How I went from school drop-out to successful business owner in 10 years
Despite "negativity and a lack of support", Alex Mayer overcame rejection to launch one of Surrey's biggest plumbing companies. He shares his story...
Name: Alex Mayer
Company: Boiler Servicing 24-7 (Julie Jane Ltd)
Company description: We provide plumbing and central heating solutions to Berkshire, Surrey and the surrounding areas and have become one of the biggest plumbing companies in Surrey and Berkshire.
Started in: 2013
Describe your start-up barrier:
At 17, I was a school drop-out with no qualifications against my name, and I was envious of my friends who were about to embark on their university journeys.
I was lost, confused and had a chip on my shoulder about life – losing my mum to cancer at 15 may have had a bigger effect on me than I first thought. Out of luck, I got an apprenticeship at 18 as a trainee plumber on £40 a day, and I worked as an apprentice for three years taking in everything I could.
I then subcontracted to different companies mainly whilst beginning to work evenings and weekends on my own. At 23, I decided I'd had enough of being associated with rubbish companies and had enough experience to go it alone.
I had to overcome a number of obstacles such as negativity, lack of support, lack of funding, and no work! The list goes on. My passion for wanting to be more than what I was kept pushing me to find a solution. Once I made my mind up that I was going to be successful, the rest began to fall into place.
It takes years to create something special and I still have a long way to go, but the rejections I face on a daily basis are just lessons that I need to learn in order to achieve my bigger goal. The persistence in never giving up is what every start-up founder needs at the core of their values.
What were the practical steps you took to ‘go it alone'?
When I first started out, I did all the work myself but as the business took off I took a risk and began employing staff to make my life easier – this is when the business really began to fly! I kept reinvesting the money I was earning back into the business to fund growth.
I then started to employ more engineers and, when I couldn’t handle organising them all myself, I employed an administrator to help me in the office.
Each step freed me up to search for more opportunities. It has taken me approximately three years to get the business to a place where it runs itself and I can work on it, not in it as such.
I have learnt that small businesses are the way forward. Customers want the personal touch that the ‘big boys' just don’t seem to understand anymore and employees love to be part of a growing business; a start-up!
I put my heart and soul into my business and my mum’s name above the door (Julie Jane Ltd) as a statement to say “We are good enough to have my Mum’s name above the door, we are good enough to look after your needs in your home”. That was a bold statement, and three years on I am so pleased I did it as everyday our reputation grows and it’s what will keep leading us forward.
What was the outcome?
The growth of the business has been, and is, a dream come true. Three years ago it was just me and my van now there’s a team of 10 of us with more on the way! We serve all of Berkshire & Surrey at a pace of around 100 jobs per week.
Business isn’t rocket science, it’s a very slow burner. What makes business fun is the people that you work alongside. Create a good environment to work in, inspire others to want to work hard and truthfully they will begin to do the hard work for you…
We lead with our reputation, that’s all I would ever recommend for someone to do – lead by example.
What three key questions should others ask themselves before starting a business from scratch?
- Do you love what you do and can you turn this into a viable business?
- How can you be better and different than your competitors?
- Are you prepared to stumble before you succeed?
What one piece of advice do you think budding entrepreneurs should take on board?
Set annual goals and aspire to achieve them, enjoy your downtime, and when it’s time to work push as hard as you can until you get there.
I have set lots of '12 month goals' thinking they would not be achievable in that frame of time but when I get there, I only ever look to revaluate and push on again.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I would have left school sooner!