Property start-up is factoring in satisfaction
Scottish Enterprise’s services helped founders with their quest to put their customers first
Glasgow-based 91BC is a new business in a very traditional industry, using digital channels as the main route to connect with customers to provide a high quality, responsive and customerfocused property factoring service.
Support and advice from Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway Glasgow have played an important part in getting 91BC up and running, helping the fledgling business test out the market and develop its web-based portal.
Director Doug Macsween explains: “We went to Scottish Enterprise because we were looking for premises for our new start, but actually we ended up getting so much more than that.
“We benefited from wise advice that has helped us establish the business on a firm footing as well as funding for design expertise to help us develop our online platform.
“An update to the law in Scotland means that it is now straightforward for residents to change their factor, in much the same way as switching gas or electricity supplier.
“Customers want choice about who delivers their property maintenance services. They want easy points of contact via phone and web, and they want the service to be highly responsive.”
Fellow director Scott Ferguson adds: “We wanted to build a business that puts the customer first. This might not sound like a strong, innovative idea, but believe me, in the world of factoring, it is.
“Before we started we already had
Scottish Enterprise offers the By Design grant to help companies design new products, processes or services or to help them improve the design of existing products, processes or services. an insight into some of the challenges that residents often face and we were able to use this knowledge to shape the business.”
Macsween and Ferguson both have interesting stories to tell. Macsween was chief executive of a forensics company which was sold in 2012, leaving him with funds to invest.
He began investing in property, and hooked up with long-term friend Ferguson, who was running a bathroom fitting business and had the connections with tradespeople which Macsween needed.
As the pair worked in the property development sector, they realised that there was a massive gap in the market for a factoring business with a modern, innovative outlook.
IT director Craig Bruce and finance director Helen Cunliffe, joined Macsween and Ferguson from the outset. Together they form the strong team at the core of the business.
Macsween says: “This truly is digital disruption. We believe that what we offer will change the way that factoring is done in Scotland.
“We want to shake up the industry because we want clients to have a better experience.
“We knew from the start that we had a great idea, but we needed help to test it out, crunch the numbers and then do the development work. “Scottish Enterprise helped us to really articulate our idea properly and ensure that we had a solid business case before launching.
“We were also able to make use of the By Design grant. We had strong IT skills within the business, but we needed an external company to design and develop our online platform to make sure it was both friendly and functional.
“It needed to be easy for clients to manage everything to do with factoring, from their laptop or their phone.
“Good advice from Scottish Enterprise was definitely the key, as much as the funding. Without their help, we couldn’t have launched when and how we did.”
The Scottish Enterprise Wider Innovation team worked with 91BC
“Good advice from Scottish Enterprise was definitely the key, as much as the funding”
to guide it through the process of engaging a digital design agency.
The team offered practical hints and tips on managing the relationship, as well as guidance on how the By Design grant could assist with improving the customer experience.
91BC ended up working with Glasgow company My Web Application and was happy with the results.
The digital platform provides the ideal route to delivering the levels of customer service that people want and need in their busy lives. It also helps people to see exactly how money gets spent.
The portal provides access to a carefully managed secure database, with full integration to a finance system.
Ferguson says: “We were quite idealistic when we set out and said we would be totally paperless.
“However, if a customer wants paper bills we can deliver. We wanted to create a business where customers can see exactly what is happening.
“If we are carrying out a repair for a client we will get three quotes from different suppliers – clients can see these on the portal and see why we chose the one we did.
“This kind of transparency is new in the world of factoring,” says Ferguson.
“It’s a bit more uphill getting contractors to register on the site, but we can help them with the admin and that model is now working well.
“We also recruited a client services manager, as we realised that no matter how good the systems are, it’s human beings that make the difference in delivering a customer focused service. We expect the team to grow now as the business grows and will also be working towards accreditations such as Investors in People.
“Already we’ve recruited a finance executive and developed a link with Strathclyde University intern programme.
“We also have experts on hand to deliver chartered surveying, insurance expertise and structural engineering services as well as the massive team of trades suppliers.
“So, it’s not all about the online functionality. Success has come because of a focus on meeting clients’ needs, providing a reliable and responsive repair service when clients need it.
“We launched in January 2016 with just 16 customers and through the year have grown to 1,000.
“This is a volume service for a volume market and we expect to see further substantial growth as the business gets established.”
Doug Macsween, left, and Scott Ferguson are expecting to grow their factoring firm 91BC further.