A YOUNG entrepreneur is forging a career with one of the UK’s fastest growing franchises.
Luke Ruddiman, 21, has opened up the latest branch of disaster restoration specialists Tempest Restoration at a new 1,200sq ft unit at Herbert Brown Business Park in Milnsbridge.
It’s a big step for the Edgerton man, who trained as a plumber and a gas engineer before working as a commercial catering engineer for Slaithwaite-based company Triline Contracts.
But he is determined to make a success of the venture – and is already considering taking on additional staff as the business grows.
“I always wanted to do something practical,” says Luke, who attended Huddersfield Grammar School and Huddersfield New College.
Working at Triline proved the stepping stone to setting up his own business. “They were a lovely company to work for,” he says. “They really looked after me, but I wanted to set up something for myself.”
Luke’s father, Tony – who has run a number of successful businesses himself – helped set the ball rolling. Luke had already seen how franchising provided a route into self-employment during a visit to the States. Last year, with Tony’s support, Luke decided to make a go of it.
Says Luke: “We went to a franchise exhibition in Birmingham last September and looked out for something that would not be too exposed to the ups and downs of the economy.
“We looked at franchising because franchises have a much better survival rate than the typical start-up business.”
Now Luke has the Tempest Restoration franchise for Huddersfield, Halifax and Bradford. As well as drawing on his own experiences in plumbing and as a gas engineer, he underwent an intensive training course to learn the skills necessary to run a business offering flood, fire and water damage restoration as well as carpet, rug and upholstery cleaning.
“Once you learn one trade, it is easier to branch out into other areas,” says Luke. “But you still need the proper training. I am more of a practical person than a ‘paperwork’ person and that has helped enormously.”
Luke, who only began trading after Christmas, says: “There has been a good response from local businesses, including carpet manufacturers, launderettes, hotels, estate agents and lettings agents who are keen to support local suppliers.”
Tempest Restoration offers a 24/7 call out service and takes on the role of helping people when they need it most – when their home or business has been damaged by a fire or flood.
He says: “You can end up being something of a counsellor for people who are distressed by the damage done to their homes and they become your friends because they know you are part of the solution, not the problem.”
And it is a demanding and expanding market. The record freeze of December, 2010, for example, left insurers with more than 12,000 claims a day – at a cost of £38m a day and £900m in property damage claims.
Tempest Restoration supplies its services to loss adjusters, building and property maintenance companies, housing association and insurance companies covering all major restoration work for domestic and commercial policyholder claims.
It saves insurers money by getting on site within 24 hours for a fire and four hours for a water damage claim and is one of the first companies in the UK to adopt industry-leading claims management software, which accelerates the way damage is assessed on site – helping to reduce claims life cycles still further.
While Luke’s branch covers the Huddersfield, Halifax and Bradford areas – with the hope of expanding into other areas soon – the Tempest Restoration network has national coverage.
“There are probably four major competitors in our market nationally and locally a few more,” says Luke. “While its competitors do a lot of franchising, Tempest has 20 at the moment and only plans to set up a maximum of 26, which provides plenty of scope for individual franchisees to expand.
“I speak to the franchise owner, Martin King, on a daily basis to discuss how things are going. It’s good to have that contact to make sure everything’s on track and to get the latest information.”
Luke says: “There is a great deal of satisfaction in helping people. When you arrive on the scene of a major flooding, people can be distressed – but to see the looks on their faces when we have gone in there and dried things out and salvaged personal belongings gives us a lot of satisfaction. Often, these are items of sentimental value – not just property that can be replaced by the payment of a cheque.”
Along with routine appointments to clean carpets, rugs and upholstery, he may get a call at any time of day to deal with a “disaster”.
But he says: “I don’t mind the long hours and if I was still working for someone else, I would be wanting to set up for myself. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I don’t think I was stretching myself enough.”
Running Tempest Restoration leaves little time for relaxation, although Luke says: “I have just taken up golf. A lot of my friends play and it is a great way to relieve stress. I play at Bradley and on the golf driving range at the Galpharm Stadium. I also enjoy ski-ing – so I made sure I got a ski-ing holiday in before setting up the business!”
But Luke’s focus is entirely on building up his business. Not only is he the youngest owner of a Tempest Restoration branch, he is already considering employing people, possibly an apprentice to help him expand the business.
“We are looking to set someone on towards the end of the year to help with the carpet and rug cleaning side of the business,” says Luke. “I was lucky enough to have a job when I decided that I wanted to go on my own and set up this branch of Tempest Restoration. I want to be able to offer employment to someone else and help someone else work in this industry, which I believe has so much to offer.”