This week’s Business Focus is with Andrew Hawley of Hawley Business Services Group, based in Northowram.
Why did you start your business in the first place?
I’ve been involved in property since completing my training at Leeds College of Building and started my first business in 1999 after my employer at the time suddenly decided to let me go. Armed with a list of potential customers and an overwhelming desire to make a point to my ex-employer I set out (rather innocently) into self-employment. Since then, I think I’ve been ‘employed’ for less than six years.
What is your business motto?
No Surprises - everything we do has an emphasis on communication and teamwork. We have a set of values around the offices that everyone buys into that keeps us all focussed.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?
Get a good mentor and never give in! Running your own business can be a lonely existence so surround yourself with great people and an independent mentor. Many people make the mistake of relying on family members for advice and support but they are almost duty bound to say “I think you’re doing a great job” or agree that you’re making the right decisions. It’s really important to invest in some support that will keep you honest and focused on what’s important.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?
Finding the right people. Our business is built on a strong set of values that are based not only on what I see as the right way to do things but also how our clients operate. Finding people that can work to those values is difficult but extremely important if you are going to succeed.
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?
I’d like to say the freedom to do what I want, when I want but anybody working in their own business knows that you only get to actually do what you want for four hours a day, usually between 1am and 5am! Having said that, I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a great team and it gives me a real buzz when we are dealt a curve ball and the team pulls together and deals with it successfully.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?
It can be a very lonely existence. Evenings and weekends become a luxury that you will have to give up initially but you have to stay focused on your objectives and stick to your guns – it will all be worth it in the end if you work hard enough! I’ve had my fair share of knock backs over the years but you’ve got to treat them as lessons that are just helping you prepare whatever it is that’s coming next!
Which business figure do you most admire and why?
I’m a great fan of people who have a ‘get on with it’ attitude and a huge fan of Steve Jobs (yes, I’m an Apple addict!). I really admire everything that he did with Apple but I have to admit, Apple seem to be loosing ground to their competitors at the moment – most likely because they’ve lost the influence of Steve!
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
That would either be that Hawley Group are currently working on one of the UK’s largest national LED rollouts or that I made a film with Liam Neeson (and opened the old cinema in Keighley) – can you leave this one with me as it’s a close call!
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
Our business relies heavily on after sales support so we are quickly becoming a facilities management business – more specifically, a property services business. We’ll be offering a wide range of services from preventative planned maintenance through to a range of outsourced professional services.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?
Now that would be telling! I’ve often described battery storage technology as the pot of gold at the end of the solar rainbow. I’d love to be able to put together a small, highly efficient but cheap battery solution that could be used in cars and buildings which use large amounts of electricity. It’ll come but we aren’t quite there yet (in my view anyway!)
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?
I’m a huge motorsport fan and would do almost anything to work for McLaren. The team effort needed in each part of their business is amazing – sadly their results over the last few years haven’t done them justice but I’m staying committed in the hope that they come good next year! If they stay committed and they keep working hard enough, they will get back to P1 very soon I hope!