Startup Diaries: We Get Knocked Down, We Get Up Again Wiser!
Beatrice Bartlay tells us how she founded 2B Interface, a recruitment agency initially specialising in manufacturing, which now provides a broad range of personnel from both the UK and abroad. Here Beatrice explains the highs and lows she encountered along her path to success, and shares her top tips for startups.
I started 2B Interface to provide a reliable source of staff for UK manufacturers in 2005, when I moved to London and helped a friend who needed a source of specialist workmen. At a stroke the proposition removed the concerns of prospective employers who wanted good, skilled workers but needed to be able to tap into a labour pool that was both organised and within the traditional, legal employment framework.
From the beginning, 2B Interface provided woodworkers, metal workers and construction trades people for the UK shop fitting industry, broadening the range of skills to meet increasing demand. From first supplying individual staff, we grew as employers began asking for complete contract teams - with 2B Interface taking responsibility for maintaining team numbers.
Since I first set up, we have also extended the company focus and are now becoming a broad-ranging staffing and recruitment agency providing manual, skilled, office and management personnel from Britain and many other countries.
When starting up, implementing a concise business plan is the first and one of the most crucial steps in creating a successful business. You must ensure you carry out a SWOT analysis, which is key to any business plan and you need to consistently look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within your market. Perseverance is priceless!
The first big breakthrough for 2B Interface came in 2007, when it was named Best New Business by the London Chamber of Commerce.
I was so happy and proud of our achievements. Just three weeks later however, our main client went bust, leaving us with a £90,000 unpaid invoice.
Ignoring advice to close the business, I refused to admit defeat, and set about recovering the money owed to me. I realised that if our client still had customers waiting and orders to fill, I could help them find the staff for their production line. I managed to save jobs for the workers and negotiated the best way of payment for the client, who paid in small instalments – it took me three months to be in the black again but 2B Interface survived. This was not without months of long hours however, hard work and minimal income - I almost lost a stone and was working 16-hour days.
With the rough comes the success though, and I’ve had many highlights along the way too. In particular, all of the awards we have won as a company and presenting business awards as a judge is always a thrill too. Nothing ever feels better though than seeing the happy faces of people suffering from MS when our charity money helps them with rehabilitation.
Another big breakthrough came in 2011, when three of my managers left the business out of the blue to set up on their own after I had trained and promoted them.
It was later discovered that their departure was carried out in cooperation with our former IT provider, so they also had access to the company servers and information. They caused a big threat to the company but despite their effort, all of our customers remained loyal to us. I learnt a lot from this rather disappointing event - I learnt about myself and I learnt about other people. I made my company even more structured and it taught me that good service is more important to customers that a slightly lower price.
Looking back, I actually think this was the best thing to ever happen to my company as it taught me a lot and it showcased my loyal and hardworking team.
A key lesson I have learnt on my business journey is that perseverance is priceless. You are allowed to make mistakes, but be sure that you then learn from those mistakes and play better!
Advice I would give to budding entrepreneurs would be that you really need to think of what you want to do, with whom, and why you want to do it. You then need to prepare a business plan with contingencies for the unexpected. It’s important that this good plan is implemented consistently. Then set yourself achievable long-term and short-term goals and take expert advice wherever possible – you need to know your industry inside out. Having perseverance is key and also a back-up source of revenue.
It’s vital that you create a positive image of your company, have the ability to win people over and create work ethics that will serve as an example to others.
You need to be consistent in implementing work ethics and make sure you don't let the initial setbacks break you as these initial setbacks will demonstrate how strong you really are.
Beatrice Bartlay founded 2B Interface, a temporary and permanent staffing agency in 2005 and has since been serving the UK recruitment sector with specialised services. As a determined entrepreneur, Beatrice has succeeded in developing 2B Interface into an award-winning company with a current turnover of over £4m, three UK offices and the launch of a franchise in 2013. Beatrice is an active member of the Docklands Business Club and is on the judging panel of their prestigious annual awards. Prior to founding 2B Interface, Beatrice ran her own events and PR company, B&G PR. Her background in psychology and marketing, and her wealth of experience in business management through establishing two businesses provides a solid foundation for understanding the challenges affecting UK small and medium sized businesses today.
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