We caught up with Builders’ Talk Group member Ron Smith of A – Z Waste Recyclers, to find out a bit more about how he started;
My name is Ron Smith and I’ve been running my business since 2000 within the waste industry, before this I was working for another company doing waste clearance, scrap metal and house clearances etc.
How did you get started?
As an employee I got treated like a dog if I’m honest, one day we were clearing out a factory that made lifts so as you can imagine we had to remove the old off-cuts from sheets of stainless steel, aluminium etc. that had been used during production. While carrying some of these sheets out of the building, they scissored, the gloves that I had on provided little protection as they shifted position under the force of the sheets, which sliced through from the bottom of my thumb right along to my wrist. It certainly wasn’t the day to try and give up smoking that’s for sure. The tendons in my right hand were completely severed and put me out of action for three months. The boss was an absolute arsehole (excuse the language) and refused to help me out, no sick pay, nothing. So that was it, I decided to start up on my own. I reckoned three months was a long time to get things in place and to prove to him not only could I run a business but also run it better than he could.
I bought a truck and started operating, a month later the truck is broken and I need a new one. I spoke to The Prince’s Trust who were great, they were really helpful and gave me loads of advice. To qualify for their help you had to be between 18-30. https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/. They helped me draw up a business plan and lent me £3,000 over three years at 3% interest, gave me a mentor for the whole of those three years, who I met once a month, he was excellent and very helpful. I mean what did I really know about business? 17 years later I’m still trading and the horrible boss isn’t!
The moral of the story? If you think you can do something, do it. What have you got to lose?
How has your business progressed since you began?
We diversified into the Asbestos removal industry around 2007, as the standard waste removal side of the business was still busy but we were finding that many customers didn’t want to pay the money, well its just rubbish isn’t it?
What do you do to keep up with the times/industry changes?
New equipment and vehicles have kept us as efficient as our competitors, with regular training in respect of environmental issues. We are constantly researching and acquiring industry knowledge in order to pass on fact based information to our clients.
What type of clients do you work for?
Our client base is really varied, we work for the general public, schools, MOD, builders, farmers, landlords, property developers, companies such as Asda and Woolworths (as it was closing down), to name a few.
We now have an excellent portfolio from small waste clearances to large farm and industrial asbestos roof removals. We do occasionally re-roof at the request of the customer.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the industry?
Never wait for money, use a stage payment system, broken down to at least start, mid and end payments and make sure you have that confirmed in writing or email just in case you have to go to court to get your money. I hear time and time again about builders getting knocked for £80,000, £20,000 – I would never let it get that high, in fact not over £1,000.
Be hardworking, don’t sit on your arse waiting for work to come in, go out and find it. You get out what you put in.
Never give up, keep fighting and you will succeed in the end, Nothing is easy and why should be.
Always have a back up plan/trade side-line. Whatever you can to fall back on while your new business gets going.
Finally, don’t spend everything you have earned, save at least half because you will need cash flow pretty much everyday. Fuel, food, materials etc. are all regular necessities!
Some great advice there for anyone starting out, thanks Ron for your valuable insight.
For more information about the services Ron provides, email him on [email protected]
Already got your own business? Read our tame business coach’s tips for growing it here https://builderstalkgroup.com/toolbox-tips-trades-business/