyond paying all the necessary bills, I need a reserve. That's what helps me improve the business and deal with the unexpected that life always throws at you.
And sometimes it also has to cover the bad debts that arrive. While it is nice that people are starting up new businesses and trying their hardest, if they fold up without paying me, I am left with a debt. I had to pay for the wine I sold to them, so if they don't pay me, I've lost out. Then I have to sell five times as much – or more – to make up for it. That's hard to bear! But, it happens, and I need to be realistic. So I always keep some money aside in case.
Business is a gamble. You can work on changing the odds – by adapting – but there are no guarantees. There's no NHS for businesses! I'm wiser about risks now. It's one of those things you learn as you go.
My business is quite linked into the Island's tourist industry. I feel that tourist numbers are down and their spend is reduced too.
Although the ferry companies say their passenger numbers are up, that doesn't translate into increased takings for local businesses. Music festivals and coach tours do not bring much money into the Island: Most of their spend disappears back to mainland companies. I think we need to market more, particularly to attract families who enjoy spending a bit more.
The tourist trade does have a problem here – how to get through the winter. I have four months of dead quiet. If I wished someone had warned me about anything in business, it would be that. If I'd stayed in London, I wouldn't have had such a dip in takings. Even Christmas doesn't really peak much it's only half of what the summer months do. That's another challenge to adapt to!