The Entrepreneur: School Lettings Solutions, Scott Warrington and Paul Andrews
The Young Guns behind the £3.2m school management service believe business owners should have more self-belief and stay to true to their vision
Founders: Scott Warrington ad Paul Andrews
Company: School Lettings Solutions (SLS)
Description in one line: SLS offers schools, academies and colleges a comprehensive management solution when it comes to hiring out their facilities to grassroots sports and community groups in need of affordable venues on evenings, weekends and in school holidays.
Turnover: £3.2m (2016)
12 month target: Over £6m
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- We have a unique understanding of schools and communities. Schools operate unlike any other organisation and our ‘shop floor’ experience has shaped how we do things.
- We charge zero fees for our partner schools. We back ourselves to generate our own income and a substantial amount for our schools as well.
- We have an amazing 450-strong team behind us.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
We’re really proud to have been recognised in Growing Business’ Young Guns ‘Class of 2016’. We don’t run a business for awards or accolades but it was a real milestone for us and recognition that our belief in our vision was justified.
However, nothing can beat the satisfaction of seeing local people across the generations accessing clubs, groups and activities on their doorsteps that wouldn’t exist without our service.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
We are nothing without our partner schools, colleges and academies so we’re always keeping an eye on our pipeline of new, and existing, partners and prospects.
We are working with more than 120 schools across the country now which is fantastic, but our ultimate goal is to join forces with every single one in the country, so we’re really only at the start of the journey.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Currently, we are only focusing on England but our business model is completely scalable so we are certainly looking ahead to becoming accessible UK-wide, and then who knows?
Describe your growth funding path:
Loans, debts and outside investment haven’t been a massive part of our story.
SLS has grown organically, building on its own financial success to build an infrastructure and vision for continued growth, development and improvement.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
Our booking systems are all web-based which means we can get new partners up and running almost immediately. Our business isn’t tech-based, but technology has certainly enabled us to scale quickly and have constant access to all the data we need; from individual school level to the overarching national picture.
Being a national company we also work in a ‘cloud’ based platform to ensure our work is easily accessible, secure and that our key staff around the country have access to company data and information.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Our ultimate goal is to be the largest provider of leisure facilities in the country, so we have developed a strategy to get us ever closer to achieving this.
We envisage working with schools across the UK and even internationally, where a similar issue of community-use of schools facilities still exists.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
The biggest and earliest challenge was making the transition from having jobs to running our own company and dealing with all the risks attached to that.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Sometimes we can fall into the habit of hiding our light under a bushel and not shouting about successes, both internally and with our customers, to demonstrate the difference we’re making to communities.
As the majority of our hirers use school facilities after hours, often the fantastic work can go ‘unseen’ by school leaders so we need to make we’re sharing the successes.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers business growth most?
We wouldn’t say it was red tape or that it hampered growth but, as with many businesses, the legal side of our contract negotiations can be a drawn-out process.
However, we do understand the importance of getting this right as all parties need to be comfortable with the new partnership.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Not committing for a long enough time period. There are so many good business ideas and potentially strong business people out there, but we often see many who give up just at the point when they need to continue their journey to see their ideas come to fruition.
How will your market look in three years?
We genuinely feel that the outsourcing of more core functions within the education sector will be a growing market as budget cuts continue to hit schools and local authorities.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Dream big! Starting a business is a chance to build something unique in a way that maximises the chance of success.
The possibilities are endless if you stay true to your original vision but, equally, you need to give yourself space to think without limits.
Our work/life balance. We’ve worked extremely hard getting the business to the point at which w can spend more time with our young families – definitely the biggest luxury!
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Our on the ground experience working in schools has been absolutely invaluable and is one of our unique selling points.
Schools are unlike any other organisation in terms of how they run and we don’t think it’s something that can be ‘taught’. We’re both educated to Masters degree level but we learnt the ropes on the job.
Our careers in schools have shaped the way we do things and our partners often comment on the seamless experience of working with us and how they wish they’d done it sooner.
What would make you a better leader?
Both of us are very focused on the future and where the business is going so sometimes we can forget to take a step back and celebrate what we’ve achieved so far.
We’ve both learnt a lot about leadership over our time in business. Some of the most important traits are positivity, trust in others, belief in the vision, honesty and seeing the bigger picture.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
Building a team of people who can lead your business and buy into your vision is harder than you think, but very rewarding when it’s achieved.
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
Business – We’re big on social media so apps for Twitter and LinkedIn are key in enabling us to stay in touch with our customers and our teams across the country.
Personal – Pacer. This is great for recording run times and routes; keeping fit when you’re as busy as we are is hard but important!
S.U.M.O (Shut Up, Move On) by Paul McGee. It offers some great, practical advice about how to be proactive in dealing with difficult situations, how to be more self-aware and how to improve working relationships with others.
We highly recommend the book, so much so that we’ve previously invited the author – McGee – into oue organisation as part of our team-building and personal development initiatives.