"Go Into Partnership"

Paul Read,  Reynolds & Read

Paul Read, Reynolds & Read

Paul Read of Reynolds and Read Ltd, Binstead

The best decision I made was to go into partnership. 

In 28 years, Geoff Reynolds and I never had a cross word. He was the truck driver and I was the digger driver. Between us we thought we could do OK.

Geoff had the persistence to keep searching for money to buy our first digger. I would have given up well before he did. And in the end we went with the bank that offered us a seat before they said 'No' – the others didn't even do that!

With a little bit of support we got our first digger. 

We both believed in family values and hard work. Our work was always to the quality we wanted.

People trusted us. Profit is important but doing right by your customers is too. So we tell people what's happening and we look after them. 

And when it counts, they look after us. I think it's difficult to do it any other way for longer than a year or two here – the Island is too small.

We built up a business from the two of us to 21 staff when Geoff retired nine years ago. Kieron, my son, took his place. So there are still two of us!

Partnerships can go wrong.

Commentary by Dave Simon

The image of the solo entrepreneur surmounting every problem is very appealing. But it can be very hard work.

Either you need an unusually wide range of skills. Or you find a way to employ a team quickly.

The alternative is to form a team of directors – a partnership of some sort.
Two-person teams are vulnerable to disagreements. Three-person teams (or bigger) run the risk of becoming a committee and taking too much time making decisions.

Building a productive team takes time and effort. If everyone sticks to their trade or profession (IT, finances, properties, etc.) gaps appear in the team-work effort. This can result in a lack of planning and coordination. Strength and resilience are lost, and risk future crises.

One temptation I hear from time to time is to project a bigger image. Websites and marketing materials can become too official and lose the personal touch. There is a danger of putting off your best customers.

Remember: people buy from people they like. With a few more people on your team, and a clear image of what you do, you are more likely to attract the people you want. Find out more with “Energise Your Team To Improve Your Profitability” on www.double-your-profits.co.uk

We were pretty laid back about growing the business. We were ambitious, but there was no Big Plan. Our driving force was wanting the freedom to work in our way and make our own future.

Profit Had To Be A Priority

We started up in 1981, during the recession. We needed to make a go of it, otherwise we would lose money we couldn't afford to lose.

We were very conscious that we had to make a profit to keep the ball rolling. Without profit, there is no job security, no contingency plan, no second chance. It really is that simple. 

So aiming to make a respectable profit is very important. You have to watch that number, not the turnover numbers. That's the one that counts to make sure you survive, not because you are greedy.

So we grew cautiously. We owned our first digger. Then we hired a second one to do more jobs until we could afford to buy the next one. I still feel that small steps are the safest way to grow. Don't run before you can walk!

Trust Is The Basis Of Business

Geoff and I met when we were both working for John West. I also worked for Don Mosdell, a local plant hire operator. Don was a great character – everyone loved him. I learned how to run a team from him. I didn't realise what I was learning – I had no idea I was going to set up in business at that time. There was no teaching or coaching involved. It just worked – it was common-sense to copy his style.

When people trust you, you should do well. On odd occasions, our competitors have helped us out. That says everything about the importance of developing long-term relationships.
I still think that flexibility with customers gives you a good reputation. People hear about that and come to us confidently.

I also think that flexibility with the workforce helps us build and keep a great team. Without them, all our machines wouldn't get very far!

Balancing Acts In Business

What scares me most is still the thought of not having enough work for all the team we employ. It is a juggling act – there are no guarantees that the right amount of work will come in.

So we continue to provide a good service and try hard to pitch our prices right.
We don't undercut other firms just to get more business. We are very moral about this. There is plenty of work for all our colleagues – the construction industry on the Island is quite buoyant at the moment.

When we were young, people came to us because they preferred helping local youngsters. People like to help, especially other local concerns. Nowadays, probably, those sort of people help other small businesses and we have to work with the larger organisations. But that's OK.

Business is Still About People

I still love the job. I get to work outside with big machines. I like that – shut in an office would not have suited me at all. Geoff took over that side of the business as we grew, and seemed to accept it better than I would have done!

Nowadays I have Kieron in that role. He is more motivated than I ever was. He sets his sights higher than I ever did, and as a result we have grown faster. We now have 42 staff – two have been with us for 34 years!

Because I work outside, it's often me that first meets new customers. I'm still a very trusting person myself. You have to be able to judge a person's character if you want to decide quickly whether you're going to work with someone.

We all make mistakes though. There have been a few people I got wrong – including professionals. So I have to say that I aim to trust people, but I don't take that for granted.

It is important to stay optimistic. Every business needs that. The Island needs that.

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