Prop­erty start-up is fac­tor­ing in sat­is­fac­tion

Scot­tish En­ter­prise’s ser­vices helped founders with their quest to put their cus­tomers first

The Scotsman - - Business -

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

DE­SIGN AS­SIS­TANCE

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.”

PIC­TURE: NICK PONTY

Doug Mac­sween, left, and Scott Fer­gu­son are ex­pect­ing to grow their fac­tor­ing firm 91BC fur­ther.

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