Finance and marketing are two of the most crucial elements to get right when running a small business.
Now business partners Andy Redman and Alex Beardsley have pooled their talents in those two key areas to set up a company aiming to help small and medium-sized firms make the most of the opportunities presenting themselves as the economic recovery gains ground.
Cleckheaton-based ABL Business provides support for SMEs drawing on Andy’s experience in the areas of invoice finance and asset finance along with Alex’s skills in the area of marketing.
The business was set up only last October in offices at Moorland Mills Business Centre, but has already recruited a full-time apprentice and completed assignments for a number of clients across West and South Yorkshire – and further afield.
Says Andy: “A lot of companies stopped investing during the recession, so they have no money to do so now. They have also cut down no marketing costs.
“Now there is a bit of optimism out there and they are looking to grow their businesses. They just need some help to get things moving.”
Andy and Alex speak from experience. Both had their own businesses – Andy as a commercial finance broker and Alex working as a freelance marketer – when their paths crossed through the LinkedIn network.
Andy called in Alex to do some marketing for his business – and both realised that they were offering complementary services directed at the same market, businesses with turnover of £500,000 to £5m.
Says Alex: “Many SMEs are really good at what they do – and have been doing for some time. They aren’t always so good at marketing to get the sales or knowledgeable about where to go for funding such as asset finance or commercial property loans.
“You can spent a lot of ime on people who waste your time, promise you the earth and deliver next to nothing. We are about putting the customer first on the premise that if your business gains, our business gains.”
Alex, who often sits in on client board meetings, says: “It often emerges that a company needs finance to improve its marketing efforts; and if Andy is looking at helping a firm seek finance, he has to look at where the sales are coming in and where any weaknesses lie. Together, we provide a strategy for them.”
Alex says the potential for ABL Business is enormous. “There is a huge market place out there,” she says. “Some 95% of businesses fit our criteria. We want to work with the ones where we can make a difference. We want to build relationships with the companies we work with rather than being just another business on a tender list.”
Andy, who hails from Otley, admits: “I got into the financial industry because I was looking for a job with a company car!”
Initially, he worked for Lombard Asset Finance and then Abbey Business before going into invoice finance with Cattles and later Barclays, where he handled asset-based lending as part of a 20-strong team.
“It gave nme a good grounding in all sorts of finance,” he says. “I covered the whole board.”
Andy set up his own business in Otley in 2011 before teaming up with Alex and moving to their current premises.
Alex, who comes from Wyke, combined motherhood and studies to excel in the field of marketing. “I had a daughter when I was 16,” she says.
“I went to college to do law, media studies and psychology – then asked myself what kind of job I could do with that!
“Someone suggested marketing and I did a degree at Huddersfield University. I loved it.”
Alex did her work experience at a full service marketing agency – during which time she was promoted twice.
She went on to gain a first class degree with honours and win a prize for being the top student in her year.
She took a marketing post at the Grange Moore headquarters of womenswear retailer Bonmarche before undertaking a strategic marketing placement with Bradford University through the Knowledge Transer Partnership.
Alex went on to get a graduate diploma in marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. In March, 2011 – and five months pegnant with her second child – she decided to launch her own business.
Last year, Alex won the Duke of York’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which was presented at Buckingham Palace. And she hasn’t stopped there. Currently, she’s taking a degree in digital marketing online to add to her expertise.
Both Andy and Alex are busy people, but still find time for other pursuits.
Andy, whose first paid job was as a shelf-stacker with Tesco, plays football for Otley Town and enjoys ski-ing holidays in Italy and France, He is married to Angela and the couple have a daughter, Anna, five.
Alex, who lives with partner Paul and children Ella, 12, and Louis, two, sings with a band called Last Time Standing and enjoys family holidays camping and caravanning.
She says: “I’ve worked from the age of 14 to make some money and I’ve had lots of jobs, including working as a cleaner, a waitress and behind the bar in a pub.”
Both Andy and Alex are now enjoying working in partnership at ABL Business. “The best thing about it is meeting people in business and helping them,” says Andy. “It’s good going out to see people and learning about their businesses.”
Alex adds: “Every business has its problems. Sometimes it is relatively easy to identify where the problems lie and what steps are needed to tackle them.”
Work: Commercial finance and marketing support
Site: Moorland Mills, Law Street, Cleckheaton
Phone: 01274 877443
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