The Entrepreneur: James Brueton, EnviroBuild  

In two years, Brueton has built a £1.5m construction business. He reflects on life as an entrepreneur; from managing cashflow to learning on the job

Co-founder: James Brueton
Company: EnviroBuild
Description in one line: Distributor of composite decking, cladding and fencing, with installation guides and technical specifications.
Previous companies: Brueton ran an investment management company and solar company.
Turnover: £1.5m
12 month target: £4m

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We provide lean outsourced logistics which allow for scalability.
  • Our cloud-systems and operations also enable flexibility.
  • We offer a service driven business model, we're able to deliver what the customer requires and when they require it.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Selling into some of the largest house builders and builders merchants in the first trading year.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Operating expense, average sales values, and inventory.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We do a small amount of international sales, but our plans to grow this way will be in two to three years time.

Describe your growth funding path:

We have been self-funded so far (supported by a flexible overdraft), but we plan to raise capital within the next 12 months to aid future planned growth of the business.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

There are some great cloud based resources available today. We use Shopify as our back-end commerce platform, which can integrate well with our accounting systems, our CRM system and email marketing system, for example.

We also use Zapier to connect these platforms in a way that can create event driven tasks for the team.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

In three years time, we plan to be fully established in the UK with ongoing relationships with all the major home builders.

Once established, we plan to replicate the business internationally. It is hard to estimate turnover however, so wouldn't want to guess at this stage!

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Running an investment management firm from a small start-up position.

Managing cashflow in a business with such high regulatory costs was a constant struggle, there's a real barrier to entry in the construction industry.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Starting the investment management firm with such a small asset base to begin with!

We did actually grow the funds under management to £50m after one and a half years, but looking back it was too much of a gamble.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Red tape is something that we haven’t really been hampered by, but the real hurdle for fast growing start-ups is access to capital to manage cash flow and stock, etc.

Most banks and lenders require two years of accounts, which really penalises those successful, new companies.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

I have been told that keeping under-performing staff for too long is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a growing business; you need to deploy your limited resources as effectively as possible.

For me personally, though, I would have to say that watching revenue and not cashflow is one of the biggest mistakes people make; it leads to a frantic time where business owners are scrambling around for funding and not being able to focus on growing the business.

How will your market look in three years?

Who can tell with Brexit! With the ever increasing focus on sustainability in construction, I feel we are well-positioned to weather all market conditions regardless.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Keep your operations lean, this will give you more money to invest in growth and ability to react quickly when required.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Desk cactus!

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learn everything on the job. I have gone from having no coding knowledge to being reasonably proficient in html/css coding since I started the company.

This goes for many other aspects required for running the business.

What would make you a better leader?

More time to professionally develop each individual in the business.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

Haha, everything I learnt on the job!

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:

Google Drive for business and Uber for personal.


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