This week’s Business Focus is with Nick Howard, owner of Limehouse, a production company based at the Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre in Halifax.
Why did you start your business in the first place?
I left film school as a fresh young graduate, full of determination to succeed in the world of TV. I started out in production, making tea and running on set for shows like Coronation Street, Crossroads and Peak Practice. At the same time, I started freelancing in corporate film production and found the idea of making film for business really exciting. I’d always wanted to run my own business, so it was just a case of putting my skills to use and venturing out on my own. I didn’t know where it would lead at the time.
What is your business motto?
Surround yourself with experts and avoid the minutiae. Credit has to go to one of my start-up mentors who gave me those initial words of advice back in 2007 - they’ve remained at the front of my mind ever since.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?
My biggest piece of advice would be to take advantage of the multitude of business support that’s available as you start up and establish your business.
I think there’s a huge untapped resource of potential entrepreneurs and business owners in our region. Starting your own business is a daunting prospect, and we need to do more to ensure younger and disadvantaged people are aware of the different avenues of support available to them. It’s there for the taking, and everyone - regardless of their social or economic background, or the circumstances in which they find themselves - is entitled to it.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?
The global crash in 2008 - a year into starting Limehouse, the world fell off a cliff! The challenge was to look at an agile business model and how we could work smartly to still develop a niche communication agency in turbulent times. It was tough but we held our mettle and grew slowly and steadily throughout the recession.
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?
It might be a cliché but every day really is different. Having the autonomy to make your own decisions is great - although it does alternate between between exciting and terrifying.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?
While one of the best parts of running a business is offering other people jobs, the reality of being responsible for upwards of 15 mortgages a month can feel a little daunting occasionally, especially when you wake up at 3am thinking about it!
Which business figure do you most admire and why?
Nicola Shindler, the founder of RED Production Company. She’s built a company that creates some of the best TV programmes found anywhere in the world. The shows they create - like Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax and Clocking Off - don’t just play to a worldwide audience, they show the North as it really is: a region home to people full of integrity, passion and character.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
Being headquartered in Halifax and growing into an agency that competes on a level playing field with competitors in London, Manchester and Leeds. When I chose to move Limehouse out of Leeds and into Halifax in 2008, I had a few advisers who thought I was mad, and that it was the riskiest thing I could do. In actuality, it was the best business decision I’ve ever made - the town, the fantastic business networks, the restaurants that produce top notch cuisine to host client lunches, the proximity to wide open spaces... I feel extremely lucky to live and run a business in this fantastic place we call Calderdale!
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
We’re about to launch our five year strategy to steer the company through its next phase of growth. I’m not interested in growth for growth’s sake, but targeted, organic growth that’s based on maintaining the quality of our output. The two most important things to me have always been the quality of the work and the relationships we build with our clients. It’s what we’re known for, and it’s what will drive our growth. When I started the company ten years ago, I had one client. We work with some of the UK’s biggest companies now, and we’re going from strength to strength every year. In five years’ time, we’ll be one of the UK’s leading film production agencies.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?
Completely unrelated to my industry, but a pill that’d let you eat and drink as much cheese and wine as possible, without putting a single pound in weight on. I’d invent it, and then keep it to myself.
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?
With Limehouse being 10, I’m not sure how employable I am now! If times were different I’d want to work for a business that had strong core business and people values, and one that supports the community through its output or financial contribution. Any takers?