Wayne Fletcher, Founder and Director of Austin Fletcher, shares the journey of starting his property and construction consultancy in 2019. He discusses the initial hesitation he had about starting his own business and the realisation that there is never a perfect time to do so. Despite the risks, Wayne took the leap, with a basic business plan in hand, and built a company which has adapted well to some challenging times!
My background is in quantity surveying and project management. I set up the company in 2019 as a property and construction consultancy covering a number of disciplines. I’d already decided to leave my previous employer and had some opportunities with other companies but decided to take some time while on gardening leave to make a decision. I’d always had the idea of running my own business but the timing just never felt right. But the more I thought about it, the more appealing it became. There’s never a perfect time to start your own company, and there’ll always be an excuse not to do so.
The more research I did and the more I thought about it, the more I felt myself being drawn in. It was exciting, and it started to feel right. I knew things might feel lonely at times, but after speaking to people both in the industry and outside of it, sounding out my plans and discussing my goals, it gave me that extra confidence to do it. There are risks to starting up your own business, of course, but there are risks in remaining as an employee. I had my own ideas and thoughts on how to do things and I liked the idea of taking things into my own hands.
I had a business plan – looking back it probably wasn’t as in-depth as it should have been – but I also had an idea of workflow and targets for the business and I accepted that I would likely have to stomach a period earning less than before, but this was part of the process.
As I was planning to start the company, I spoke to someone who had previously done some health and safety consultancy work for me. I thought it would be beneficial to be able to provide some additional services for our clients and it seemed like there was a market there for this service. I set up the company in May 2019, with the plan of launching in the summertime. We started trading about six months before Covid – so perhaps not the best timing!
That said, looking at the last four years, I’m pleased with how well it’s gone. We weathered Covid well, as I’d deliberately designed the business to be flexible: we weren’t stuck in an office 24/7, we utilised Microsoft Teams and Office 365, worked remotely when it made sense and generally fitted things around our clients. So, when the lockdown came in, it wasn’t such a shock to the system. We were also lucky in the sense that while construction was impacted, our industry was still able to go to work, so site visits and working remotely just continued for us. I spent a lot of time on Teams and Zoom calls for business development, trying to help us grow. For business’ in general this was difficult, but for a new business trying to make new connections and network over video calls, it was particularly challenging.
But on reflection, Covid may have helped the business. Yes, projects coming through slowed up a little bit but it meant we didn’t jump into recruiting people earlier than we wanted to. We were able to grow initially at a manageable rate without having to take any rash decisions that might have come back to bite us. Plus, it provided the time to get a lot of the processes and administration behind the business in place, which whilst not the glamorous side of running a business, it’s important to be prepared rather than picking it up as you go along.
You certainly learn a lot setting up a business; if it’s your first business, it’s a case of throwing yourself in at the deep end. However, it is important to do your research, and speak to the right people; friends, family, clients, take advice from those who have been there. Would I have done some things differently? Absolutely. Some things work out, some things don’t, you learn quickly who you can trust and who you can rely on, and that’s all part of the journey. Am I glad I’ve done it? Most certainly! It has its stresses and challenges but the positives far outweigh the negatives and most of all, I enjoy it.
Austin Fletcher provide multi-disciplinary construction consultancy services to businesses and organisations across the UK. Get in touch at austinfletcher.co.uk