The Entrepreneur: Jeremy Hyams, Claims Consortium Group
Hyams has built a £48m company from a £500 bank loan. He details his evolving business journey and advises entrepreneurs to embrace innovation
Founder: Jeremy Hyams
Company: Claims Consortium Group
Description in one line: Claims Consortium is a leading insurance claims handling firm that works with major insurers and brokers across the UK.
12 month target: £58m
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
We’ve just celebrated the 21st anniversary of Claims Consortium, a real milestone and something that’s given me reason to reflect on the past two decades.
It’s a coming-of-age achievement to have received a Queen’s Award for innovation this year, and this is the pinnacle of recognition for any business. We’ve changed massively ‘on paper’ over the years but really stayed true to ourselves and personally I’m thrilled each time we receive a customer compliment.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
The key financials such as turnover, profit and margin are a mainstay of my work as CEO, and I’ve made sure that we have great people to manage and report on these.
But, as a service-driven company, it is the customer satisfaction statistics that underpin our financial success and I’m absorbed by these. For me, they drive the key management information.
Describe your growth funding path:
I started my journey in the insurance business with a bank loan of £500 to buy a tipper truck. From this initial step the opportunity arose to establish a business, which, along with a lot of hard work and determination is the one you see today.
My strategy for Claims Consortium Group is sustainable organic growth and has always been about long-term investments in the business, rather than a short-term gain – always ambitious but sustainable nonetheless.
We remain 100% privately owned and in the next financial year we’re forecasting a 30% increase in sales revenue. We do not borrow but we reinvest heavily – which has been key in funding growth.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
We’ve led our sector by creating a technology that underpins what we do as a business.
Synergy® enables our customers (insurance policyholders), suppliers and clients (mainly insurers) to communicate together and with our claims handlers, 24/7, which has had a dramatic effect on how we maintain and improve service levels.
Our claims handlers use it as their operating system, and some of the leading insurers and industry suppliers in the UK use it too. The focus here has been on building technology that creates solutions to our industry’s weaknesses and to challenge the status quo.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Though our formal growth plan is company confidential I can tell you that our focus is on three things:
- How we develop from being the local employer of choice, to the national employer of choice, through our methodology of coaching, mentoring and inspiring our workforce.
- Ensuring that we lead the market and add value to the claims industry by integrating our systems with all the major companies involved in a household claim, encouraging open collaboration between peers and competitors. This ensures that the customers’ needs and requirements are met before anything else.
- For our service to customers to be recognised by all industries, not just our own, as the benchmark on how things should be done.
By focusing on these three things our forecast will be to at least double our size in sales revenue over three years. More importantly, by achieving this we will create a platform to exponentially grow over the following years.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Having to put teams on notice of redundancies eight years ago.
It’s something I refused to let anyone else do as I felt that it was my responsibility. It’s not a place I ever want to go back to, and I strive every day to ensure that we have the correct strategy to never let that happen again.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
My focus is less on other businesses and what they are doing wrong, but more on how we learn from the mistakes that we make as a business.
I am, however, inspired by how other companies operate and I look for the positives in what we can learn.
For me, there’s no better example of an inspiring, innovation-centric company than Netflix. I admire how they treat their staff – their culture they describe as ‘freedom and responsibility’ – and how they have evolved their business from a $million DVD rental company to a multi $billion streaming and television production company.
How will your market look in three years?
It’s already beginning to change at a massive rate, which, in my mind, is due to the modern day customer. Customers are more engaged and more empowered than ever before; and their experiences in one sector will drive their expectations in another.
The internet provides knowledge for the customer, and social media gives them a platform for them to be heard. They are without a doubt the biggest single influencer that creates opportunity for disruption in an industry.
The claims handling industry is ripe to be disrupted. There are numerous things we can expect to see, including self-service apps for customers to service their own claim from first notification through to payment of their claim; also the introduction of more sophisticated workflow technologies to simplify overly engineered and complex processes currently in place.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
To truly believe that you can achieve what others around you think to be impossible, while always staying utterly true to your core values.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
We currently only trade in the UK and do not have any plans, in the short term, to change this.
What was your biggest business mistake?
It’s hard to pinpoint one big thing, but as a company we do make mistakes, and there isn’t anything wrong with that as long as we learn from them.
If we have a culture of fearing to make mistakes we will never innovate, and innovating is what makes us stronger.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most?
As a business that works within both the insurance and construction industry, red tape is something that we have to navigate every day.
The fact is though, that it’s all there for a specific reason – protection for employees, health and safety, data protection among others. So we have learnt to embrace the standards that are set and always try to exceed them. By taking this pro-active approach, we have found that we have been able to out manoeuvre our competitors, by remaining fleet of foot, while others get lost in it.
So to answer the question, no red tape has hampered our growth!
For me it would have to be time. There are so many things that require my attention each day that trying to find the time to fit in simple tasks can often be a struggle. If I could add on a few extra hours to the day that would be very helpful!
Executive education or learn it on the job?
I left school just before I turned 16, and shortly after became an estate agent in central London during the incredible Thatcher property boom and bust era.
It was the most ruthless business environment I have ever encountered in my entire business career to date. I learnt how not to treat your staff and how not to treat your customers, but most of all I learnt my commercial acumen.
It’s fair to say within five years, it sucked me in, chewed me up and spat me back out!
What would make you a better leader?
I learn to be a better leader every day, by surrounding myself with experts that will constantly challenge me and my way of thinking.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
I wish I’d appreciated the impact of the internet and technology – though perhaps that would have required a crystal ball in 1986.
The advantages it has given us today as late starters to embrace technology has been fundamental to our incredible success over the last five years. If I knew then what I know now, in terms of achieving the art of the impossible through software and technology, then I suspect we would have achieved our goals and aspirations even faster than we already have.
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
The business app is, without a doubt, Creditsafe. It allows me immediate access to other companies’ accounts, associated companies, shareholders, credit ratings and much more. It helps me to paint an accurate picture of my competitors, suppliers and clients, and gives me a much clearer view of my industry.
On a personal level it has to be any streaming app. I have become an unashamed serial watcher of box sets!