I had a chat with Chris last month and asked him a few questions about his business... the good and the bad and the ugly and of course, no conversation is complete at the moment without talking about coronavirus! It's a pleasure to have Chris as a client and you will see from his answers here that he always has a positive outlook.
1. When did you start Keystone Paving and have you always worked for yourself?
I started Keystone Paving in April 2001. I had been working for my brother during school/Uni holidays and for many years and so had the experience to start working for myself installing driveways. I was currently working in sales but always fancied the idea of working for myself. The catalyst was my wife becoming pregnant with my son Ryan and I decided I could make more money self employed. This was probably a bit of a gamble but I had confidence I could make it work and indeed had work booked in before the end of my notice period so just got cracking straight away.
2. What’s the best thing about working for yourself?
There are many aspects to working for myself that I enjoy, the fact that I am in control and can decide where I want the company to go and at what speed. I also really enjoy selling my services and getting great feedback after work is complete. There is a lot of satisfaction gained from turning a clients’ overgrown garden into a pleasurable area for them and their family to enjoy.
3. What’s the biggest challenge about working for yourself?
Throughout the 19 years I have been in business I have had many challenges not least having to make lads redundant when the banking crisis plunged the economy into recession and work just disappeared. I was able to continue on my own and survive but lost a couple of great lads. It has taken me many years to get back to the stage I was at before. There is always the need to secure enough work but I have always relished this challenge and have been able to keep the work coming in even in the quiet winter months.
4. How did Keystone Paving change and adapt through the coronavirus pandemic?
During the coronavirus pandemic we have had to completely close down and did so for 6-7 weeks.
Fortunately the Job Retention scheme and the SEISS has meant that I have been able to look after staff and we have been able to continue in business as pre-lockdown. I can't praise the government enough for their support of the self employed and workers. However I know many friends whose business model means they slip through the net of support and hope they survive going forward.
One big change for me is that I need to check stock and order products for jobs much more in advance as stocks vary so much. Products I use often and that are normally available at suppliers can be on a 3-4 week lead time. Shortages are also a problem as firms hoover up supplies of sand and cement leaving suppliers no stock. We also use products from abroad such as Indian Stone and these products have been in short supply, although that is slowly improving. However as supply has become more erratic prices have increased too, especially recently for many products with the explanation simply “Due to the coronavirus.”
I have also had to relocate my storage facility. The coronavirus had a positive effect on the fencing company I sub-let space from, therefore their yard was busy all the time and so I have had to move to an alternative location which also resulted in increased costs.
Hopefully things will be back to normal soon.
5. Do you think any of the government’s “Plan for Jobs” incentives will help Keystone Paving over the next 12 months to 2 years?
Going forward I believe that the government's Plan for Jobs will allow me to employ 1-2 new staff and train them up by offering me financial incentives to support their training and wages.
I will of course benefit from the Job Retention Bonus for my current workers. I am hopeful that with all the government support and hopefully a vaccine in the next 6months or so, Keystone Paving will be stronger than ever in the next 2 years although much depends on the ability of the economy to bounce back and ensure demand for my services continues to grow.