Published on in Fujitsu and SMEs

For Fitch Installations, two of Britain’s biggest supermarkets were part of the process which catapulted the small startup into a successful small business. Getting contacts with both Sainsbury’s and Tesco gave it the push it needed and helped founder Simon Fitch to approach other retailers with confidence. Fitch Installations now handles shop-fits and specialist build services for many brands. As with any relationship though, it takes work – Gabby Griffith caught up with Simon to talk about his experience of working with companies much larger than his own.

 

So Simon, how did you get Fitch Installations off the ground?

I have been in the industry for about 12 years now and the opportunity came up for direct contracts as opposed to through an agent. This was too good an opportunity to miss out on, so set out to keep myself in work. This soon changed to a team, when I was offered more contracts. In the beginning, I had no funding – mainly because my decision to start a business was a very quick one.  So I but applied for a start-up loan which arrived after three weeks, so this was my main funding until the invoices started to be paid.

 

Did you get any advice from or take any inspiration from bigger businesses when you started out?

I had advice coming in from all kinds of places, I had to utilise what parts of the advice would help me to run my company efficiently and to the best of my ability.

Of course I have aspirations to become larger in the future, but as it stands I am a nice manageable size. When I do that, I will be looking to other companies’ structures and processes to ensure I have a solid company.

 

Is it essential for small businesses to interact with larger ones?

I think it is very important to interact for many reasons. The main one being, they were all built from small businesses at some point, so have the experienced staff to understand where you are currently.

I get contracts from a company that started exactly where I am in and they respect the work we do as they were here once. Larger corporations maybe not so much, but it is good to be interacting with them as they are all potential clients if you have that ambition.

 

How did your first collaboration with a larger business come about?

My first collaboration with a larger business was with New Store Europe UK Ltd.  It guaranteed work for the major retail outlets in the UK.

It came about as the ‘agent’ I worked for as a sole trader, had contracts with them. When it lost the contracts NSE offered me the ones I had been specialising in – Sainsbury’s Pharmacy Installation and Tesco Customer Service and Click and Collect Desks.

 

What are the benefits of working with larger businesses?

The benefits of working with larger businesses are the access to their resources, whether it is contacts, equipment or help. As a small company, we would never have been able to secure the work directly with large corporations, as they are established and have larger resources. So, we work with them and we now are starting to get contracts of our own from this.

 

What are the biggest challenges when working with bigger businesses?

The biggest challenge for us has been the payment terms. Big companies are on longer payment terms than we can sustain. Many pushed for us to be on the same terms as them, even though it nearly crippled us. Workload is the other challenge. Larger companies expect us to fulfil more contracts and find it difficult to understand why we turn work down.

 

Do you see any way to rectify this?

With regards to the financial side of things, we had access to financial advice from Business West and my business mentor Derek Tanner. Both helped us get financial aid following our loan from Start-Up Loans. This gave us access to instant funds from our invoices.

We also started to outsource some of the work to other shopfitting businesses, this allowed us to take on more work and still keep the customers happy.

 

How could big businesses help smaller businesses better?

Small businesses need bigger businesses to help them, whether it is as supplier or customer. We have had many occasions when we have had to ask the larger companies for their help, advice and assistance and without this we would have struggled with certain areas of the task.

 

How can small businesses like your help larger ones like Sainsbury’s and Tesco?

Small businesses help the larger ones by being the backbone. We do the jobs that they do not want to have to worry about. We are the people who make sure all the finishing touches are taken care of and who are in the background to ensure it all goes right when the final product is in place and revealed, whether it be a superstore install, or a printer product. We are the people who ensure that the larger companies smile when they showcase themselves to their customers.

 

How do you approach big businesses now?

It is much easier for us to approach larger companies now, as we are established and have a good reputation and rapport with the people on the ground, who in turn report back to the people we speak to regarding contracts. We have built up our own portfolio of contracts and we showcase them to larger companies for them to see the type and standard of work we put out.

 

Have you had any relationships with bigger companies turn sour?

So far we have been lucky and have managed to keep all of our contracts secure. We have had issues with some members of staff, but the bigger companies liked the way we handled the situation, and put it down to a learning curve as a new business.

 

What’s next for Finch Installations?

Going into 2014, I am taking on more contracts and more staff. This will be done through a vetting process, due to the type of contracts it is for and the quality required for it. I will be expanding my vehicle fleet, moving onto a business premises and I am also hoping to also set up a production workshop to produce high end joinery products for the top end retail stores. This is already in motion, and we will be discussing more with the parties involved over Christmas, so fingers crossed.

 

Great, thanks for your time Simon – best of luck!

 

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Jim Millen

Digital Content Editor at Fujitsu
I'm the editor for the Fujitsu UK & Ireland blog, and love to write about the exciting work Fujitsu do in digital & technology innovation.

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